Get More Out of Your Workouts Using Environmental Integration
One of the great benefits of exercising outside is the experience of connecting to the natural world around you. This process of connecting mentally and physically to nature is what I call Environmental Integration. Awareness of your environment keeps you safe on the trail; it also promotes a feeling of “oneness” with the natural world around you. Nature becomes both a guide and a companion.
In Outdoor Fitness, you learn to adopt the laws of nature to your workout and your mindset. You learn to “go with the flow.” You don’t conquer a mountain, battle a tricky path, or fight your way through tall grass. This approach puts you at odds with your environment, and leads to rigidity, tension and stress. Instead, you let go and relax. Like a bird in the wind or a fish in a stream, your body and mind flow freely with the forces of nature, the elements and terrain you encounter, gravity itself.
The key to environmental integration is right in front of your nose. Actually, it is your nose, as well as your eyes and ears, your hands and feet, and even your inner “gut,” or instinct. When you’re exercising outdoors, you’ll have the chance to be in constant sensory contact with nature. There’s so much to absorb:
• Visual: Lightness, darkness, textures, colors, movement, scenery, sky, objects
• Auditory: Chirping birds, water flowing, lapping waves, cracking twigs, rustling leaves, sound of your own breathing
• Olfactory: scent of trees, flowers, rain, the sea, dirt, animals
• Intuitive: Following a hunch, having a deep feeling about something, relying on your inner resources
Tuning in to your senses—including your powerful intuition—will deepen and expand your experience of working out. You’ll feel confident, connected and part of a much bigger world—the natural world.
Steps Toward Environmental Integration
Reading the terrain
One of the most practical ways you’ll use environmental integration is by learning to “read” your environment. No more jogging with your head down! Exercising in the outdoors means you need to be constantly observing your surroundings: looking ahead, to angles of slope in the trail, twists and turns in the road. Watching out for obstacles and changes to the terrain itself, from gravel to pavement to dirt, wet spots on the sidewalk, roots, rocks, sticks on the ground. By reading your environment, you give mind and body time to anticipate and adapt to what’s coming, prepared so you can move over terrain safely and without wasting effort. Reading your environment also keeps you connected to what’s around you. When you’re scanning ahead for changes in terrain, you’re also finding sights, scents, sounds that keep you stimulated, give you inspiration.
Keys to integrating with your environment
• Tune into your surroundings
• Feel the terrain underfoot
• Relax and feel the pull of gravity
• Notice the colors and textures
• Take in the sounds around you
• Feel the breeze brush your skin
• Smell the aroma in the air
• Trust and listen to your internal voice
• Close your eyes during an exercise: this helps enhance your other senses.