Post by Mike Searle, Training director at Body4life Health & Fitness Group
By the time you read this column, the children will be back to school or if not, they’ll certainly be back in a few days and for many parents that means a collective sigh of relief because you can now get on with a few tasks other than ‘occupying the kids’! Anyone with young children knows that looking after them takes a lot of time and effort and of course our time is a finite resource, so back to school should mean a bit more time for yourself.
Now I’m not suggesting that suddenly you’ve between six and seven hours per day where you’re kicking your heels with only daytime TV for entertainment (oh no!!) but if you’ve been chained at home all summer, you’ve now got a great opportunity to get out there and get your health and fitness back in the groove.
So, whatever will you do with all that time! Well, my vote goes for resuming your exercise focus and with the last vestiges of summer still hanging by a thread, now is the perfect time to go al fresco and enjoy some outdoor exercise. Why outdoors? Well, with only 113 shopping days left until Christmas (sorry to depress everyone!), darker nights are on their way and with that comes colder and wetter weather.
Now with the best will in the world, many people find it harder to get outside for a workout when the weather’s miserable so let’s capitalise on the remnants of better weather whilst we still have it and leave the gym or exercise class until after the clocks go back at the end of October. So my theme this week is outdoor exercise and the range of activities that you can get out and enjoy whilst the temperature’s still in double figures!
1. Forest Fun (1)! Delamere Forest is approximately ten miles from Chester and comprises almost 1,000 hectares of wooded trails and way-marked routes, with a selection of car parks and rail services making it accessible to all. And once you’re there you can enjoy anything from a short family walk, a jog on one of the colour-coded routes or a more lengthy run, perhaps incorporating the Sandstone Trail which passes straight through the middle. Afterwards, there is ample space for a picnic or there are a range of cafés or alternatively watering holes selling stronger refreshments! There’s even an orienteering course (map available from the Visitor Centre) which all the family can participate in or for anyone keen to test themselves further, there are regular running events staged in or around the forest, from short evening trail runs to longer distance events. So effectively, for cardiovascular exercise and activity, there’s something for everyone!
2. Forest Fun (2)! However, Delamere Forest and other surrounding areas of woodland have more to offer for your outdoor exercise than just an aerobic workout because the high wire adventure course accessed from near the Visitor Centre at Delamere is a great fun and all-over activity, with a few adrenaline charged zip wires to really get your pulse up! Alternatively, if you’re looking for something outdoors that is less ‘sport orientated’ but can still give you some exercise benefits, there are Ranger-led activities including Wildlife Walks, Bat Walks, Dry-Stone Walling or Archaeological digs – again more information from the Visitor Centre.
3. Serious Training! For those of you who are looking for a more challenging outdoor activity, Bootcamp Training is proving very popular at the moment. Effectively, Bootcamp is a group exercise session but removed from the gym studio and it’s transported into a park, field or wood. Sessions usually involve a mixture of running, exercises and sometimes partner-type games to maintain a fun focus. This sort of training is pretty tough but it’s excellent for total body fitness because if run correctly, it targets every area. However it is very much a ‘one-size-fits-all’ workout and of course none of us are the same, so it’s unsuitable for someone who’s unfit and is looking to get back into fitness, or has not exercised for a while, or has a medical condition or something similar. I recommend that if you fall into one of those categories that you avoid this type of workout and instead seek out something that’s correctly structured for you and your current fitness levels.
4. Less Serious Training! Now for the non-sporting aficionados out there, there’s still plenty that you can do in the Great Outdoors to benefit your health and fitness and enjoy the remainder of the warmer weather. Looking at my garden, the combination of warm-ish weather and plenty of rain has resulted in a huge amount of vegetation and sadly, instead of shrubs and hedges looking parched from endless sunshine, they’re enjoying prolific growth. So gardening tasks such as hedge cutting and digging are great activities (providing that you’re doing them manually that is!). Anyone who’s spent an afternoon lifting, stretching, cutting and carrying after trimming back a hedge will activate muscles that they probably didn’t know that they had! Similarly, turning over a patch with a spade (or double digging if you’re really keen!), will give you a beneficial upper body workout – just watch your back though because digging with poor technique by using your back to lift rather than your arms and legs will do you no good at all.
5. . . . and finally, Well with those examples above, you can see that there’s a plethora of fun, interesting and healthy al fresco activities that now the schools are open again, you can enjoy to get your fitness back on course. Once you’ve reactivated and reinvigorated your body then you’ve then achieved the desired goal of building fitness back into your life – which is as it should be – an integral component of your life just like eating, sleeping and working. For me, it’s an early morning run in the forest or Bootcamp at Frodsham for my open-air activities but whatever you choose, make the most of the double figure temperatures whilst they last and get back in the groove! Enjoy the open air from all the body4life health & fitness Team – that’s me, Duncan, Dave, Alison and Tony (we’re actually in the Great Outdoors whatever the weather!).
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