Fit By Nature

Do you really need a gym membership to stay fit? Definitely not, says John Colver, founder of outdoor fitness company AdventX. If you hate commuting to a gym, sweating in front of mirrors, or paying monthly membership fees, look no further than out your front door for a freshair gym without the dues. Here are tips from Colver's book, Fit by Nature, that you can use to create your outdoor fitness plan.

The neighborhood is your playground. Turn picnic tables, paved paths, park stairs, grassy fields, local beaches, or inspiring viewpoints into your personal gym. Your exercise routine doesn't have to be separate from the rest of your life -- in an outdoor gym, cold air stimulates, sunlight provides Vitamnin D, and open spaces energize the imagination.

Dress for the occasion. Layer up, says Colver. Make sure the clothes closest to your skin are made of wicking material, not cotton, so your sweat will evaporate. Bring an insulated layer if it's early morning or late evening: light nylon, wool, or fleece will prevent chill. And if you expect rain, wind, or snow, bring a light Gore-tex jacket with "pit zips" to keep air moving.

Stay safe. Since outdoors workouts can be more free form, be sure to tell someone if you're going out alone or find a partner to share your exercise adventure. If it's getting dark, wear a reflector vest or bring a flashlight.

Balance your routine. Colver's fitness philosophy is all about cycling through different exercises to avoid burnout. Be sure to vary your routine between easy and hard days -- long easy runs one day, followed by intense interval bursts on another.

Challenge yourself. Bring along a sports watch so you can keep track of your times and your progress.

Hydrate. Colver encourages outdoor enthusiasts to drink fluids before, after, and during the workout schedule. Drink 20 oz of fluids two hours before your workout, then drink 6 - 12 oz every 20 minutes while you're exercising. Follow up with 20 oz of water to rehydrate.

Restore. Pick one day a week to relax. Take a brisk walk, stretch in a grassy meadow at the park, or find a yoga class at your community center. Don't overtrain, but take advantage of the varied landscape in your neighborhood to renew your body.

Ultimately, working out outdoors is all about finding freedom in your physical training. Instead of breathing the stale air of a gym, or staring at the walls while on the treadmill after a long day of being inside at work. Take advantage of the natural environment around you while staying healthy and fit exercising outdoors.

-- Adapted from Fit By Nature: The AdventX Twelve-Week Outdoor Fitness Program by John Colver, published by The Mountaineers Books, $24.95, paperback.

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