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On The Beaten Path

Guide to active living
It’s not too late to add to your New Year’s resolution. In fact, if improving your overall health and fitness was your goal for this year then take note. There are endless ways to increase fitness, improve health, and maintain interest in staying active by adding variety to outdoor activities. A yearlong plan to add outdoor adventure to your health and wellness routine can look a little like this:
Start with March. How fortunate are we to live a three hours’ drive away from one of the most beautiful places on earth? (Tofino, home to Canada’s best surf beaches.) Surfing offers an alternative to cardiovascular fitness. It strengthens shoulders and back plus is great for leg and core strength. There is something youthful about surfing. Ever notice surfers never look their age?
March also marks a change in seasons when referring to outdoor activities but is a perfect time to play in the snow one last time. Snowshoeing will burn those calories while adding flexibility, stability, and muscular fitness. Two popular snowshoe locations in the Comox Valley are Mt. Washington and Mt. Becher.
The days start getting longer in April which draws many of us back outside. Add hiking as a cardio workout and boost your mood all at the same time. Maybe you have no time during the day to hike so grab a headlamp, some friends and night hike Mt. Prevost or up to Heart Lake. Your blood pressure will thank you.
May marks the beginning of camping season. Get a complete body workout, build endurance, and mental toughness by swapping provincial campgrounds for some backcountry sites. Start small and work your way up to bigger trips. Lake Helen McKenzie in Strathcona Park or a section of the Sunshine Coast in Powell River offer two great beginner backpacking routes.
Kayaking is a low impact sport that increases the number of capillaries in muscles worked. It offers upper body cardio exercise and if kayaking is not your preferred choice in water sports try canoeing or stand up paddle boarding (SUP). June is a great time to get back on the water. Head down to Ladysmith Harbour and get paddling with Sealegs Kayaking.
Backpacking in May was such a success so add another backpacking trip in July. Escaping your hectic life and reconnecting with nature does wonders for your mental health. Choices are endless. A few favorites of mine are Bedwell Valley, Cape Beale, and the Juan de Fuca trail.
Mountain biking can benefit your health in three ways. It improves muscle strength, cardiovascular health, and increases lung capacity. Try planning for an August mountain biking adventure. Stay local and ride Mt Tzouhalem or Maple Mountain or a day trip to Cumberland. There’s nothing wrong with adding a bit of a challenge to your health and fitness goals.
By September you will have day hikes and backpacking under your belt. It’s now time to summit a mountain. Every fitness plan must have rewards and standing on top of a mountain knowing how much work it took to get there is a great reward. Mt. Benson would be an ideal place to start with Mt. Arrowsmith being the ultimate goal.
It is important to add strength training into overall health and fitness and rock climbing is the perfect outdoor activity. It works core muscles, strengthens hand and fingers, and is a low impact aerobic workout. October is usually the end of outdoor climbing season and will find local crags along the Nanaimo River busy. Beginners can head to the indoor climbing gym in Nanaimo and start training for the next season.
Hiking is one of the easier outdoor activities to take up. But like many failed fitness routines, little variation can lead to lost interest. Don’t think of hiking as just the cardio workout on the same old trails. Find others to hike with that will continue to motivate you when you can’t motivate yourself. Choose hikes that offer a destination or point of interest to distract from the fitness. In November, join a community or online group of hikers.
December can be one of the most difficult times to maintain the fitness routines you have worked so hard to build up. Holiday celebrations interfere but consider adding outdoor activities to your festive season. Plan a winter solstice hike with family and friends. If you travel for Christmas, like we do, embrace the outdoor activities that are unique to the area you are visiting. This past Christmas we travelled to Alberta and did what the locals do: ice fishing and pond skating. Something we can’t do here on Vancouver Island.
By next January you will have created your very own calendar of outdoor health and fitness activities. You are never too young or too old to exercise when in fact it is the young and the old that benefit the most from leading active healthy lifestyles. So make next January the month where you grab grandma’s, grandpa’s, kids, adults of all ages and head out for a day of downhill skiing at Mt. Washington. In order to maintain muscle mass and strength, appropriate muscle use is required. Downhill skiing will provide hours of fun and resistance training all at the same time.

Jill Collins is an Outdoor Family Blogger and proud KEEN Canada Ambassador. Details on all adventures and locations listed in article can be found on her, Twitter @Onthebeatenpath, Instagram @Getonthebeatenpath


About the author: Angie

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