How to play more outdoors

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You love the outdoors. You love play. Playing more outdoors seems like a no-brainer, but given you are already frazzled just trying to keep up with work, family and all the other commitments that modern life entails, it just doesn’t seem to happen. How can you squeeze yet another activity into your busy schedule without adding to your stress and resenting rather than enjoying it? Although it’s still very much a work in progress, I have increased my outdoor playtime massively over the past few years, so here is what has worked for me.

Results of First PMO Survey

Thank you written in sand

My aim with this blog is twofold: to promote play outdoors and to create community. The first is fairly self-explanatory; time spent enjoying the outdoors with friends is its own reward and the the more you and I do, the better. The second is actually a key element in the first. We humans are social animals, and community drives, amplifies and gives meaning to what we do. So the stronger and more active a community we can build, the more successful we will be in getting out and playing.

Benefits of the outdoors

Man relaxing on mountain
Lucas Foglia

The term “the outdoors” makes me uncomfortable. It distinguishes between the mental spaces of the natural and the artificial environments, and implies the artificial to be the norm. Outdoors is therefore a space to be ventured into for a short time before a return to the sterile predictability of the manufactured environment. While I would rather this not be the case, I have to accept the reality of modern living: we do spend the majority of our time inside – whether at work or at play, and a lot of this time we spend experiencing life through the lenses of our TVs, computers and mobile devices. But contact with the outdoors produces great benefits for us, both physically and mentally.

Play

Kids in tree
Playing like a boss.

 

“Humans are the biggest players of all. We are built to play and built through play. When we play we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity.” Dr. Stuart Brown

One of the key concepts of this blog is “play.” This is because play is key. In short, playor active funis one of the few things that make life worthwhile. Achievement, interpersonal relationships and self-actualization are also important, but it is play that forms the basis for these. But in my late 30s, I seem have now lost a lot of the playfulness I had as a kid, and I don’t think I am unusual in this respect. This atrophy of play as we grow up is due to a whole host of factors increasing responsibilities, social pressures and the habits we pick up. The simple joy of play gets replaced by other important priorities, which are no way near as much fun.

PLBs and SENDs

personal locator beacon
Bryan Hansel

In the not-so-distant past, you were on your own when you ventured into the back country. Not just physically, but in terms of assistance. If something went wrong, it could take days before a search party would find you. Nowadays, mobile phones – or rather smartphones – are now so ubiquitous almost everyone is equipped with one. This means you can easily contact friends, family or emergency services when something goes wrong, which is great. But what happens when you have no cellphone reception, which can happen very quickly in remoter or more mountainous areas?

Keeping mobile aka tool kits for outdoor sports

Bike chain held by wire

So, by now you should be packing a first aid kit. You should have the appropriate clothing to prevent hypothermia or exposure. You have enough water to last the day or the means to obtain more. And you should have a stash of calories to avoid the dreaded “bonk.”

All of this is important stuff to pack, but if a gear failure immobilizes you, you may have to spend an unscheduled night outside, your folks will worry, and you will generally have a Bad Time.

Tool kits are ultra sport-specific, which makes it quite hard to give a definitive list of stuff you need to pack. But the actual process of making your own is simple:

  1. Look at the gear you use for transportation.
  2. Identify likely failure modes.
  3. Bring tools/spare items/methods of coping with failures.

Fuel for outdoor sports

 

Trail runner in the mist
Credit: Myke Hermsmeyer

 

I started off with the title of “nutrition” for this blog post, but decided to change it.

Nutrition for sports and indeed health in general has become an absolute minefield in recent years. Conflicting information abounds on what we should be putting into our bodies to elicit peak performance. While massive amounts of time, energy and money have been spent on identifying the best approach to nutrition a consensus has yet to be reached except in the broadest terms. Coupled with the fact that diet is one of the major factors that impact body image, nutrition is an emotive topic with few concrete answers.

Water

Filling bottle from stream
lifestraw.com

The value of recommended daily intake of water depends on the source but it seems to be about 2L. This means water, and doesn’t include coffee or beer, apparently. If this is true, I imagine a lot of people are spending their lives in a state of persistent mild dehydration. Of course, 2L is just the basic requirement. We need more if the weather is hot and humid, when exercising, and at higher altitudes. Concerning exercise, the rule of thumb is that we need an extra 500 ml of water per hour of “moderate exercise,” so a water bottle is an essential item to bring on any outdoor activity.