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  • Spring into Shape in the Great Outdoors


    You know the feeling. You realize it's time to put away the coat, scarf and gloves and all other clothing remnant of the winter that just came to an end. The bright, shining sun has returned and animals of all kinds seem to be happy about it. The earth itself celebrates and bestows upon us the beauty of flowers and the signs of life, growth and transition that transcend the mundane and uplift spirits. You know the feeling when spring has sprung and that it's time to dust off the running shoes that may have been idle all winter, clear the leaves out of the yard for some space to move around, and rekindle that desire to exercise outside. You don't know this feeling if you live in year-round sunny places, but you can play along and imagine this dawning of Spring.

    Now that inspiration and the smell of tree blossoms fill the air, it's time to get your lungs filled with air from some good old fashioned outdoor exercise. Whether you've stuck with your New Year's resolutions, or you'd rather not talk about it, spring is a great time of change to start anew and resolve to be a healthy and fit role model for those around you. You like walks in the park? Good. So does your dog, or your friend. You like fresh air and a hint of sunshine? Good, we're two for two. How's that garden coming along? You know strength can be built through some earth-loving tenderness of getting down and dirty in the soil, planting what will be your fuel for future workouts. C'mon, live a little. Staying indoors was sooo last month. Get outside and enjoy yourself. Did you know that due to lack of sunshine, most people in North America are likely to be Vitamin D deficient, especially this time of year? Here are some tips to wipe away the winter blues by pursuing your own personal interests outdoors.

    • See if there is still air in those bike tires, and maybe apply a little oil to the chain. Hop on and see if what they say is true; "you never forget how to ride a bike."
    • Plan more outdoor family activities in parks, educational field trips, and adventures and explorations. Encourage lots of walking, jogging and bring sports equipment to the park such as a Frisbee, or soccer ball. Invite your dog in on the action, especially with the Frisbee — both of you will appreciate it.
    • Remember all those P90X DVDs you watched during the winter while you worked out in the living room, scaring your house pets along the way? Take your yoga mat out to the yard and get some Vitamin D filled sunshine while you stretch, lunge and crunch your way toward achieving your fitness goals.
    • Don't sit down. I don't mean never sit down, that would be exhausting. I mean when you get home from work. Have you noticed that once you sit down after work it's awfully hard to get back up and get motivated to exercise? Make an effort to exercise before you get home or as soon as you arrive before you sit down.
    • Set some specific goals that can only be achieved through consistent exercise outdoors. Make some arrangements to meet friends to go hiking on the weekend, schedule a time to meet others at a community garden to volunteer or cultivate your own plants. Exercise first thing in the morning, immediately after work, or even during a break in the middle of the workday.
    • Spring is a great time to join an outdoor soccer team, a running club, or other community-driven sports experiences where others, such as teammates, can help keep you consistent and accountable. You don't want to miss practice and let your team down on game day.

    If serious muscle-building exercise is your thing, check out the fall issue with lists of exercises to do nearly anywhere, anytime, or join or re-commit to going to your local gym. You can still enjoy all the benefits of spring by pursuing serious weight training inside a gym and following all the steps above. Life's a garden, dig it. Plant the seeds of change now for tomorrow's future. Don't forget to oil that bike chain. You have a long time until next winter. Enjoy your days in the sun.

    Here is a list of some of my favorite springtime exercises:

    • Hiking 2-5 miles on steep terrain.
    • Running 3 times a week on trails, lush with nature in full bloom.
    • Weight training a few days a week, including outdoor training such as pull-ups, dips, squats and lunges in a park.
    • Playing basketball, soccer and throwing a football with friends.
    • Walking, getting to know my neighborhood and surroundings better, and exploring nature when I travel.

    Tired of the same old exercises you do every year? Looking to try something new? Here are some unique ideas to help you spring into shape this year:

    • Try a CrossFit class.
    • Join a group fitness class.
    • Take lessons in a sport you've never played before.
    • Offer to walk someone's dog.
    • Believe in yourself, knowing you can have fun while attaining your fitness goals.

    -Robert Cheeke — Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University - author of the best-selling book Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness — The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet

    Robert Cheeke

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