10 Ways to Get More Fresh Air (and Pink Cheeks)
Oh how I love making New Years resolutions. I'm a bit of an over-planner anyways, but I enjoy little more than making positive plans for the year ahead, setting new goals and preparing things to look forward to to get me through the rest of the long, dark, endless winter. Being more healthy and spending more time outdoors are ever-present on my self-improvement to-do list, but those are pretty flaky as resolutions go. It's easy to fall off a band-wagon or just not be in the mood to work on a goal when it feels huge and punishing, like (brace yourselves for the four most painful words in human history) "going on a DIET". On the other hand, a specific and achievable goal, such as "going for a three-hour hike once a month" is much easier to motivate yourself for, and reach! So this year my resolution is to make my outdoor resolutions just that: simple, measurable and fun. Hallelujah!
To inspire you to get outside more and hopefully have some more positive New Years resolutions, here are 10 easy ways you can get more fresh air in 2018. I've written the list in increasing hardcoreness to suit every level: from hiking first-timers to multi-day expedition inspiration. Let me know in the comments section if one or two might find their way into your plans for 2018!
1. Take a walk on your lunch break
Yes you're very busy at work and yes you need to go to Boots, but lunch breaks are a perfect time to get in some fresh air in daylight hours - without losing a chunk of free time. Whether walking to a landmark and back or around a local park, just pick a route you enjoy, (ideally) leave your phone at your desk and go for it. Maybe start with 45 minutes if you need to buy a sandwich as well, but I promise you'll feel refreshed for the afternoon and full of beans for your next meeting on your return. Recommended dose: weekly.
2. Borrow a dog and take them for a walk
If you can't quite find the motivation to get off the couch and stop watching the 5th episode of Stranger Things in a row (guilty!!), there's nothing like a wagging tail and the threat of dog pee on your armchair to get you going. Offer to babysit a friend's pooch next time they go away, or sign up to websites like Borrow My Doggy to look after local pups in need of walking. Recommended dose: try it out and tick it off the list (once).
3. Find a local historical walk
Another geeky favourite of mine and a REAL crowd-pleaser when the parents come to town: a HISTORICAL WALKING TOUR. Google walking tours near you and you'll find a plethora of history buffs (usually charging about a tenner a head) who will take you on a themed guided tour of your area. I've done no less than two Jack the Ripper tours and one Haunted City tour in London and it's really one of the finer ways to learn interesting stuff about your town and get some fresh (if inner-city) air on a gloomy evening or weekend. Bring a mate and a flask for extra fun. Recommended dose: try it out and tick it off the list (once).
4. Find a country pub - and walk there!
Let's be real: food is the best motivator, and the pub lunch is often my favourite part of a day hike. The easiest way to complete this joyous task would be to simply skip the afternoon section of a day hike, but you can easily more creative and plan your own route. Pick a beautiful country pub you like the look and menu of, make a booking (so you can't back out) then get off the train one stop before, and MAKE YOUR WAY TO LUNCH YE SHALL! I'd recommend lunch at the Artichoke Inn in Chartham, which you can walk to easy peasy from Chilham. Recommended dose: four times a year, one for each season! Mmmmh sunny afternoons in beer gardens.
5. Plan your first day hike
My favourite new years resolution of all! Going on a day hike is so much fun, and the perfect way to get yourself into a serious hiking habit. Have a look at my first blog post (aww) to find out how, then find a pal, pick a date, book the trains and off you go! With four to six hours walking time and a delightful pub in the middle (plus tea stop at the end) these walks take you out of the city, into the deepest country and back in time for dinner (and a bath before). Recommended dose: every 6 weeks is fab to get a feel for the changing seasons without giving up all non-hiking social life, but going on one day hike is a plenty good goal to get on that 2018 list!
6. Buy an outdoor gear item and use it
My favourite way to guilt myself off the sofa and into my walking shoes is to make good use of some fancy new hiking apparel I've purchased. Sad but true. A new backpack (my heart leaps at the thought), a cosy fleece or (gasp!) a new waterproof jacket is reason enough to romp through a field for 6 hours just to REALLY make sure it fits/works/looks adorbs. Just have a look at my hiking gear buyer's list if you need any shopping inspiration! Recommended dose: as little as possible (probably once a month).
7. Try out an outdoor water sport
Curveball! I've always been rather intrigued by surfing, wakeboarding and kitesurfing, and all of these are amazing ways to spend a fabulous day outside. Look for a taster session and book it in for the spring or summer, or try to incorporate a day of water sports into your summer holiday. Side note, all of these are EXHAUSTING and I've only tried one (surfing, saw a shark) but this is in fact on my 2018 list of fun stuff to do. I'd love any tips in the comments section! Recommended dose: try it out until you see a shark and tick it off the list (once).
8. Join a group walk
I was cynical about group walks when I started all this hiking business, but ACTUALLY *eye roll* it's a great way to meet like-minded people you can often learn a lot from about whatever it is you're doing. I met a guy on a hike that had travelled all around the United States for 90 days on a single bus ticket in the 70's, a woman introduced me to long-distance trails in the UK during a group hike, and I learned all about the Saturday Walker's Club founders who were a) nature poets (surprise!) and b) massive hippies who loved to get get drunk in the woods. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! You don't have to keep in touch or exchange Christmas cards, but it's a really nice way to mix up your hiking game and meet interesting folks. Recommended dose: try it out and tick it off the list (once) or however often tickles your fancy.
9. Plan a long-distance trail
Ah, the hum-dinger. Long-distance trails give you access to remote landscapes and the fantastic sense of achievement of crossing huge terrains, areas or even countries on foot alone. Although most long-distance paths I've come across take over a week to complete there are many different ways of going about it, from camping and carrying your own shelter and food all the way to sleeping in hotels or pubs (Full English included) and having your gear carried from one place to another by a Sherpa while you hike your daily section of the trail. Basically, whatever your level there's a hike for you! Go on weekly day hikes (carrying a heavy backpack) to train, put up an inspirational picture next to your computer screen and get motivated for your epic trip. Recommended dose: bucket list klaxon! Try it once (and then plan the next one).
10. Find a hiking competition and train for it
From nighttime city hikes to 24-hour triple mountain climbs or walking from London to Brighton, there are BONKERS competitions happening all the time to really get your motivational juices flowing. Now a word of caution here: "running a marathon" is not unlike "going on a diet" - UNLESS running is something you already enjoy and want to take to the next level. So make sure to keep your competition dreams within reach of what you can reasonably do (meaning you have some level of experience and the time and money to train), but by all means challenge yourself! Have a look ahead at walking events calendars like this one and pick something in a good time for you and set up a training schedule to match your level and time available. Bonus hint: you can pack pretty much all of the above points into your training schedule! WOOHOO! Charity walks are also a wonderful way to make your hobby worth while by helping others. Double 2018 points for you. Recommended dose: try it once and then eat a pie.