DOYLE: Skip the gym, get outside

DOYLE%3A+Skip+the+gym%2C+get+outside

Seamus Doyle

Seamus DoyleAs the icy remnants of Milwaukee’s particularly harsh winter finally float down the Milwaukee River, one cannot help but feel the arrival of spring.

As the new season begins, there is no better time to leave the confines of your dorm or apartment and exercise. It’s time to abandon the Rec Center and head to nature’s gym – the great outdoors, now that it’s warm out (at least by Wisconsin standards).

Before you ask: “Wait, Seamus, don’t you work at the Rec? Weren’t you February’s Rec Employee of the Month? Are you just trying to make your job easier?” the answer to all of these questions is yes. But just because this is a shameless plug to make my job easier doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it.

A 2013 article in The New York Times suggested there are physiological benefits to exercising outside rather than inside.

“While the allure of the gym — climate-controlled, convenient and predictable — is obvious, especially in winter, emerging science suggests there are benefits to exercising outdoors that can’t be replicated on a treadmill, a recumbent bicycle or a track,” the article said.

Working out outside incurs benefits a workout at the gym simply cannot. There’s wind resistance, uphill and downhill running and a terrain that changes throughout your workout when exercising outside.

The benefits are not only physical but mental too. Studies show that individuals who embrace the great outdoors when exercising score better on measures of vitality, pleasure, self-esteem and enthusiasm and lower on depression and tension.

Working out at the gym has some undeniable benefits – binge watching “House of Cards” while running on a treadmill comes to mind – but as my high school cross country coach told me, “running is 100 percent physical and 100 percent mental.” Needless to say, my coach was no math teacher. But the lesson rings true. Nurturing the mental aspect of a good workout is important, and something is lost when you focus on Frank Underwood’s malevolent plot to steal the presidency.

I recently came across a social media and exercise group called “30 Days of Biking.” It asks you to take a pledge to ride your bike every day in April however far you want, regardless of the weather conditions.

“Joining 30 Days of Biking means that even if you’re biking solo, you’re never alone,” the pledge page states.

I was the 6,655th person to take the pledge.

This past weekend, I walked down into the dingy basement of my apartment that is cluttered with my neighbor’s belongings (honestly, what college student has that much stuff?) and I got my bike out of storage.

While taking 18 credits and working two jobs, I don’t have much time to bike during the week. The beauty of “30 Days of Biking” is that it’s low intensity. The goal isn’t to win the Tour de France, but simply to get out and ride every day.

It could be as simple as riding to class when I’m running late, going down to the lake or taking a long ride along some of Milwaukee and Waukesha counties’ awesome bike trails. Pledging is a fun way to get out and see the city, all while burning off the pizza and Long Islands I had at Victor’s Thursday night.

As a quick Google search will confirm, Milwaukee has many great bike and running trails. Both the Hank Aaron Trail and the Oak Leaf Trail offer biking away from busy streets allowing residents to explore the city and reap the benefits of an outdoor workout. Maybe I’ll see you out there.