Fitness Quests
Physical Fitness In The Canyon
By John Doty
Jan 1, 2003 - 5:23:00 PM

LOS ANGELES—Canyon life is a unique lifestyle. The appreciation is elusive, I mean, after all, we do take our surroundings for granted. In this series of articles, I want to explore ways to utilize your canyon surroundings as the perfect physical fitness arena. A word of caution though, before you embark on any sort of training regime, you should consult with your doctor or health professional.

Photo by Brittany Crouse

It did not take me long to realize that our canyon is one big gym. Loaded with opportunities to work out and stretch the physical imagination. But when you think about it, as you watch those sweaty drones in the expensive health clubs, day after day at the machines, (and you know the type) 15-18 reps, stop, read the paper, 15-18 reps, day in and day out, they never seem to get any appreciative result.  Ever wonder why they don’t look any better? (I know they wonder).  Honestly, reasons for that could take up a whole series. Suffice it to say that the human body is quite remarkable and like our subconscious, becomes bored.  Day after day of repetitive movement does just that—creates boredom. As the body gets bored, it stops responding and muscles cease development. Don’t see any results? Give up.  Wrong!

For example, take machines that exist in typical gyms. They operate in one plane of motion.  At this point, I should clarify that there are three planes of motion. The frontal plane is when you hold your arms out to your side and move them up and down. The sagittal plane, the second, is utilized simply, as you walk in a forward motion or walk up stairs—as your legs move in a forward type direction. However, the most important and quite ignored is the transverse plane of motion. The transverse plane is the twisting or turning action of your body. Most injuries occur in the transverse plane. Guess what? Most of life exists in the transverse plane. You have probably surmised by now that life does not exist in one dimension. There are uneven surfaces, curbs, rocks and traffic to dodge.  You name it. It is one reality-based video game, and it turns on the second your feet hit the floor in the morning. The game, as I like to call it, is played in a 'proprioceptive enriched environment,' which means, an environment which challenges our bodies’ internal balance and stabilizing mechanism. Complicated? Not really. Once you start training in a proprioceptively rich environment, it will all make sense. 

So, walk out your front door. See the inclined streets? See those hills? There is your proprioceptive environment. By exercising in a proprioceptive rich environment, you will develop a keen sense of knowing not only where you exist in space, but also the position and location of each individual part and joint of your body. Whew! Simply put, train in a proprioceptiverly rich environment such as these canyons. When your foot slips, you will feel the slip and twist of your ankle and be able to correct it automatically, prior to compromising your balance or injuring yourself.

Ok, so what does all of this have to do with the canyon?  And what can I learn by working out in the canyons, which I can't get down the street at Bally's or Crunch Fitness?  If I can make a suggestion, put on your workout shoes and go for a good invigorating canyon walk.  It doesn't matter where you go. Out the door. Start up. Smell the air, look, really look at the trees, at the foliage. Stop after about five minutes and stretch. Remember when stretching to take the stretch to a comfortable level. You want to feel a pull but not a hurt.  Also, contrary to what you may have heard, it is always good to warm up a little before stretching. That way the blood gets to flow to your muscles and they will accept the stretch better.  Pay attention to your hamstrings and your calves.  When you get done with five minutes of stretching, go to the ground. Crank out 5, 10, 15 push-ups. Stand up and start your walk again. This time be more vigorous. Come on, challenge yourself. Go up a hill, stop at the top of the hill and then do another set of push-ups. Then continue your walk up hill but backwards. See, proprioception. The key is to be innovative. After a while, you will make up your own routines, exercises and combinations that make you feel good and give you results.
Photo by Brittany Crouse

Throughout this series of articles, I am going to explore a different workout venue and suggestions for obtaining the optimal results from that venue. I hope that you will join me each month and try my suggestions and, as always, add and modify your workout to suit you.  For only you know what truly suits you.

See you on the trails!

John Doty is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer.  He is certified to teach boxing, kickboxing and general self-defense.  When not training clients, he falls back on his profession as a 30-year veteran private investigator and security specialist.

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