With the onset of summer weather, many of us will be engaging in activities our bodies have not experienced in a little while. While getting outdoors and moving around is undeniably enjoyable, we must remember that much of it constitutes exercise, and like any other forms of exercise, we will want to approach it in a balanced way. Instead of engaging in the same repetitive motions that only work one part of our bodies one way, we’ll want to cross train, or complement our outdoor activities with exercise that engages other muscles, too, while increasing the variety of movement.
Below are three common summer activities paired with suggested additional activities that might help you cross train and balance out your activity, resulting in safer, more effective exercise and an overall stronger, healthier body.
Hiking: When taking advantage of the hiking trails in your local area or on vacation, you are primarily working the muscle groups in your lower body. Further, you are asking them to perform movement in the same direction, forward and backward, over and over. Consider adding some weight lifting to your schedule. This will give you the opportunity to strengthen the muscles in your lower body that perform lateral, or side-to-side motion. It will also give you the option to add some upper body strength training. This will balance out all the strength you are building in your lower body.
Beach Walking/Running: The beach can be a beautiful place to walk or run. That beauty is what brings many of us there. Beach sand also provides a particularly challenging surface on which to walk or run—and that’s a good thing. Walking or running, like hiking, is primarily a lower body activity; however, the sand continually challenges your stability, forcing you to engage more muscles throughout your body. While you have that beautiful scenery around you and challenging surface under your feet, why not try some gentle beach yoga? You will engage even more muscles, include a wider variety of movement, and with such peaceful surroundings, you might even have an easier time quieting your mind and finding your focus.
Swimming: Many of us will get in the water this summer. We might not think of this experience as exercise. But even if you don’t hop in a lake and swim laps continuously, the way you might in a pool, moving through the multidirectional resistance and buoyancy of the water is a lot of work! Swimming is full-body exercise. It engages your upper and lower body at the same time. If you have plans to swim this summer, make plans to do Pilates on rainy days. Pilates will help you strengthen your core muscles. It will teach you to use your deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles in conjunction with the muscles in your back. Then when you swim, all of that upper and lower body movement will emanate from a strong center.
When planning your outdoor activity this summer, keep the muscles you’ll work and the ways that you’ll work them in mind. With a balanced approach, you can have fun while becoming your strongest and healthiest!
At the time of this writing, Heidi Stevenson was a certified group fitness instructor, currently teaching yoga, Pilates, and aquatics for the HPER Department and Recreational Sports program at Northern Michigan University, and also taught a wide variety of group fitness classes in Michigan and Pennsylvania over the last 14 years.
Excerpted with permission from the Summer 2010 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2010, Intuitive Learning Creation. All rights reserved.