Most of us claim to be outdoors people, although we tend to spend 90 per cent of our day indoors. That’s said without judgement–it’s easy to stay inside all day when you work and sleep indoors.
Recently, I’ve been spending time around people who have adventures every weekend. Being in the mountains, the wilderness, is their thing. They don’t go for half-day hikes, they leave town on Friday night, camp, climb, hike, and paddle until Sunday, and then do it all again the next weekend. It’s inspiring, though a little guilt-inducing.
So, whether you are planning to disconnect this weekend, or just for a few hours, here are a few different ideas that may come in handy.
Ideas to get you outside
For some reason, it’s in most of us to love climbing things. Maybe that’s some leftover instinctual mechanism. I’m not sure why it is, but I know that embracing it can be an eye-opener.
Many of us aren’t ready to invest in climbing gear: ropes are expensive, and harnesses, carabiners, and climbing shoes can add up.
Here’s the secret, if you aren’t doing high, technical climbs, you can make due without any equipment.
Grab your smallest pair of trainers and head out to a rocky area, try your hand at bouldering. It’s rock climbing, you just don’t go that high (normally less than 6 metres). If you get into it, then you can think about investing in some rock climbing shoes. If you’re really getting into it, you can start investing in the rest of the equipment, piece by piece.
Slackline is another tie-in to climbing culture. It’s like tight-rope walking, only the line is slack.
It involves a piece of webbing being tied to two anchors, normally two trees, with a ratchet attached to add tension. You can buy slackline kits, or you can head to an auto shop to buy a pickup-truck-bed-tiedown ratchet. Buy the webbing at a mountain equipment or outdoor store, and put it together yourself.
Once you have your setup, climb on. I have incredibly little experience with slacklining, but here are a few tips to get you started:
Start with your back foot along the triangle where the webbing is attached to the tree. Get used to balancing with your front foot on the line, without holding onto the tree, before you start going.
Look forward when you are walking, not directly down at your feet. Learn to trust your feet, they know where they are.
There is speed and there is control. Speed without control can get you halfway across the line, but do you really want to do it that way? Use your core for balance, keep getting on there, eventually the control will come (with lotttts of patience and determination).
Get high… up. And take some photos.
Make it a mission to get high up and take a feature photo in your town or city or wherever you are in the middle of nowhere. Find a high point and there is likely a route that goes up there. Just remember a few things:
- Leave no trace: stick to the designated trails, leave nothing behind. This is standard for responsible hikers. That also means don’t take any souvenirs along the way.
- Know the animals of the region: If you are hiking in an area with bears or other potentially dangerous animals, step loudly and make a bit of noise (though don’t be completely obnoxious). If you happen upon one, follow the appropriate measures (with bears, that normally means stay calm, speak firmly, don’t look it in the eye, and back away slowly).
- Be wary of the water: Just because the water looks clean, doesn’t mean it is. There could be something nasty upstream that’s contaminating it. Just don’t drink it unless you are sure (or have some way to filter it).
Try a bike trail
If you’re in an urban area, chances are that there are some bike trails in the surrounding wilderness, and usually they aren’t too obscure.
Biking in the woods doesn’t have to mean extreme mountain biking, going up and down dramatic hills on unmanicured (and unmarked) trails. It can be an easy-going ride on flat land through a forested area.
Give a trail a try, you can always turn back if it’s getting too intense. Just remember to watch out for other bikers–don’t feel the need to keep up, just let them pass. Just enjoy yourself.
Go running in the outdoors? What a novel idea (sarcasm).
We’re not all runners. Some of us don’t have the patience, the joint strength, or the love of the movement. But, some of us just haven’t given it enough of a chance.
So, give running another shot this weekend. Here’s a way to make it easy:
Map a route that gives you a short loop. Leave your water bottle (hidden) at the beginning. This way, you don’t have to carry it with you.
Cut the tube part off a tube sock, put your arm through and fold the bottom up. Now you’ve got a free armband with a pocket to stick your phone in. Listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, audiocourses–something to occupy your mind, if you need it.
Or just do it at random. Follow the colour red when you see it, take a detour down a street with high-end homes, just allow yourself to get lost (just be sensible and safe along the way).
There’s nothing like the outdoors to remedy the drain that is staring at a computer screen for hours every day. It’s a restorative experience.
Give your brain a break. Enjoying the outdoors can be a form of relaxation and meditation. Allowing your brain to slow down can help improve your memory and help you deal better with stress.
Studies support the beneficial impacts of Shinrin Yoku–the Japanese practice of “forest bathing.” It is exactly how is sounds, spending time in the forest. There have been demonstrated reductions in stress, anger, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness amongst the subjects who have participated in these studies.
This is pretty obvious, but spending time outside provides numerous physical benefits, such as aerobic, cardiovascular and muscular fitness, as well as improved functioning of the immune system.
Getting involved in outdoor groups is a good way to meet people who share your interests and are on your level. Join a class, attend a pub night, chances are that you will meet someone you click with. People who love the outdoors are encouraging and supportive of beginners. It’s not a competition. The trick is to inspire more people to enjoy the natural environment.
Greater appreciation for the outdoors can only be a good thing–for us as individuals, and for the environment.
But, aside from growing appreciation, getting outdoors can make you a more adventurous person in general. You get into the culture of outdoor activity, and a whole world opens up. Suddenly, things you thought you’d never do or things you’d never considered seem completely viable. You develop new skills and test your comfort levels, gaining a sense of patience along the way. You do things for the enjoyment and progression, not necessarily because they are the most productive things to be engaged in at that moment.
How will you get outdoors this weekend? What are your favourite outdoor activities?