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Making Exercise Fun

by Andy Dappen

Despite the evidence available that exercise is a magic pill for improving both the quantity of life and the quality of life (see our article on the benefits of exercising), Scientific American reported in August of 2013 that only 52 percent of American adults are active enough to meet the aerobic guidelines for exercise, 29 percent strengthen their muscles as recommended twice a week, and only 20 percent of Americans (1 in 5) meet the recommendations for both aerobic exercise and resistance training.

Photo: Run a treadmill with a view of a gas station or 
mountain bike in the Sage Hills with the view below...which of these options is likely to juice you?

How do we engage the missing masses? Here in Central Washington we have possibilities that most other places lack: Outdoor activities can make exercise beautiful, inspirational, exciting, fun, cleansing, and even spiritual. Hiking or jogging through the hills, mountain biking a trail or road riding an orchard road, paddling vigorously along the Columbia River, or rock climbing on local cragsall provide excellent workouts that are interesting, scenic, and a lot more fun than running a city street or stair stepping indoors. Also, compared to exercising in town or indoors, nature also provides a calmer, more relaxing setting to disengage, switch gears, turn off the brain, and de-stress.

Photo: Hiking at a moderate pace lets you socialize, walk the dog, and enjoy the scenery ... all while you reap the many health benefits of exercise.

For those who have not yet turned the corner to become an exercise zealot, we’ll be honest: Getting started hurts. Exercising after you’ve been inactive for years will have your body in rebellion. It will make you sore and, initially, tired. You are going to need carrots to make you stick to it. Engaging in fun outdoor activities, getting some squirts of adrenaline, seeing beautiful outdoor places -- these are all carrots that will keep you keepin' on. 

Gradually over the course of three or four weeks, regular exercise becomes easier – your body becomes more efficient, your muscles become stronger, and you start noticing feel-good endorphins to the brain rather than feel-sore lactic acid in the legs. It takes patience to get there, but exercising in beautiful places and doing fun activities along the way will help get you over the hump.

Photo: Running at a vigorous pace is even better than hiking at a moderate pace. A quiet, beautiful place to run is much more calming and enjoyable than running a city street.

For people living in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee, here’s a short list of activities taken from a long list of possibilities that are fun and good exercise to boot. Residents of Leavenworth, Cashmere, and Chelan can all craft similar lists.

  • Loop Trail. Use a nearby segment of the Loop Trail and speed walk along it. On another day alternate between walking fast for a minute and jogging for a minute. Bike the entire loop at a moderate or vigorous pace. If you have in-line skates, skate a segment of the trail…it’s low impact and more exciting and fun than jogging.
  • The Ditch. Use a nearby segment of the Ditch in the same way: On different days walk it vigorously, jog-walk it, ride it at moderate pace with a wide-tired bike.
  • Sage Hills Trail. Walk from the parking space at Sage Hills Drive out into the Sage Hills at moderate pace for 20 minutes and return. After several sessions of walking, jog the flats and downhills, walk the uphills. If you’re physically capable and have a mountain bike (even a cheap one), try mountain biking the trails—ride the sections you can and push the bike up hills you can’t ride yet. For a change of scenery, occasionally drive to the Horse Lake Trailhead and do all of the above from that trailhead.

  • Saddle Rock and Dry Gulch. The same advice applies for Saddle Rock and Dry Gulch as for the Sage Hills – get out on the trails. The main difference here: Saddle Rock Trails are steep and mainly conducive to vigorous walking…it takes a very high level of fitness to bike or run them. Dry Gulch, meanwhile does not allow mountain biking so use its trails for hiking, jogging, and a combination of hiking-jogging.
  • Sleepy Hollow and Lower Monitor roads. These roads are scenic and fun to bicycle. The terrain rolls just enough that most riders will conquer the climbs but feel they pushing themselves to do so.

  • Confluence Park. Canoe or kayak along the Columbia River, through the estuary at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers. Join the Wenatchee Row and Paddle club if you find paddling fun – it’s affordable and makes paddling on the rivers easy.
  • Peshastin Pinnacles, Bruce’s Boulder, Icicle Buttress. With a little gear and a kindred partner, rock climbing provides an enjoyable and exciting way to work resistance into an outdoor activity.

Photo: Many outdoor activities are aerobic in nature but rock climbing (Peshastin Pinnacles pictured) is a good resistance (strength) workout.