It’s nice outside … forget about the gym

Quit going round in circles.

Give it a rest. Seriously.

Even in the extreme corners of the country, spring brings some of the best opportunities to be outdoors, especially for fitness reasons. (However, I must confess that my climbing session this past weekend was not too pleasant, weather wise. Multiple pitches on cold rock, up a north-facing, sunless wall, can grow old real quick.)

My buddies and I bagged the gym today for a series of stair and hill runs at a local park. Several times up and down at 25, 50, 75 and 100 percent; broad jumps up stair sections; staggered push-ups into planks on the steps; several rounds of side steps; and then a series of hill runs. It was great stuff and an outstanding way to alter the gym schedule.

For those of you hitting the gym daily, I urge you to get outside at least twice a week until the heat of summer floats in. Trail runs, of course, are the ideal outdoor running experience. But even if you do a lot of core or crossfit work in place of LSD (no, it means long slow distance), your alternatives are endless. A neighborhood playground makes an ideal outdoor gym, as any of one the implements could be used in a multitude of ways to simulate gym equipment. Use your imagination. The point is, get outdoors. Hell, push-ups and ab work can be done just about anywhere.

Anyway, get outside when you have the chance. No one needs to be on an elliptical machine anyway. Ever.

Mountains-to-Sea Trail has first round trip bagger

Scot Ward on Clingman's Dome. Photo from The News & Observer, courtesy of Eddie Ward

Scot Ward completed the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in North Carolina. Twice.

The trail runs from the Smokies to Jockey’s Ridge State Park, that little place in the Outer Banks famous for some sort of first flight or something.

Mr. Ward documented his travels in detail in his just published book, “The Thru-Hiker’s Manual for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail of North Carolina.” You can buy the book and learn more about Scot and this seriously awesome accomplishment at his Web site,

You can learn more about the trail and how to support it either through donations or trail building days at its official Web site, located here.

And, to get out on the Falls Lake section of the trail, which is in North Raleigh, there’s a trail run scheduled in April.

Get up and go

Las Vegas Marathon

My first marathon - the 2002 Las Vegas Marathon (No Video - just a screengrab)

Outside Magazine posted an article in their fitness section about how to properly train for your first marathon. In this case, they’re using the NYC Marathon as a target, considered one of the sports’ best contests.

Despite what most believe, marathons, relatively speaking, are not “that” difficult to train for and complete.

I should qualify that a bit.

To train properly, that is, without injury or serious setback, you have to take it seriously. You need to run in the rain, you need to lace up at 6:00 a.m. in 35 degree overcast apocalyptic gray crud and you need get outside when running is the last thing on earth you want to do that day. If you take it lightly, you won’t be successful.

Now, all that being said, with a rather uncomplicated weekly running plan, you can be finishing training runs well into the teens within a couple of months, sometimes sooner. (Assuming you started from a two-mile-every-other-week-on-the-treadmill regimen.)

Like most who start training for their first marathon, you will very likely surprise yourself.

Some other things to consider: you can’t buy your shoes at the big box sporting good store. Sorry Dick’s, you don’t make the list. Find yourself a running specialty store with guys who eat Clif shots for lunch and weigh under 170. Trust me on this.

Oh, and you can’t run 10 miles in cotton. You’ll also need to start carrying water with you and some even bring food along for runs that will be more than hour. I like to carry some peanuts or almonds.

Lastly, don’t take your first marathon too seriously, either. I don’t think you need to invest hours in some esoteric motivational Zen running book or run in your bare feet for at least one mile for every three. Whatever. Just stay consistent. Stay motivated.

Anyway, give the Outside piece a read.