Outdoor Winter Motivation

I found this Canadian Tire commercial for the 2014 Winter Olympics and thought it inspired outdoor winter activity. If you need some motivation to get outside this season this might help:

 

What do you think?

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Fat Bikes

While searching for something to do this weekend on a local tourism site, I found a post on”Global Fat Bike Day” for experienced and beginner bike riders. I have seen Fat Bikes before but my knowledge about them was pretty limited. I’d heard that they make mountain biking more comfortable and even a little easier because the wide, very large (‘fat’) tires help with stability. The tires also make the bike more ideal for winter riding and biking on soft, unstable terrain as I learnt from Wikipedia but the bike itself is just a regular mountain bike and can be ridden anywhere says Single Tracks.

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Organizing the Global Fat Bike Day was Ride Guides, a local adventure biking company that operates out of Horseshoe Valley Resort and offers guided bike rides around Ontario. The company was started, and is still run by Matt and Sara, a husband and wife team who have a passion for biking and outdoor activities. They offered a free guided tour through the Copeland Forest around Moonstone Ontario today to introduce experienced and beginner bikers to Fat Bikes. Ride Guides, teamed up with Bikeland to provide the Fat Bikes and helmets for new riders.

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Sarah suggested I take the “adventure” ride with Matt, which meant rather than sticking to the easier wide paths I was getting into the single trails that went right through the rugged, uneven forest floor. It was a bit of challenge, and at times I didn’t think the fat wheels on my bike could actually fit between some of the trees I was squeezing through. But, when rolling over branches and manoeuvring through the tiny lane way, I could feel the difference in handling between the fat bike and the mountain bike I rode in the fall. I felt I had more control on the fat bike and I was so impressed that I wasn’t slipping or feeling any unease while riding on the snow covered ground.

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After about 7 kilometers of biking, I was feeling the burn. Matt offered to take us on an even more narrow and adventurous ride but I had to call it quits for myself so our “back guide” Tim took some of us back to the chalet. I have a great new respect for mountain bikers now, especially those that ride all year round on some scary terrain. It’s a tough workout and definitely different from what I’m use to, I don’t think a spin class could compare. Of course the ride doesn’t have to be too strenuous or even that challenging if you choose an easier path.

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I would suggest for anyone up for a little adventure a winter bike ride through an uneven forest, keeping in mind that Fat Bikes help with riding among the snow.

Try riding a Fat Bike the next time you get outside!

Winter is Coming

That’s right, I’m quoting the characters from my (current) favourite TV show, “Game of Thrones” and reminding everyone that even though we had a warm spell this weekend, “Winter is Coming”! Since I myself am not a fan of the season but since its also unavoidable in Canada, I’m listing a bunch of outdoor fun that can actually be had over the upcoming 4-5 months.

Snow Tubing

Skiing/Snowboarding:
Most resorts are already open with the others getting ready this week

Tobogganing:
So easy, and can be free if you find a big hill.

Snow Shoeing

Skating
At Arrowhead Provincial Park (Hunstville, ON) there is a 1.5 km skate path roughed out around their East River Campground. I went last year and it was so much fun! Looking forward to heading back this year.
See The Ice Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park
Note: There is a small park fee

Snowmobiling:
Obviously not free because you’ll have to have this toy to begin with, but if you’re looking for some trails Orillia has plenty!

Ice Fishing
I am looking to give this a try eventually, just waiting for a milder winter

Winter Carnivals

Dog Sledding

Then there are always the really simple activities like building a snowman, or having a fun snowball “fight”. And there is also the less appealing but unavoidable: shoveling snow!

Let me know if you have some other fun outdoor winter activities. I’ve got to stay motivated this winter and would love suggestions! When I try some of the activities listed above I will be sure to post where I went and what the costs were.

Winter makes for some great opportunity to Get Outside!

PICKLE-BALL

It’s definitely winter now! I’m not really the biggest fan of this cold, blistery season but last year I did push myself to get outside and I found some winter activities that I actually quite liked. This year I’m looking forward to doing them again and finding more outdoor, winter fun that will keep encouraging me to embrace the season. But, before I start up with great ways to get outside in winter, I’ll make one more post about warmer days.

Just before the snowfall I managed a quick trip down to sunny Florida and tried a new activity that I thought I would share – unfortunately, unless your headed somewhere warm soon you might not get to try this for a couple months now. However, I’m still going to tell you about the game of pickle-ball.

Pickle-ball is sort of a mix between badminton and tennis. The court uses the same dimensions and layout as in badminton but uses a lower net like in tennis. Players use paddles to hit a wiffle ball over the net to the opposing team. The rules are similar to tennis, but points can only be gained by the team making the serve. For the exact rules on how to play I found an official pickle-ball website here.

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Even though my pickle-ball partner and I took a 5-0 beating while trying the game for the first time I still found it to be a lot of fun. I thought it seemed easier than tennis because of the light ball and smaller court. It’s also got a slower pace than tennis and the racket isn’t as bulky. Exercise wise I found it moderate – although in the Florida sun you’ll definitely get a good sweat. I’m also sure that those who are actually good at this sport would get a better work out with it.

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I know it might be a long way away before you get to play pickle-ball now, unless there is an indoor court near you, but I would recommend keeping it in mind for something to try in the spring and summer or over vacation. It can be competitive if that’s your style, or if like me it’s not get some beginners together and enjoy this unique sport the next time you can.

Pickle-ball provides a great way to Get Outside for an hour or so.

High Tech Treasure Hunting

Looking for something really different to do outside? Do you have kids or do you want the feeling of being one again? This weekend I discovered modern treasure hunting when I set forth on a geocaching adventure.

I was actually fist introduced to geocaching a few years ago by my oldest sister, who is the real outdoorsy one in the family. The idea of geocaching was to use your gps to look up coordinates to where a “treasure” was buried. The treasure is a capsule or box with a piece paper inside and maybe a little trinket left by everyday individuals like you and I. Once you discover the hidden treasure, you open it up and sign the paper inside to let others know you found it. You can also trade something of yours for one of the trinkets. When my sister and I did this six or seven years ago we had to go online and look for coordinates that people posted to a very rough looking geocaching website.

Enter the age of the smartphone and the app. When I looked up geocaching this weekend I was floored. They have a great website, a logo, apps for all types of smart phones and informational videos. You can create a user name on their website and share your treasure hunting experiences and coordinates should you decide to bury your own.

I downloaded the app, (just look up geocaching) and I created a user profile. Once your logged in the app searches for hidden geocaches in your area and shows them as little dots on a map. There were 7 near me, all within 1.5 kilometers of my house. There was even one in the canal that runs through my backyard! To find that one you had to paddle out to it and since I was on my own this weekend I couldn’t do it by myself. Instead I chose a different kind of adventure labelled “Restin’ Near Artrea United Church” – It was hidden in a cemetery!

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I drove out to the cemetery using directions from my maps app first. The one thing I found confusing about the geocaching app is that it only uses a compass, it shows a map but no directions. I don’t have much experience with a compass so I looked up the directions to the church and cemetery and drove out to it.

It was a crisp and windy fall day, with a bit of an overcast and the cemetery was pretty old. A sign read “Until further notice this cemetery is closed for repairs. Proceed at your own risk”. Very spooky, but I forged ahead.

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I opened the geocaching app on my phone and it told me I was really close. Click the compass icon and it shows you your own coordinates and the treasures. I walked in the direction of the needle until both our coordinates matched.

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I ended up right beside a giant head stone and the coordinates were so close but I couldn’t see anything. Luckily, when your stumped and too scared to poke around a graveyard there is a “hint” button you can press. The hint said “Camoed film container; 1.5m up; attached to a branch”. Peering around the gravestone and into the bush I found the container.

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I took a step toward the trees and something under my foot creaked – why did I do this alone?! I think it was just an old water bottle buried under the leaves, but I didn’t look. I grabbed the container and made my way out of the bush. This was my view from inside:

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I opened the film canister shook out the contents. There weren’t any trinkets inside just the paper to sign your name and prove you found it. I signed with my user name and added the date. Based on the signatures many people must have braved this cemetery treasure hunt too.

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I did bring a little something with me, a pin and it was just small enough to leave inside the canister. Then I packaged everything up and hung the canister back on the tree for someone else to discover.

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According to the website there are 2,526,067 active geocaches out there. With the app you can look one up wherever you go. It might be something cool to try while travelling.

Geocaching is such an easy way to get outside, and it doesn’t cost anything! Well, maybe gas unless there’s one hidden around your backyard too! Give it a try in your neighbourhood and see what treasures people have hidden near you.

Get to Steppin’

I’ve been out walking several times since starting this blog but always thought it was such an easy topic without much to say. After giving it a bit more thought though it occurred to me that just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean that everyone does it or thinks about doing it, and if this blog is meant to motivate people to get outside why not offer a really simple way to do it?

I know there are plenty of people out there who refuse to exercise because they hate gyms, don’t have the time, the money or they simply don’t like it. Well, the fact of the matter is that your body needs exercise even in the simplest form. If your body permits, meaning you are physically capable or walking, you should do it because there is nothing easier and it doesn’t even cost anything.

You can go for a walk around your neighbourhood, find a park or school with a track, or for site-seeing and to be amongst the beauty of nature go for a hike. There are plenty of low-impact trails available, some of their paths have even been cleared so there is no fear of tripping over roots or sticks, perfect if you don’t have hiking boots. For the really unenthusiastic bring your phone or camera with you – now i’m really trying to get you off the couch!

There are lots of benefits to walking and other forms of light exercise including: lowering your risk of heart disease, reducing stress levels, increasing energy and improving sleep – this according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (www.heartandstroke.com). It seems as though the recommended amount of steps to take in a day to receive the benefits of physical activity is 10,000 which is 8 kilometers. That seems like a lot, but a 30 minute brisk walk works out to about 8,000 steps (http://www.livescience.com) you can probably pick up the other 2,000 by running errands, mowing the lawn, getting the mail at work etc. And, the 10,000 steps is only to turn your walk into an exercise, and the recommended amount of weekly exercise is just 150 minutes (The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology), that’s only 2.5 hours!

To conclude, walking is an easy, free way to reap the benefits of exercise, there are plenty of places to do it and plenty of ways to make it fun. Next time your looking for something to do, get outside and go for a walk.

How Bout Them Apples?

It’s a funny of time of year outside right now, the leaves are all gone from the trees, it’s cold and damp and there’s nothing really special about it; no snow, not a lot of sun and as of yesterday it gets dark pretty early. It can be hard to find the motivation to get outside this time of year but I’m on a journey to find things to do in all sorts of weather and tell you all about them so you can be motivated too. This weekend I found something encouraging – apple picking.

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Friends of a friend of mine have a small apple orchard that they started over thirty plus years ago. They had some experience with farming and decided on an apple farm of their own because the trees were much easier to tend to then say goats or cattle. For a while, when their kids were little they opened their backyard to the public for a “pick your own apple” business on weekends and used it to teach their kids about both farming and handling money. Now that their kids are grown and having retired from their own full time jobs, the couple has also retired from their side business but they’ve kept the apple trees.

Lucky for me they let me come by the farm even though it’s closed to the public so I could get outside this weekend and do something different. I picked a few of the naturally sweet treats and already used some of them to make apple pancakes. The rest I think I’ll use to keep the doctor away!

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Something else that was a treat for me is that these local farming friends of mine have taken up a new hobby with the help of their existing one: making apple cider and brewing hard apple cider. Right now it’s still just a hobby of theirs but hard cider is becoming the fastest growing alcoholic beverage in North America according to articles published in Time Magazine and The Globe and Mail. In Canada sales have risen from $6 million in 2004 to an estimated $60 million this year.

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Apples are tasty, at least to me, and can be used in a number of recipes. I find they add a special, comforting flavour to dishes and are pretty good on their own or with melted cheese on top! There are a lot of public apple orchards across Ontario because our surrounding lakes provide the perfect climate for them to grow in late spring and early fall. I suggest searching “apple picking” or “apple orchards” in your area to try this fun outdoor activity and to take home some delicious Ontario grown apples.

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The leaves on the trees are gone but not the apples, so for some beautiful late fall scenery get outside to an apple orchard!