Increase your mental health by getting outside and moving everyday. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or expensive to start.
Did you know that walking can help you maintain a positive outlook and decrease symptoms of common mental health disorders? Research expands the links between leisure time activity, being in nature, and increased mental health in a variety of conditions.
It also doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Balance your life by fitting your strength training into your trail run or walk.
For many, working out is as easy as walking out our backdoor. Here’s a walking workout you can do during your next walk around the block, up the mountain, or around the park. Just find your favorite trail and GO.
Interested in packing your own exercise bands for an even easier way to workout while you hike? – check out Thera Bands – they are easy to pack. I have a set with handles I’ll bring when I know I can use trees or want the ease of a handle and I have a set without handles I’ve cut to the length I want and can tie/wrap around anything. I tie these around my waist during a run for less to carry.
In addition to hiking a great trail for cardiovascular exercise, you can add strength training to your routine with a few simple movements. First focus on your lower body. As you move forward make your step wider. Lower your back knee towards the ground (be careful not to hit your knee on the ground – this hurts) and be sure to maintain alignment with your front foot out over your front ankle. This helps make sure you do not have too much force on the knee joint as you overload the body. Do 20 alternating lunges then continue your walk as normal.
After 2 minutes stop and do 10 push-ups. You can choose a rock or tree branch to elevate upper or lower body or just remain as level as you can, choosing to complete full body push ups on your toes or perform the movement from your knees.
Return to the hike. 2 minutes later, stop and begin to squat. Pretend you are sitting in a porta potty at the end of a long music festival. If you’ve never experienced this – you don’t want to touch anything with any part of your body. With your feet firmly on the ground, sit back and hover as though you didn’t want to touch anything and you don’t want to soil yourself either, but pretend you really have to go to the bathroom, so you’re going to have to figure this out. Pull your belly button towards your spine and length through your lower back. Again make sure your knees are not pushing out over your toes and focus on a nice diagonal line from the top of your head through your tailbone. Try to keep from resting your belly on your thighs. Again resume walking.
Next, it’s time for back work. You can choose a tree branch at a good height and grip circumference for you to do pull ups or find a rock you can grip to do rows. When doing rows I like to alternate between high and low rows to target the entire back. Take a lunge stance, support yourself with a hand on your thigh, and place the rock in the opposite (to front foot) hand. Using the rock as weight begin to pull your elbow up close to the body until it is behind you. Squeeze your scapula toward your spine and focus on the small muscles between them and along your spine. Next movement is the high row. This time move your arm straight out from your shoulder – same lower body position. Bend the elbow at 90 degrees and pull up, again focusing on the small muscles between the scapula and spine. Do 10 of each on each arm and return to walking. There are a few options in the video below that target your back. Get creative and see what you can add into your hike based on your environment.
At this point your could choose to be done or add in an “Arnold”. This move is a combination move targeting the biceps and deltoids. Begin with rocks in both hands. Make sure they are heavy enough to provide overload for you in both the shoulder press and a bicep curl but not too heavy that you can’t complete both with good form. Start with your hands down by your sides arms fully extended. Curl the hands toward the shoulders and then continue the movement by lifting the hands above the head.
To complete my arms, I like to add in a tricep move at the top of my arnold. If you feel comfortable with your weights in each hand go for it. If not do this as a separate move after 2 more minutes of hiking. Squeeze your elbows to your ears and drop the rock behind your head (be careful not to hit yourself in the head as this really hurts when you misjudge placement). Extend the arms back above the head, lower hands to the shoulders and extend the arms once again returning to the starting position. Complete 10 and then return to walking.
Now you can choose to add a few plank holds, back extensions, and quadruped curls (on all fours, wrists under shoulders, knees under hips, lift one leg and the opposite arm, curl the knee and elbow together and hold for a 3 second count.
Return to the starting point and repeat on the other side). Again return to walking.
Congratulations!! You have done a full body strength training session and created a walking workout on your favorite trail! Now you have the choice to continue walking without interruption or complete another set or two. Your choice will depend on the difficulty of your trail, your allotted time, and your current fitness level. Here’s to making every workout count!
As with all things … things will be changing soon. Take some time to consider these questions. Although your answers are really just for you, it does help when you actively write things down.
When you write you take an abstract thought and make it concrete on the paper. It’s easier to stick with concrete ideas as you continue to change your behaviors. When you consider what you’ve learned through the last month, where do you see yourself going next? How do you want to continue to work toward and reach your goals? What did you try that didn’t work, that you might want to adjust? What worked great? What surprises did you have?
Here’s 7 sentences to help you notice your accomplishments, create motivation, find your focus, and set your next successful goal. Write a statement to your current self from your future self:
This last year has been_______. I am so grateful I accomplished ______. I am most proud of ______ and thankful to myself for _______. These last 5 years have been ______. I am so thankful to have accomplished_______. I am most proud of ______ and grateful to myself for _________. I am so happy I am planning to accomplish _______ next.
Answer them as honestly as you can. Answer as if you really have reached your goals, are the person you hope to become, and as though you’re ready to set your next goal for your future. Do not concern yourself with the how you are going to get these items done or financial burdens of completing them right now.
Need focus to Live with Intent? Try an online class to help you focus yourself and make your goals happen.
As you continue to focus on your goals you will find the opportunities you need to make them happen. Remember, what you put your attention to is what you will find. Want something different in your life … You better be focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t want. Need some motivation? Check out this video and let the words sink in … you can do what you put your mind to.
I have done these exercises for years. I like to distill my thoughts into bullet points I file away. Every so often I take them out and am amazed at how much I accomplished on the list, yet had forgotten I’d put on the list in the first place. Now it’s your turn – see what you can make happen next!
Often rewards are one of the reasons people stay focused on workout goals. However if your workout goal is also focused on giving into your favorite “sweet foods” because you deserved it, you may find that you are over-indulging and sabotaging yourself along the way. As we begin a workout program we tend to increase our hunger because our body is requiring more calories (aka fuel) to do what’s asked of it. If we are filling those extra calories with junk because “we worked hard” we aren’t keeping our ‘eyes on the prize’, which has been found to help us reach our goals, and instead we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Smart pre and post workout snacking can help balance out those extra cravings and make sure the fuel you are choosing is the right kind for your needs in this part of your training cycle.
Keeping Your Eye On The Prize Matters. Check Out Why ~
If you aren’t going to reward yourself with food … then just what will you get for all that hard work? Answering a few simple questions can really help you define what’s important to you and keep you motivated to reach your goals. Think about:
What you really like do?
What do you value?
What do you usually forgo?
a mani/pedi, facial, expensive razor, a day at the driving range, time to read, a Netflix binge episode, sleep, a different/new food (that’s healthy for you), a new fitness tracker, etc.
These are all ways you can help yourself stay focused and excited to reach your goals, without blowing your long term health vision.
There are a few rules to the above answers. First, make sure you stick within your budget. If you end up healthier but then strapped for time to pay it off, you are apt to return to your old behaviors and lose your gains. Second, consider timing. I am a mother of 3, I might like a binge watching episode of Netflix, but if it interrupts my family time, it might not be sustainable or as enjoyable, leaving me demotivated. Third, plan for a variety of rewards. This way you won’t get bored doing the same activities over and over, get stuck in a rut and you are likely to resort to old unhealthy coping to beat the boredom. That’s a no-win.
Finally, remember the reward should be fun and shouldn’t be so far off and unavailable that it seems impossible to get. Once I gave myself a new pair of workout shoes, however the price tag on the ones I wanted was so much on my salary I had months of saving before me. That reward was too far out for me to stick with it. One time, I also gave myself a facial appointment if I met my goals, problem with this reward – it seemed so unlike me and too pampering. I wasn’t motivated to reach my goals to get it. It felt too uncomfortable at the time. I backed that goal down to something that felt better for me and had a massage instead.
Once I was able to switch the way I thought about “what I deserve” after apply hard work and big effort, finding unique and motivating rewards got a lot more fun. See what you come up with to give yourself today.
Here’s where inspiration and motivation become key. The first few weeks of a workout are great. You are excited, you are feeling the changes of more energy, sleeping better, focusing on good food which increases your sense of balance, groundedness, and energy … and then things don’t seem as rosy. You’ve hit the mundane and boring part of reaching a goal.
The time when the excitement of having it is no longer more than the work and focus it takes to get it accomplished. In this time it is critical to have inspiration to drive your motivation. This is where you have to really keep your focus going and where having a routine that you stick too (even when it’s boring or seems like it won’t matter if you sleep in or eat this instead) becomes critical for getting you over the hump.
Placed together with cycling your workouts and beating plateaus this extra effort sticking to your routine will take you a long, long way.
Working out doesn’t have to happen at a special time or in the gym. It can happen in the midst of daily chores! Again, another way to add fitness in without adding more to your to-do list. Some simple things can help you focus more on the movement and exercise rather than chores being categorized as daily living activities.
First, to be exercise we’ve got to have some overload. That could be as simple as making sure you carry in more groceries at one time or more complicated like scrubbing the kitchen floor on your hands and knees while making sure to reach one arm and the opposite leg out for more intense core work.
Second, the key is to get creative and follow proper lifting techniques so you don’t hurt yourself while vacuuming. The injury could be the same, but the story won’t be as cool if you have to say you were cleaning house rather than performing your biggest lift to date!
A little playfulness goes a long way to figuring out how many steps you can take, how to get more overload (maybe ankle weights or a weighted vest. Also helps to use longer levers – stretch your arm all the way out to lift the gallon of milk). I have found that the challenge of getting a step, calorie, or muscle strength goal makes cleaning MUCH more fun. See how playful you can get with the idea over the next week and see if you have more fun completing repetitive chores, too.
Plateaus happen. Most of us get pretty frustrated when we’ve been moving toward our goals, making progress, rewarding ourselves, and feeling good about our choices. Then all the sudden it stops and we feel stuck. Know that this is a normal process in change.
The body is made to adapt and become efficient. As animals we are designed to conserve energy when possible just in case we’ll need it down the road, not expend it because we want to look differently. This is where cycling your workouts becomes important. We want the body to adapt and to become more efficient however we don’t want it to become too comfortable. A great tracker can help make sure you are working out … not just working.
See the last fitness posting on ideas about cycling your workouts, know that plateaus happen, they are showing positive change in the systems of the body, and that your job is to shake them up again!
Cycling your workouts helps on two fronts. First it helps you get over plateaus (which we’ll discuss in a few days) and second it allows you to make sure you don’t get too efficient in your workouts. An easy way to look at cycling workouts is to start with your time frame – say you have 3 months to complete your goal. This is 12 weeks. You can begin with a conditioning phase for 3 weeks, move to a strength phase for 3 weeks, a speed/strength (aka plyometric phase) for 3 weeks, and finally a combination phase for 3 weeks. Or you could do an easy phase for 3 weeks (here think building your endurance and conditioning for the work to come), a medium phase for 3 weeks (more strength, harder movement patterns, maybe some speed), and a difficult phase for 3 weeks (hypertrophy focus or speed, agility, sports specific conditioning, etc). This gets followed by a week of active rest and then you can move back to a medium phase of easy phase if you are learning new movement patterns.
The choice of program is only the frame. The basic components need to be introduction to the work and building endurance, followed by overload – this could be building muscle, longer cardio work, or speed drills. The body is made to adapt and thus becomes good at finding the easiest way to accomplish a task.
By cycling your workouts you can easily help yourself continue to progress in your goals without the frustration of hitting a plateau you didn’t expect.