There’s a saying amongst joggers: “The hardest step is the first one out the door.” It holds true right across the outdoor sport spectrum—the toughest part about getting outside is simply opening your door.
Why? Because life gets in the way. Jobs. Kids. Chores. HBO. And sometimes you’re just too tired. I get it—even the most die-hard outdoorsperson struggles with motivation from time-to-time. The key is to work toward your goals with positivity. Whether your vision is to go for seven hikes per week or seven hikes per summer, we can help make it happen. Let’s take it step by step.
1. Treat It Like a Job
It’s a job you love, of course, but your outdoor recreation time deserves its proper respect. The best way to accomplish this is to firmly block-off time to get outside—and consider it virtually unchangeable. For example: make plans to go for a 30-kilometre cycle this Saturday. You’re heading out at 9:00 a.m. and you’ll be back by noon. When your buddy asks you to help him move a couch, or your spouse wants to go to Costco—you’ll answer: “Sorry. I’m unavailable before noon.” After all, isn’t that what you’d say if it were a workday? Interference is always hovering in your peripherals. Block it and get outside.
2. Partner Up
Accountability matters. It’s easy to ditch-out when no one will know either way. But if a friend is waiting at the trailhead, you’ll arrive on time. (It’s doubly effective if you agree to drive!) With him or her motivating you—and vice-versa—you’ll likely push right to the summit as well. Connecting with a like-minded friend or introducing your partner or your kids to the outdoors will keep you motivated and accountable. (In fact, promising something to your kids is probably the best way to stick to a plan.)
3. Get Ready (To Get Going)
This is one of the simplest aspects to getting outside more: maintain a state of readiness. Have your hiking daypack stuffed and ready to grab and your boots near the front door. The Rubbermaid bin that holds your tent and sleeping bag should be atop the pile in your garage, not at the bottom. Skis are waxed and the DIN is set on opening day, regardless of whether you’ve made plans to head upslope. When time becomes available, you need to act quickly. I’m organizationally challenged—so I know nothing makes a hike or camping trip more burdensome than realizing you don’t know where your pack is, your tent is still in the storage locker, your bootlaces are broken… Get ready now if you want to get going later.
4. Buy Good Gear
We all have budgets. But if your boots give you blisters, your puffy leaves you shivering and your shell leaks like a sieve, you’re not going to want to go outside. Buy the highest-quality gear you can afford. Look for used or previous-season stuff as well (I never buy new-model-year skis). And get professionally fitted—not just shoes, but backpacks, sleeping bags and helmets too—as different brands fit differently. And remember—a $400 jacket that lasts a decade is cheaper than a $99 special that last a year.
5. Record Your Efforts
Creative Commons Stock Photos/Dreamstime.com
I love solo hikes—sometimes we don’t want to make plans with a friend or drag an unwilling spouse into the wilderness. So how do you stay accountable and motivated when it’s just you? Keep a record. This could be through a simple notebook tucked into your pack. Or maybe you’ll get all 21st century and curate an Instagram feed? Either way, record your hikes, cycles and skis—noting the date, time, distance (or vertical), difficulty and weather. What did you see? Any mishaps? Once you start recording your efforts, you’ll be inspired to keep it up.
6. Fit-In Fitness
Everything is more fun when you’re healthy. You don’t need to be a Cross Fit pro (unless you want to be); however, if you’re a sweaty, gasping, miserable mess mid-hike, chances are you won’t be back on the trail anytime soon. ‘Cause it wasn’t fun—and outdoor recreation is, above all things, fun. The key is staying active and doing what you can, when you can. If you have an hour to hit the gym, great! But if you can only squeeze in 15 minutes to walk up and down the street—rest assured, something is always better than nothing. Don’t kid yourself—if you have 30 seconds to spare, you can do 10 squats or pushups. I’ll repeat—something is always better than nothing. These subtle changes will have fitness payoffs. And your next hike will be a breeze—making it that much more inspiring to plan another.
You don’t “diet” and “exercise.” You fuel and train. Eat! Before, during and after! In a hurry? The trail will still be there in 30 minutes—but you won’t be able to hike it effectively unless you chow a breakfast of complex carbs, complete proteins and maybe a jolt of caffeine. Some people are OK with granola bars for lunch—but you’ll find me at the summit with Tupperware full of hummus, chunks of whole-wheat pita, a block of brie and a handful of trail mix. Eat! You’re likely burning more than 400 calories per hour while hiking, perhaps more than 500 per hour on a bike and cross-country skiers can burn 1,000 per hour or more. So munch that recovery meal like the champion you are. Whole foods, rich and healthy, are vital to staying active. Eat!
8. Forget the Weather
Will Gadd, one of Canada’s top mountain-sports athletes, wrote this bit of wisdom in his Explore magazine column last year: “You never know what the day will bring until you try.” I’ve been keeping this front-of-mind lately. My home has a view of Vancouver’s North Shore ski hills—too many times I’ve bowed out of heading upslope because of a misty vista or the spectre of rain. Later, I’ll see Instagram posts of an epic powder day or blue-sky above those low-lying clouds. If you’ve made a plans—stick to them, weather be damned. A bit of rain shouldn’t deter you from hiking. This is Canada, if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes. No fresh snow at the ski hill? Head up anyway and practice your carving on the groomers. As long it’s safe (paddlers, take note), make your plans stick. You don’t control the weather—and the weather doesn’t control you.
9. Visualize Adventure
I’m going to get new-age on you now. I am a true believer in the power of positive visualization. In fact, I believe you can manifest your reality through visualization. People often employ these tactics in their careers, but positive visualization has a key role in recreational motivation as well. It’s all about visualizing your goal, acting as though it is a certainty and finding the work-back to make it a reality. Example: You will hike the West Coast Trail this August. That’s the certainty. What’s the work-back? Well, you need a trail reservation (or time to wait for a standby spot). You need a week off work. You need the right gear. You need an appropriate fitness level. You need a partner. And you need some cash to cover the trail fees. You now have your goal visualized and the work-back in which to manifest it. Working backwards from a firm goal is an effective strategy for everything from a local day-hike to a month-long trek in the Himalayas.
10. Join Explore Magazine’s Live the Adventure Club!
As this article illustrates, staying motivated is difficult. But there is a simple way to cover every aspect we’ve gone through. Join Explore magazine’s Live the Adventure Club!
What is the LTA Club?
- You’ll receive quality gear at huge discounts.
- You’ll discover challenges to motivate you to get outside.
- You’ll compete for valuable prizes to reward your efforts.
- You’ll be privy to members-only seminars and discussions to enhance your outdoor experience.
- You’ll meet positive, like-minded people to keep you inspired.
- You’ll live the life of adventure you’ve always dreamed of.