When you’re a parent it can be difficult to find time to hit the gym. You may have to go when you have a babysitter or the kids are in school, or you have to find a gym that has a childcare option; all of which can really limit your options (especially since only the larger, more corporate gyms have childcare, typically). Going to the gym just becomes another thing that separates you and your kids from spending time together.
This is one of the main reasons I stay out of the gym and take my workouts outdoors. Not only do I get to spend time with my daughter, but I’m outside, not stuck inside the limited space of four walls filled with stale, indoor gym air. The benefits of bringing your workouts outside into nature’s gym are endless, not only for the parent, but your children as well.
Since my daughter was a newborn, we have spent most of our time outside hiking, climbing, camping and adventuring. This has played a huge role in strengthening our bond as mother and daughter. If your kiddo is under 48 pounds and able to ride in a hiking pack, you’ll get an extra workout by carrying them! It’s like having a weight vest, only this weight vest is alive, really adorable, and sometimes a pain in the you know what. My daughter has recently outgrown our back pack days but that hasn’t stopped us from getting in a good “workout” on the trail! You’d think she would struggle to keep up with me, but I’m most certainly the one trying to keep up with her.
When I warm up for a hike, I don’t do a lot of static stretching. I believe it’s more important to warm up the joints in a way that will lubricate them and wake up muscles that may be sleepy from the drive to the mountains, desert or whatever your location may be.
I start with the feet and ankles because that is what makes first contact with the trail. On the desert trails of the southwest it is common to roll your ankles on large rocks. I don’t ever force my daughter to join me in a warm up, but I do always encourage her to! There are three scenarios with her: One: she will happily join in. Things get really weird and real silly when this happens. Two: she does her own warm up, usually running around neighing like a horse. Three: she’ll be in no mood at all to do much of anything, so this is when I make her my human weight vest and hold her while I do the following warm up.
-Full ROM (range of motion) Foot Circles
Lift the foot by bending at the knee. Rotate the root in circles slowly and with intent (engaging the muscles in the lower leg) and think about scraping the outer edge of the range of motion. Do circles both directions.
-3 position Calf Raise
Perform calf raises going up onto your toes in three different positions: neutral (toes pointed forward), pigeon (toes pointed in), duck (toes pointed out)
Once the muscles in my lower leg are on fire I bring my attention up to the power movers of the hip; quads, hamstrings, glutes (not to be confused with gluten, gluten is bad. Okay who am I kidding…I love gluten.)
-Prisoner Squat (My daughter calls this one the “drop your booty booty”)
Starting with your hands behind your head, elbows out, and a hip width stance, drop into a squat to your range of motion (some with increased knee and ankle mobility will do a full squat, and some may only take the knees to 90 degrees, either is fine since we are warming up for a hike. Not trying to break squat records over here.)
-Dynamic Marching with Arms Up
With the arms held high reaching at the sky march in place starting easy and increasing the force of the hip flexion (knee lift). This is not to be confused with running in place with high knees.
-Lunge with Rotation
Perform alternating lunges. Extend the arms forward at the bottom of the lunge and rotate laterally to the front knee side (if you lunge forward with your left leg, rotate left).
-Alternating Toe Touch
Stand with a wide stance and arms straight out to the sides. Bend and rotate and touch opposite toe with arm and stand back up. Alternate sides.
Once I’m appropriately warmed up, it’s time to get to what I came for. Not just work out, but something much more than that. I hike. Not just because it happens to be a good full body workout. Every step on a hike gets me further away from where I was and closer to where I’m going (physically, mentally, and spiritually). It is an incredible time for me to think and recenter myself while I’m breathing deeply and my blood is pumping. Some hikes are easier than others, some make my legs feel like jello, but each hike is worthy of the trek.
In the end, it’s not about training, getting a good workout or building muscle. For me, exercising is about the fact that I get to spend quality time with my daughter outside, doing something we love, that rejuvenates our souls. Burning all the calories….well, that’s just an added bonus.