Spring has finally arrived. It’s been a hard winter in Ohio with near record snow. Now that Daylight Savings Time is in effect, evenings are longer allowing more time for enjoying the outdoors. It’s definitely time to get off of your couch for some outdoor activities. On St. Patrick’s Day I enjoyed my first trail ride of the year on the popular Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail near my home. It was a wonderful experience.  

I’ve been an avid cyclist for the past two years and get a lot of enjoyment and exercise from my cycling. One of my goals for 2011 is to give hiking a try and see how well I enjoy it. One thing that I have discovered about myself as a fitter person after weight loss surgery is that I thoroughly enjoy nature and the outdoors. I do hate gyms and health clubs. It comes from years of being the fat guy who is out of place and uncomfortable in a gym of fit younger people. The weight may be gone, but I still have a problem shedding that feeling of uncomfortableness. Outdoors, there is no one to judge you and there is just more freedom.

This morning I went for a four mile hike in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a real treasure only 30 minutes from my house. The National Park Service has scheduled a series of ranger lead hikes of increasing duration and degree of difficulty. It’s an introduction to hiking for newcomers and spring training for experienced hikers. I really enjoyed myself on the hike. I am pretty certain I will be attending future hikes and venture out on my own in the coming months.

I did some research on hiking as I prepared to write this post. What I discovered was that hiking is almost identical to cycling in the health benefits you enjoy by participating as a hiker. It’s low impact aerobic exercise that is good for your heart. You burn from 300-500 calories an hour based on the speed and difficulty of the trail. It is a good way of keeping many diseases at bay and your body in good working condition.

With the temperatures rising over the coming weeks and months, I ask you to giving cycling or hiking a try. The reasons you could not get of the house have melted away with the last snow. Here’s a list of some reasons to head out to the trails.

  1. Economics – It’s cheaper than a health club membership.
  2. Wonder – Flowers are blooming and trees will be greening. Nature rocks!
  3. Sensory – The sights, sounds and smells of nature are exciting, fresh and new.
  4. Memories – You don’t remember your week at the gym. You will remember your hike or ride.
  5. Freedom – Go at your own pace and on your own schedule.
  6. Accomplishment – Nothing feels better than finishing a good hike or bike ride.
  7. Mystery – There are always new things to see out in the real world.
  8. Perspective – It puts your place in this world into perspective.
  9. Refreshing – It clears your mind and body.
  10. Companionship – Hiking or biking with a group is fun.
  11. Peace – A snack or lunch along the trail is a quiet experience worth it all.
  12. Health – Low impact aerobic exercise that is fun!

Happy spring.  I urge you to dust off your bike and pump up the tires. Dig out a comfortable pair of hiking shoes from the back of your closet. Start with a 15 or 30 minute spin around your neighborhood. You got an extra hour of daylight each evening with Daylight Savings Time. Use it to be more physically fit. This coming weekend, set the alarm and get up an hour earlier. Morning is the perfect time for a hike or bike ride. I know that couch isn’t holding you back!

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