This time of year, we’re excited to break loose and enjoy the sunshine, but 2020 is… well, special. We’ve all been cooped up and locked down, and even as coronavirus restrictions relax, most of us are looking for healthy ways to get outside and get rid of the aftermath of too much home-made sourdough bread and Netflix-binge snacking.
Here’s our “new normal” take on the five easiest ways to get acquainted with the great outdoors:
We had to put yoga at the top of the list because it’s one of the best and most accessible ways to reduce anxiety and stress—something we’ve all experienced in recent months. Still (and for the foreseeable future) many of us are avoiding indoor fitness centers and yoga studios. Exertion and deep breathing exercises, as much as they promote relaxation, mental wellness, and core strength, may help propel the virus beyond our six-foot safety buffers, and there’s only so much we can do to maintain a safe space indoors.
And worrying about catching cooties pretty much cancels yoga’s benefits, which is why we recommend looking for an outdoor yoga class near you.
If you can’t find a group session at a local park (or goat farm, for that matter), consider downloading the Down Dog yoga app for your tablet or phone or checking out one of many YouTube yoga coaches. Prop up your tech on something squishy—a daypack loaded up with water and a snack, or maybe a less-than-motivated loved one—and get acquainted with yoga’s basic poses at your own pace.
What you need:
- A yoga mat or nice, soft lawn (even then, bring a beach towel)
- Soft and durable leggings that allow full range of motion without riding up.
2. Trail Cycling
If your idea of cycling involves a stationary bike in front of your big-screen TV, it’s time to change up your game. Dust off and tune up your old college mountain bike, and get acquainted with your local single track trails. If it’s been a while, we recommend you download Trailforks, a wildly-popular mountain biking trip planning app. (Wanna root for the underdog? We have a soft spot for the MTB Project app).
If you’re into extreme social distancing and you’re in the market for a new ride, check out fat-tire bikes. Their brawny frames and wide, weight-distributing tires provide the traction and ruggedness required of terrain that makes traditional bikes nope on back to the blacktop.
Basic mountain biking gear:
- A bike! Ask your local gear shop about demos and rentals if you’re starting from scratch.
- A helmet
- Padded cycling gloves (you’ll know why when you forget them)
- Tube and tire repair kit
- Durable, breathable cycling shorts
3. Horseback Riding
You’ve probably seen pictures of people sewing pool noodles onto hats to prevent strangers from violating their sacred spaces, but there’s no better social distancing accessory than a horse. Once you’re astride, you’ve got about four feet between the horse’s withers and whiskers up front, and a nice kicky pair of feet to keep people from coughing on your cantle. Sorry, that’s equestrian speak. Let’s move on…
Assuming you don’t need too much help climbing into the saddle and you’re not riding abreast, an afternoon or weekend on a rural or backcountry trail ride is a fantastic way to take in fresh air and new vistas. Or, you can find a riding stable near you with hourly lessons for individuals or the whole family.
What you need:
- Riding helmet
- Long-sleeved, UV-protective shirt
- Durable, full-length pants with articulated knees and a gusseted crotch (trust us)
- Riding boots with a heel for stirrup safety
While there are plenty of mobile apps for equestrians, we suggest you check your favorite online travel guide for stables in your area. If you’re in a rural or backcountry community, Google “hunting outfitters” for best results. Many guides keep saddle horses and pack mules for their fall and winter hunting clients and are happy to get off-season customers.
4. Trail Running
Off-road running might seem rougher on the bod than a jog down a paved recreational path, and terrain and elevation changes aside, it’s definitely a challenge. But as we recently wrote in “How to Start Trail Running,” the natural footing “in the wild” is easier on joints. It’s also a better option for avoiding foot, bike, and motor traffic.
If you’re getting bored with your neighborhood route, the AllTrails app will put you in new surroundings, but popular road cycling and running apps like Strava will help you track your progress and vital stats.
What you need:
- Trail running shoes
- Upgraded hydration system
- Ultra-soft, abrasion-resistant women’s leggings
Call us the collective personification of Captain Obvious, but hiking has the lowest gear-up threshold of any outdoor recreation sport. We’re also fairly casual in our definition. To us, a hike can be anything from a nature walk along an urban creek or a trek through the Himalayas.
The point is simple: Lace-up footwear that’s appropriate for the terrain; throw on breathable, chafe-free layers to protect you against off-the-mark local weather forecasts; and download an app with maps and user-generated trail reviews. AllTrails is the hands-down leader, but if you’re headed into the backcountry or even a semi-remote county park, it’s best to check in with a ranger for the most up-to-date conditions.
The bare minimum:
- Footwear designed for traction and ankle stability
- Lightweight, abrasion-resistant women’s hiking pants with DWR
Before you get started…
You yoga peeps can make your own risk assessments about the following, but anyone new to outdoor adventure sports should carry some basic supplies:
- Enough water (and then some) to get you there and back
- Basic first aid kit
- Gear that will keep you safe and comfortable
We’re also big fans of backcountry emergency communication devices that can send texts or beacon signals beyond cell service. And as reliable as today’s tech might be, paper maps are always the best defense against Murphy’s law.
Don’t forget to let someone know your route and your return ETA.
And as with most remote outdoor activities, it’s always best to bring a buddy. Even if you’re touring your neighborhood trails or trying to untangle yourself from a lotus pose fail, it’s more fun to have a friend with you whom you trust has been keeping kosher with coronavirus guidelines. At the very least, even when all things go well, you’ll be a bit stiff, creaky, and sore after months of confinement and relative inactivity… so it’s nice to have a little help soothing those achy muscles at the end of the day.
See you out there!
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