The Road To Getting “Outdoor-Fit”

By Shelly Halfman –
Getting outside to enjoy some downtime exploring nature is more important now than ever.  Whether you are coming out of winter a little stir crazy, feeling the need for sunshine and fresh air because of “sheltering in place” for weeks, or just love being active this time of year, there are plenty of places to explore just outside your door.

My husband and I have an extensive hiking trip planned for mid-summer, so we are making an effort to get “trail fit,” in the hopes that the trip is not cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. We typically workout 5 days per week, and are more gym-fit than outdoor-fit, so preparing for the backcountry and challenging terrains is important for overall enjoyment of the trip and prevention of injuries.

Previous hikes have left us with shin splints, sore knees, and tight Achilles tendons. This typically happens when it’s a difficult hike with high elevation, then returning back down to ground level via steps instead of a gradual decline. These hikes are so invigorating and rewarding, especially when you conquer one that you know is going to be tough. Our long-term goal is to enjoy those challenging hikes without feeling like we need multiple days to recover.

This past weekend we chose a hike at Whitewater State Park, in SE Minnesota. The area includes meadow hikes as well as rugged hiking trails that overlook scenic bluffs, excellent trout fishing opportunities, with the gorgeous Whitewater river winding through it.  It’s a spectacular view from many high points along the way. The trails are rated as moderate, it’s kid friendly, and dogs are permitted on a leash.  In this area, we typically choose a trail, go to a certain point, then turn back to return the same way. On this day, we decided to see where the trail leads and explore deeper into the woods.
This type of hike does not require much physical preparation, but things can and do happen along the way that are unexpected and debilitating. Anytime there is uneven terrain, tree roots, logs that may have fallen, and other hazards, you need to be very focused on your steps.  Twisting an ankle or getting an injury that leads to impaired mobility can be concerning when you are deep in the woods.
Unfortunately for me, this was true last weekend. I was paying more attention to my dog crossing the stream than my own feet, and I slipped off the rocks and ended up with a very deep puncture wound to my shin. I won’t go into detail, but I knew I needed medical attention. We were an hour into the hike, didn’t know exactly how far we were from the road, and needed to figure out a plan.  Staying calm, covering the wound, and making a plan of action was a team effort. We were able to find a map and see where the nearest road was, and lucky we came across 2 fishermen that were able to help us get back to our vehicle.

Hiking with a buddy in new surroundings is important. Many remote locations do not have cell phone coverage, so calling for help is not an option. A buddy can help you make your way back, run for help, and offer clear thinking if you are traumatized and trying to make a plan.

Planning your hike usually doesn’t include what to do in case of emergency, but it should! We usually think about maps, amount of water and snacks for a short afternoon hike.  It’s tough to prepare for the unknown, but having basic knowledge on caring for sprains, wounds, allergic reactions, is important no matter where you are hiking.
Injury prevention and management includes the known risks like muscle/joint pain as well as the unexpected happenings that are accidental. There are online wilderness first aid basics courses that teach you how to manage urgent and non-urgent injuries effectively in the outdoors, which is especially important if you are doing backwoods hiking.
I will offer basic tips on physical preparedness and how to prevent muscle/connective tissue injuries when hiking and being newly active outdoors in an upcoming article!

Your Partner in Fitness,
Shelly Halfman


Shelly Halfman – Personal Trainer
2571 Clare Lane NE, Suite 104
Century Hills Business Park
Rochester, MN 55906