Take a Hike
or a run or a ride, and enjoy the bounty of beauty
We're always near the summit of those "fittest cities" lists for a reason: our plentiful back yard. We've got miles and miles of trails and acres upon acres of parks and wilderness. We've got mountains to climb and lakes, rivers and open water. Over the next five months, every corner of the state will be hosting mountain bikers, trail runners, mountain climbers, hikers, Sunday strollers and outdoors cross-trainers.
The menu of opportunities is not only diverse, it's close.
Take Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, which covers more than 3,000 acres, is the largest park in the 20,000-acre King County Park System and within minutes of our major cities. Part of the "Issaquah Alps," the park has more than 36 miles of trails for hiking and more than 12 miles for equestrians.
Runners share the trails with hikers and horse riders, and all three groups work to maintain the area. King County officials say the Washington Trails Association is especially active in organizing and sponsoring work parties. To help, check out www.wta.org.
The Seattle Running Company hosts Sunday-morning runs on Cougar Mountain trails each week, and is planning several distance events there through the summer.
"Trail running minimizes the repetitive stress on the body that runners who stick to flat surfaces face," McCoubrey says. "On a trail, you're running uphill and downhill, sometimes on your heels and using the quads and calves more. I have arthritis and can run 30 to 40 miles on trails."
Many of us, however, leap before we look, especially early in the outdoors season. Monica Packard, co-owner of Outrageously Fit Personal Training Studio of Seattle, says it's important to train with specific events or activities in mind.
Here's some of her advice to help us play better, longer and safer:
Train Specific. If you want to gear up for trail runs, it'll help more if you train on the dirt trails of Ravenna or Discovery parks than training on the paved loop of Green Lake. Work in the gym on strengthening legs, ankles and feet. Agility and balance work will also help.
Think Peaks. Work up to your chosen outdoor sport slowly four to six weeks of basic exercises that target your weak areas and about that same length of time on workouts targeting your specific goal.
Be Consistent. "The weekend warrior mentality," she says, "gets more dangerous the older we get." Exercising just one or two days a week doesn't do all that much to raise the level of fitness and can increase the chance of injury. If you're serious, try to pick up the pace.
Intensity Equals Consistency. There is a fine line between helping fitness through exercise and hindering recovery by doing too much. If volleyball is your outdoor sport four days a week, consider making two of those days a low-key recreational league affair.
Use Resources. Interested in rock climbing? Practice at a local rock-climbing gym. Want to hike, but not alone? Contact a hiking club. Often, local outdoors organizations educate you how to be safe while exploring and having fun.
Richard Seven is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer.
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