I love to run. I've always enjoyed running
Once upon a time I found that I’d had enough with running. What I didn't realise at the time was that it wasn't running that had lost its appeal, it was the type of running.
After taking a break, I tried to get back into it but the inevitable drop in performance frustrated me. I persisted and, through a series of accidental events and some conscious changes, it turned out I still loved running. What I disliked was the endless kilometres of concrete and ever-repeating training routes.
Breaking Down Social BarriersI experimented. I began to avoid paths and trails and started bush bashing. For those of you not familiar with Australian slang, “bush bashing” is exploring off the paths in our natural landscape. Most of us have been wired to stay on the path; I was and prescribed to “don’t wander off.” Taking that first step was a big thing and a real mental challenge, but it was completely worth it. I can still feel that block there in my mind if I'm on a trail and decide I want to venture off and I know I'm not alone in that, but like many things, it’s just stuck in my head. Sure, there are places where it isn’t wise to wander off alone and of course you shouldn’t trespass where you're not welcome, but with a little common sense, I now run with the purpose of avoiding paths wherever I can.
I also stop and climb: trees, boulders, anything really.
This was difficult at first too, because when you stop, you're messing with your run times right? And you can’t do that! Then there's the whole notion of what people will think; once you get past the strange looks people give you - an adult, climbing trees - it can actually be a hugely enjoyable challenge. I'll do big climbs or small, fast climbs, and each time I have a load of fun.
The Benefits of Being OutdoorsGetting yourself outdoors has many benefits and there’s plenty of research to back it up. Given the shorter nature of this blog though, how about we settle for a nice, easy list of why you should consider going outside:
1. Your stress levels will go down.If you’re stressed out at home or in the office, it’s amazing what a quick walk outside can do for you. Add a few trees in the mix and you’ll feel even better.
2. It’s better for your eyes.You probably already know that all those hours staring at the screen are bad for your eyes. Particularly for children. Time outdoors is good for the eyes. Focusing on something more distant exercises different muscles and allows the eyes to relax and recover. Additionally, natural landscapes simply look amazing.
3. Get some vitamin D.Many of us are not getting enough vitamin D, probably because we’re spending so much time indoors.
4. It will help you sleep.How well you sleep has a lot to do with hormones like melatonin and your own natural circadian rhythm. These are effected by your exposure to light—including sunlight. If you’re spending too much time indoors, you’re isolated from the source of your body’s natural rhythms.
5. Attention/memory will improve.Having a hard time concentrating? Get outside for a few minutes. A little fresh air and sunshine can help increase your attention span.
6. Nature sounds good.What we listen to can impact our health and wellbeing. Humans find bird songs reassuring. We intrinsically feel that all is good in the world if the birds are singing.
7. Nature Smells Good.Our sense of smell is closely linked to the parts of the brain responsible for processing emotion. The scents we inhale have an immediate and profound impact.
8. Water is good for you.Not just drinking it. Negative ions are natural antidepressants and found in abundance near water. Walking trails beside lakes or along rivers are recommended for their benefits to emotional health.
Get OutsideThat small list is all good and well, but for me the best bit is that out there, the chance to never do the same thing exists. Yes, you have the repetition of walking or running but the scenery changes, the ground changes, the temperature changes and the conditions change. For us, human variability is crucial.
Finally, you have the chance to seek out things seldom seen. I often explore in search of waterfalls. With a little Googleing it’s possible to locate areas where you can explore and find things that probably haven't been seen by many people.
One of the most rewarding sessions I've done recently was a search for a particular waterfall. I’d researched and picked up a couple of landmarks then set out to explore. This journey took me through some very tough terrain, but when I finally located these falls, the feeling was simply amazing. Never have I had the sense of achievement and satisfaction from a session like I did that day!
Some simple examples of what you can do out there that I enjoy: Rock hopping, climbing trees and mountains and traversing through and across the top of them.
Of course, the idea of hiking and climbing mountains might not to appeal to all of you. Perhaps you’d consider taking some equipment outside to move, but getting the benefits of the great outdoors can be as simple as taking a walk in the park.
Everyone can benefit from some time spent outside. You don’t need to take your whole routine out there, but try it a couple of times and see how you feel, I guarantee it will be worth it.