What going outside each day has taught me.
"If you haven't seen anything incredible today,
Back in February I wrote about my return to the outdoors and my goal to get outside more in 2020. While I did a horrible job of actually keeping you all updated on that, I did a really good job of sticking to my goal and wanted to share a few things I've learned along the way.
First, what have I been doing? Minimum 20 minute walk each day, preferably in the mornings. Lately that has turned into a run and it's longer than 20 minutes. It doesn't always happen in the morning but I'd say I make it out at least 5 days a week. On the weekends or a random week day, I've tried to do at least 1 longer hike or run. On the days none of these things could happen, I either took the dogs on a quick stroll around the block or sat in backyard for some fresh air.
So what have I learned?
1. I NEED fresh air. Doesn't matter if it's snowing, raining, freezing, sweltering. . . . my mind doesn't function well without it. Especially with the last few months of quarantine, I have realized how important getting outdoors is to my mental health.
2. It actually wakes me up. Despite how tired I may be in the morning, I feel more awake and vibrant throughout my day if I get up and get outside versus sleeping an extra hour.
3. My body will tell me what it needs. I did a lot of long distance running for quite a few years and have done Crossfit, Yoga, some dance classes, you name it. I love trying new things but most of those have fallen into some sort of "training program". To run a marathon you HAVE you plan out your mileage. That meant a lot of long runs when my body didn't really feel up to it. I've learned to really pay attention to what my body needs and feel a million times better for it. Some days a run feels good. Some days it's a 1 mile run, others it's a long run. Some days I want to add in weights after my walk, other days stretching feels better. Will this type of "training" get me to some sort of end goal like a marathon? Not likely. But it has lead to significantly better overall physical and mental health which was my personal pursuit this year.
4. Starting my day outside makes the rest of my day run smoother. It clears the junk out of my head and I'm better able to concentrate on my work and my tasks for the day. I've noticed a big difference between the days I get out first thing vs when I go later in the afternoon. It still feels good to get out mid-day but mornings do a better job of ensuring my day runs smoothly and my mind isn't all over the place.
5. My physical body is changing from very minimal effort. My legs are stronger and leaner, I've lost all of the winter "floof" as I lovingly referred it, I am breathing easier when I go up and down hills and my skin looks amazing. I had ZERO intentions around changing my physical body with this practice of simply getting outside each day, but I can see and feel huge improvements in my physical abilities.
6. My cognitive abilities have improved. I'm a fairly smart, well spoken person but over the last fall and winter I felt like I was struggling to understand things or put into words what I was trying to say. I obviously can't prove this is linked to my daily outdoor ventures, but it seems since starting this practice I am back to being a somewhat smart human who can comprehend and understand things.
7. I'm happier. I feel lighter, more joyful and positive. In a time where a lot folks are feeling the opposite of those things (and rightfully so) and when I have a lot of personal things going on that I would have every right to be sad or angry or upset over, I'm not. I feel really content and like I'm able to see the meaning in all of it.
Overall, I just feel better. With minimal effort and a minimal time commitment, it feels like my life has drastically changed. If you feel like you're in a funk, give it a whirl. Commit to a 10 minute walk each morning or 5 minutes in the backyard meditating and see where it goes from there!