Brenda Sue and I are often contacted by folks who are wanting to lose weight and become physically fit. Most of the time, these people will be new to physical fitness activities and do not know where to begin. Because we do not know their actual fitness capabilities we will always advise them to first be cleared by thier doctor for physical fitness activities. This is largely because we have found out after the fact, that some of them have not disclosed to us prior injuries or conditions that might later cause them to suffer from further complications should they follow the advice we have given them. Anytime you seek advice from a fitness expert, you must disclose this information to protect yourself. I cannot in good faith tell you to perform any specific exercises without full disclosure. If I advised you to do push ups or pull ups and you have not let me know of prior rotator cuff issues, you could easily suffer permanent damage to your rotator cuff which could impede your ability to fully use your arm. Please protect your own best interest by letting your trainer, whether online or in person, know of all past injuries and conditions. All trainers with integrity will protect your information from being disclosed to others. At David’s Way, we fully comply with HIPAA regulations to protect your privacy. For the record, we do not offer personal one on one physical fitness training online even though we give fitness advice in our articles. With personal training, you the consumer are best served by receiving your training in person where instruction and corrections to form and such can be made in real time. This is for your benefit, yet we will still answer your questions about different physical fitness activities.
If you think you cannot begin a physical fitness regimen because you cannot afford an expensive gym membership or home equipment, stop with that mindset. While gym memberships and home equipment are nice to have, they are an unnecessary luxury that you do not have to spend money on in the name of fitness. The reality is all that you require is comfortable fitting clothes and a decent pair of shoes. All of which you may already have in your closet anyhow. You also do not need the latest, most trendy of attire as that little Nike Swoosh icon is not going to get you into shape. You will get yourself into good physical condition through a clean and proper diet combined with your efforts at exercise. An analogy those of us who ride motorcycles might refer to is “Chrome does not get you home”. It is pretty to look at, appealing to the eye, but it has no other function. This is true of a lot of sports attire, just worry about being comfortable and having comfortable shoes that provide proper arch support. If you decide to try hiking difficult terrain, then you will want footwear that also provides stability to your ankles to help prevent rolling it.
Hands down, the best exercise you can do for your body is to get out and walk at a pace brisk enough to place your body into your individual target heart rate zone for at least 30 minutes. You do not need any type of fitness tracker to know when you are there, save your money for a good pair of shoes that you will always actually need. You can know your heart rate is in the proper zone when you can still carry on a conversation that is somewhat labored. Your pace is likely to not be the same as that of another, but this does not matter. What matters is your pace is right for you and you only. You want your pace to be one to where your body is actually burning off fat, and to do that, it requires oxygen from an elevated heart rate. If this is difficult at first, then simply build up your pace slowly. If you are new to exercise, it is always best to build slowly into it anyhow as otherwise you stand a good risk of burning out before your body has derived any of the benefit of physical fitness.
Get yourself outside and make your exercise enjoyable. The scenery and fresh air is going to be leaps and bounds superior to the atmosphere inside of a gym. Walk around your neighborhood, or even better yet, visit a park with established walking trails. Most parks will have trails that range from being easy to navigate, handicapped accessible, and medium or difficult challenge levels. Asphalt or concrete paths are excellent for folks new to walking for exercise, mulch covered trails can be even better for a lower impact experience. Pictured above are a couple of trails I like to hike on when I want to really put in between 10 to 15 miles. These trails never get muddy as they have a prepared surface and one of them gives you a choice between walking up and down steep hills, or remaining on a fairly level terrain for your walk or hike. The beauty of many park trails is they are usually free to access. It cost you nothing but time to enjoy one while you are burning fat and increasing your cardiovascular fitness. An added benefit is you will be surprised the friends you can meet on the trails. Almost everyone I have ever met while out hiking has been quite friendly. For those who are intimidated by the types in gyms who might make fun of you for being out of shape, it is not likely you will ever encounter this problem while out on the trails. Most hikers are usually a friendly bunch of folks who are supportive of others getting out and enjoying the great outdoors too. I strike up conversations with people on the trails all the time, no matter their level of fitness. I cost nothing to share a kind word with others who are working at getting fit.
Once you are comfortable with brisk walking or hiking a good pace, you should consider buying a set of trekking poles. Trekking poles can range in price from under $20 a pair to a significant amount more for a set where you can replace the tips as they wear out. With the more inexpensive sets, you can replace the entire set for about the same cost as replacement tips for expensive pole sets. I personally use an inexpensive set that has served me quite well despite being their low cost. The budget pair I hike with now have well over 100 miles of hiking use in all types of terrain and are still in great condition.
The benefits of using trekking poles are many. They will increase your calorie burn by 20% when used correctly. Trekking poles reduce the impact on your knee joints and leg muscles as your arm and shoulder muscles will now help to support them. With your hands positioned above your heart when the poles are adjusted correctly, your blood circulation will be improved and your heart rate reduced. The rhythm created by hiking with poles leads to relaxed, more regular breathing and increased stamina.
Using trekking poles while hiking can reduce the pressure, or strain on the opposite leg by 20%. Furthermore, while hiking on level ground, poles reduce the body weight carried by the legs approximately 11 pounds or 5 kg for every step. Once you begin ascending an incline the reduction increases to 17.6 pounds, or 8 kg. This equates to a great reduction in weight carried over a two hour hike.
You will find that when the weather is hot, your hands will feel better, they will not be prone to any kind of swelling as they can become if you just let them hang while walking. Blood will not pool in your hands when you keep you arms moving.
Finally, you will find poles to be helpful if you have balance issues. Trekking poles make hiking safer as they give you support when crossing creeks, soft wet ground and when traversing any type of rough terrain. Once you get used to hiking with trekking poles, you will find them to be an indespensible tool to help get you through incredible hikes.
Once you get adept to long distance hiking, if you find yourself wanting to be challenged, find trails that are not prepared surfaces. In many parks you can find marked trails that are not prepared which can be a challenge with steep hills to ascend or descend, creeks to cross, and maybe rocks to climb. I love this type of hiking as when you go deep into the woods you will see sights others might miss entirely. Some of the best views, places to take pictures will be found while taking the more adventurous routes. Some of the most scenic sights I have found were on overlooks that were difficult to get to. When you get deep into the woods, you will encounter more wildlife and birds. You will find more tranquility from either a peaceful silence or from any of many species of birds chirping away. I feel like a young boy in heaven when I venture down trails that are not traveled by many people. On one of my last hikes, I got so close to some deer that I almost could have reached out and touched them. It was an incredible experience as they did not hear me, nor did they smell me right away because of the direction of the wind. I have to say that as a lifelong motorcyclist, I find hiking deep in the woods to be as exhilirating as finding a good curvy road on my bike. The experience is heaven on earth that is as good for the soul as it is for the body. If you are prone to suffering depression, going on a good hike might not be a cure for your condition, but it does provide a reset to a more positive mood. Getting your blood flowing while out in nature will make you feel better, its a gift you should reward yourself with as often as you possibly are able to.
There is beauty all around us to enjoy if you only open your eyes and search it out.