Bored With the Gym?
Tired of the crowds, the pulsing music, and the beeping electronic gadgets in gyms, increasing numbers of trainers are organizing outdoor workouts.
Why Working Out Outside Works continued...
This, clearly, is the most tangible benefit of outdoor
exercise. It's more enjoyable, which translates to more frequent and more
"People respond to the peace of mind and freedom," says
Suzanne Nottingham, a fitness instructor in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. "They
like not having to worry about anyone around them."
Nottingham occasionally trains clients in the gym but is best
known for her open-air activities. In fact, she created a program of outdoor
cross-training that has been adapted by firefighters and the Senior Olympics,
among other organizations. "It can be as simple as walking, plus a couple
of diversions like step-ups on curbs or pull-ups from tree branches,"
Tina Vindum keeps things lively by varying her workouts
constantly. One day she leads clients on a trail run through Muir Woods,
stopping at various stations for strength-training work (using elastic cords,
not barbells). The next session they're toting 45-pound packs up the Dipsea
stairs, a notorious series of 676 steps on a trail linking the town of Mill
Valley with the Pacific Ocean. The variety keeps her clients coming back, but
it's the outdoor angle that hooks them in the first place, Vindum says.
Compare gym-cycling, for example, with running on an uneven
dirt path where a steep embankment drops off to one side. On the footpath, you
are forced to concentrate on each step. Vindum calls this "kinesthetic
awareness." It's the sort of intense focus that mentally invigorates her
clients, even as they work to physical exhaustion.
True, not everyone has the ocean or the Dipsea stairs to
incorporate into their regimens. But most of us can find a city park or a
country lane without looking too hard.
And don't forget the safety issues to consider out in the real
world. You have to look both ways for cars, of course, and carry water if
you're exposed to the sun or exercising in a hot climate for an extended period
of time. Rain and wind? Sorry, you're not necessarily excused on account of the
elements. Vindum has canceled only two classes in five years, despite the El
Niño winter of 1997-1998.