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Missoula Outdoor Fitness

By Pat Roosa, PT
When heading outdoors on a trip we’ve all heard the saying, “be prepared.” We usually prepare for a trip by packing proper clothing, first aid kits, navigation devices, food, water and shelter but what about preparing our bodies? If the physical stresses of the activities we are doing are greater than our bodies can tolerate, we are setting ourselves up for injury. Part of being healthy outdoors is preparing our bodies for the physical challenges that lie ahead through pre-activity conditioning.
Most people who love the outdoors don’t have a problem with motivation to participate in outdoor activities. Getting out there is where we feel energized and renewed. The challenge is to exercise when not doing the activities we enjoy. We all know there are benefits to exercise such as weight control, lowered risk of developing a chronic disease, and avoiding premature death, but we can also be motivated to exercise so we can continue to go out and enjoy our physical activities. 
We all have different bodies and different activity goals, but one thing we all need is a basic level of physical conditioning from which to start. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have come up with some guidelines for regular exercise. Basic recommendations for adults under age 65 are as follows:

  • Moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week or vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days per week.
  • Perform 8-10 strength-training exercises, 8-12 repetitions of each exercise twice per week.

Moderate intensity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still be able to carry on a conversation. To lose weight or maintain weight loss, 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary. The 30-minute recommendation is for the average healthy adult to maintain health and reduce risk for chronic disease. Exceeding these minimums is often helpful for many outdoor activities. 
We often change outdoor activities seasonally. Our pre-season strengthening programs should be specific to our activities. We want to stress tissues similar to the way our intended activity will stress them. We want to stress tissues enough to make them stronger but not stress them so much we damage them. For example, if we intend to climb a mountain, ascending and descending 5000 vertical feet in one day, we may want to plan a few hikes up Mount Sentinel or some smaller hill as preparation.
Our in-season exercise programs are different. Using the example above, if we just hiked 5000 ft yesterday we probably don’t want to overstress tissues by doing our pre-season strengthening exercises. We may want to rest those recently stressed tissues, gently stretch stiff muscles, and do light non activity-specific exercises.
Preparing our bodies for specific activity requires frequent adjustments to our pre and in-season exercise programs and doing so will help prevent injury and allow us to continue doing the activities we enjoy for years to come.

Pat Roosa is a physical therapist at Community Medical Center Outpatient Therapies and sees clients at Community Medical Center.