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Slackline Series - Young Woman In The Park
Hoping to get active in a new and different way? Good news: Some exciting fitness trends have emerged and are taking the world of outdoor adventure by storm. We’ve picked out the top five for you to try out first:

1. Minimalist running

At first glance, running is a minimalist activity. No gym membership is required, it’s often a solo sport, and limited equipment needed—just strap on a pair of shoes and you’re off. However, the modern running shoe evolved from the supportless, golfshoe-like runners of the 1960s to the clunky, stability-controlled shoes of the mid-80s, which were anything but minimalist. Today, we see the once taboo trend of barefoot running becoming increasingly popular, and have begun to witness a sort of running shoe de-evolution.

While visiting my local running store to pick out a new pair of kicks, I was surprised to see the walls lined with what were referred to as “minimalist shoes.” I mean, I’ve seen quite a few of my friends sporting Vibram’s FiveFingers over the past few years, but now it seemed that every major shoe manufacturer was pushing these ultra-lightweight, seemingly supportless running shoes.

Minimalist running incorporates many aspects of barefoot running, in part made popular by Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run. Minimalist running is said to strengthen a runner’s natural stride and decrease their risk of running-related injury, while also negating the blatant downfalls of running shoeless, such as pain and sole injury from nature’s harsh elements.

2. Standup paddleboarding

Looking for a new way to work out your core? Check out the growing sport of stand up paddleboarding.

With its roots engrained in Hawaiian surf culture, stand up paddleboarding has been making waves throughout North America as a great workout as you explore the lakes and rivers of our great countryside.

Stand up paddleboarding is a fairly easy sport to pick-up, as long as you have the equipment you need. Within an hour of stepping onto a board, most people gain a sense of confidence that will have them paddling the waterways with a totally new point of view. By standing atop the board, paddleboarders have a unique vantage point, able to gaze straight down into the water and also get up close and personal with riverbanks.

As an added bonus for the ladies, stand up paddleboarding tends to be easier for women to pick up, since they generally have a lower centre of gravity. This increases their stability on the board and makes them better paddleboarders, on average, than their male counterparts.

When you’re ready to take your stand up paddleboarding to the next level, and put your agility and balance to the test, you can also try navigating some rapids.

Fore more about stand up paddleboarding and how to get started, check out this step-by-step guide for first-timers.

3. Paleo fitness

Over the past few years, I have seen more and more of my friends gravitate toward crossfit as a way to maintain and increase their fitness. I have to admit, the difference I’ve seen in these people has been amazing. However, there is always one thing that holds me back from joining a crossfit gym, and that’s the very idea of working out indoors. I have always been more apt to head out for a run around the trails than hop on a treadmill, or more likely to trek up mountains than hit the stairmaster.

Enter paleo fitness. An emerging fitness trend in many communities, Paleo fitness incorporates as much of our natural world into fitness routines as our imaginations can create, so there’s no burden of a gym membership. It combines the full body, dynamic workout of crossfit with the natural elements of the outdoors. Instead of pull-ups, there are tree climbs, instead of medicine balls, there are log lifts; agility can be mastered by dodging natural obstacles in one’s path and a cardio workout involves a jaunt on the trail rather than a visit with the elliptical.

Interested in meeting others for a paleo fitness workout? Check out this website to find paleo fitness meetup groups.

4. Adventure races

A few years back, I was invited to participate in my very first adventure race, appropriately dubbed the Mud Run. The concept was foreign to me: A 5km run incorporating river crossings, incredibly steep ascents, hay-bale leaping, tire dodging and, of course, a trudge through an impressive pit of mud. Over the past year I have had friends participate in adventure races of all sorts. From the Warrior Dash to Storm the Trent, it seems that there is no lack of events to try if adding a little adventure to your life is on your to do list.

How do you define an adventure race? Adventure races fall into several different categories, from footraces incorporating (seemingly impossible) obstacles to combination sport events (Storm the Trent includes hiking, mountain biking and paddling) to multi-day expedition events. The races typically involve some sort of endurance discipline (running, orienteering, mountain biking, paddling, climbing), but add a more extreme environment. But don’t let that intimidate you! Most races have various distances and difficulties for everyone from beginners to seasoned experts.

5. Slacklining

If you’ve had the opportunity to catch any of the many adventure film festivals moving across the continent over the past couple of years, chances are you’ve had your eyes opened to the core and balance workout of the century—slacklining.

Using nylon webbing tensioned between two trees, slacklining pushes one’s limits in balance and strength. The dynamic characteristics of a slackline make the sport much different from tightrope walking. With slacklining, the webbing stretches and bounces with movement, adding a trampoline-like feel as you travel its length.

Slacklining is becoming more and more popular in the outdoor-adventure community, particularly as an added core workout option for climbers. It‘s not just for adrenaline junkies either. Slacklining kits are available for purchase at outdoor outfitters including Mountain Equipment Co-op.

Although you’ll want some friends to spot for you as you get the feel for slacklining, with a bit of practice, you’ll be on to showing off some impressive tricks and stunts in no time. (Hey, we can dream, right?)

6. Riverboarding

Known more commonly as sledging in New Zealand where it first originated, riverboarding is becoming more and more popular among whitewater enthusiasts and river outfitters throughout North America.

The sport shares similarities to body boarding and boogie boarding, but instead of riding the waves of the ocean, you navigate through whitewater rivers. But don’t think that the river is going to do all the work for you! Riverboarding will provide you with quite a workout as you steer yourself through the rushing water.

Interested in giving this high-adrenaline workout a try? For more information, see outfitters like the Canadian Rockies Adventure Centre and Esprit.
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