Hikers walk a snowy bank beside a river.

Hiking in Yellowstone. Photo © Laura Martone.

In my last post, I offered you several fitness tips, courtesy of certified personal trainer Erin Desharnais, to help travelers get into shape for their next adventure trek in Yosemite, Yellowstone, or elsewhere. Besides sharing her tips with me, Erin fortunately agreed to answer some additional questions via email:

American Nomad: You’ve suggested that “the best workout routine for the outdoor enthusiast is a blend of strength training, interval training, power endurance, and outdoor endurance training,” and since I’m a big fan of yoga, swimming, and walking – all of which can be done with weights – I’m wondering… do you think that combining such activities is beneficial (for instance, power yoga, which is essentially doing yoga positions with weights), or is it better to do weight-training and cardiovascular activities separately?

Erin Desharnais: I think the first step is for people, especially in our country, to just get out and move. Whatever medium people choose – strength training, swimming, walking, yoga, interval training – is better than not exercising. I think having yoga, swimming, and walking as part of a fitness routine is great, especially if those are the activities that motivate you to exercise.

As people increase their fitness levels, the “best bang for your buck” workouts are a combination of interval/power endurance training. You can do intervals with swimming, walking, running, cycling, hills, stairs, etc. You can do a power endurance workout with body weight exercises, medicine balls, kettle-bells, dumbbells, etc. For example, perform the following five exercises as many times as possible in 20 minutes: Box jumps x10, DB forward lunges x10, walk-out push-ups x10, DB squat to press x10, and jump rope x100. Below are some key reasons why this type of training is so beneficial.

  • It is less time-consuming: You can work yourself harder in just 30 minutes doing HIIT than doing one hour of low-intensity training.
  • By challenging both your aerobic and anaerobic systems simultaneously, you dramatically improve your cardiovascular threshold.
  • Burns more calories and elevates metabolism significantly more than other forms of cardio. This means you burn more fat.
  • It combats monotony.
  • Will help you lose weight, not muscle.

AN: Running is one of your suggested activities, but based on my father and stepmother’s experiences, I know that running can cause a lot of health issues, particularly in regard to backs, ankles, and knees. Are there ways to minimize such negative effects?

ED: As with any exercise program, start slow and, if you have injuries, consult a professional to help you exercise properly to correct your injuries and to teach you how to exercise properly. People can start by alternating between walking for two to three minutes, and jogging for 30 seconds to one minute. If people simply cannot run, then they should walk, bike, swim, do yoga, or weight train.

AN: I spend my summers in the woods of northern Michigan, so I can certainly appreciate the benefits of outdoor endurance training – such as cycling, hiking, and swimming in the great outdoors – but I wonder… can those who live primarily in urban areas achieve the same results – such as walking or cycling in a nearby park?

ED: Yes, I believe they can. You just have to make the best of the area you live in and utilize parks, stairs, stadiums, local tracks, bike paths, etc.

AN: Do you have any suggestions for those who can’t afford or access a gym? For instance, do you think at-home programs like Wii Fit and Xbox Kinect would help travelers prepare for an outdoor adventure, like hiking in Yosemite?

ED: Again, whatever gets people exercising and challenging themselves I support. The better shape you are in physically and mentally, the more you will enjoy exploring the beautiful destinations on your vacations.

AN: If a traveler is fairly out-of-shape, how many weeks do you think he or she would need to follow your fitness program prior to an outdoor adventure in Yosemite or one of America’s other incredible national parks?

ED: This is hard to answer because everyone is different. I believe the more prepared you are for anything in life, the better. So, making fitness and healthy eating a lifestyle will set you up for success and adventurous vacations.

AN: Many travelers visit Yosemite with their families or groups of friends – and just as one’s body is only as strong as its weakest link, so do a family or group’s activities depend upon the weakest link – so do you have any suggestions for families or groups hoping to be in equally good shape for an outdoor adventure?

ED: Make fitness a family mission with the goal of a fun, adventurous vacation at the end. Get the whole family to choose a hike, backpacking trip, or white-water rafting trip that may seem impossible at the time. Then get the whole family committed to fitness and eating healthy so the group as a whole can do that hike! Group support provides accountability and will bring the family closer together and increase the family members’ happiness and confidence.

Hopefully, my brief interview with Erin as well as her previous tips have motivated you to get in shape – and better prepare yourself for your next adventure trek, whether you’re headed to Yosemite, Yellowstone, or one of America’s other national parks.

In the meantime, do you have any additional fitness tips to share?