Makayla McGeeney | Exercising outside safely and effectively

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On January 1, gyms and health clubs everywhere are packed with resolution go-ers who are guilty over holiday weight gains. In the hotter months, the gym traffic slows down. But, as the weather gets warmer, the occasional runners emerge from hibernation and take their workout back outside. My favorite thing about the summer is exercising outside and utilizing existing resources as my dumbbells or steps.

Throughout college I would work at a gym in New York during the summers and after working 10 hour days, I didn't want to stay at work and workout. I also felt bad if my dog was inside all day when there was beautiful weather to enjoy. So, at the dog park, there is luckily baseball fields and soccer fields with benches. Eventually I moved around and started targeting playgrounds and parks for my workout, but Shadow didn't always like not being able to play with other little children.

The benefits: You're outside breathing in fresh air, getting a tan at the same time, and it doesn't feel like you're working out.

The cons: If you can't find an empty park, then you face dealing with other people watching you. There's also the chance that your only free time to take a run is during a lunch hour when the sun is highest in the sky, so bringing ample water and maybe an umbrella for shade, is ideal.

Any area with steps or a platform that is raise can be used for a variety of exercises, including lunges, elevated push ups, shoulder taps, and plyometric moves such as toe touches. With monkey bars, climbing them is a workout in itself, but you can hang and pull up legs to work your core. Bars of any kind can be used for pull-ups or to hang if you can't quite master a pull-up yet.

Don't have a park or playground? I saw a video a few days ago of a girl using large orange caution barriers to jump over and then do a burpee next to each one. This idea goes back to when I talked about working out in your home by using heavy cleaning products or a full laundry bin. Anything you can think of can be used to incorporate into a workout.

Exercising outside can lift your mood, improve attention and focus, by reducing television time, that is linked to confusion, anger and depression, according to a Huffington Post article. It can also improve energy levels. Some take a morning jog half asleep rather than drinking a cup of coffee and fresh, brisk air can have the same effect. Vitamin D levels will also increase - the article states that overweight individuals are twice as likely to not get enough vitamin D.

Even though I'm not a runner, I have picked it up over time. I'm not quite past the five kilometer fun runs yet, however, I have learned a few things over the years. My roommate was a cross country runner in high school and taught me to raise your arm or hand out high if you're going under a bridge where a car can't see you, or if you're in any sort of blind spot. It's also important to wear reflective or bright clothing if you're running early in the morning or at night when it's harder to see. When running on the road, run on the right side so that cars can see you, and if you're passing a walker, do it on their left side and give them a holler before approaching.

When running at night, try to keep your phone on you at all times, as most people have music on their cell phones now, and make sure someone knows that you are out and about just in case of an emergency. I'm not a fan of running with a water bottle because I like to be hands free, so that's a personal preference. Some even chew gum. Remember to regulate your breathing by taking air in through the nose and out through the mouth. Lastly, let your legs do the work by avoiding the upper body swing. So often I see people running and they look like they have zero control of their torso and arms. Keep your arms straight down, or relaxed bent and check your posture if you run past a storefront window because slumping could lead to other injuries.

Now, get out there and sweat!

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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