How to keep exercising outdoors in the drought

“How CAN you keep exercising outdoors in the drought????”

I’m writing this blog post because over the past year lots of people have said they just don’t know how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. We typically think of nature as nurturing and health-giving, a place of solace and retreat. Being confronted by a shockingly dry environment with frequent bushfires, brown landscapes that used to be green, National Park closures, and dry waterways, it’s clear that nature has a shadow side as well.

flowers before the drought

“It’s REALLY tough!”

To be completely open, I’ve also questioned how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. The whole climatic situation has been tough. Really tough! The ripple effect of the drought has swept up farmers, wildlife, local businesses, ‘town’ people, and those in the cities. We’re all affected in various ways either directly or indirectly. There’s a pervasive and damaging sense of hopelessness, and like any emotion, it’s contagious. Yet a sense of hope is exactly what we need to survive difficult or traumatic situations. Where there’s hope, there’s life. Without it, we spiral into a self-fulfilling doom and gloom mentality.

Exercising outdoors has been very confronting. I can’t walk on my home trails without seeing or smelling death. The brown dust colours my view as if I’m looking through a sepia filter. Ticks are in plague proportions. Swarms of good ole slow country flies are driving me nuts. The heat is unbearable. And there’s not enough water for washing your hair after a workout.

My stress tank is overflowing! How about you?

My connection with nature runs very deep, as does my yearning to be active. But in this tough time, I also came down with shingles. My stress tank began to overflow. I had to do something differently. Bushwalking and bike riding whilst constantly thinking about the drought and feeling unwell was contributing to the stress.

So what CAN you do when being in nature is SO stressful?

You have to put your creative thinking hat on to find a solution when things get tough. What worked before is no longer effective. The questions people keep asking me (and that I wanted solutions for too) are:

  • How can I reconnect with the side of nature that heals and nurtures and teaches?
  • How can I enjoy my time outdoors without feeling overwhelmed?
  • What mindset shift do I need?
  • What actions do I need to take?
  • How can I keep exercising everyday?
exercising in the drought
Exercising in the drought has it’s challenges

So I set you to explore this new territory and experiment with the possibilities!

Here are 6 solutions that I’ve discovered. I hope they work for you too!

1. Podcasts

If you haven’t got on the bandwagon yet, then you really need to! Podcasts are audio shows, a bit like a radio show, that you can either stream from the Internet or download onto a device to listen to later. I download episodes from my favourite shows onto my phone, plug my ear phones in, and listen to inspiring, energising interviews while I walk. Instead of focusing my attention on my surroundings, I lose myself in the show and arrive back home with excitement for life and new ideas to put into action. Watch out for a future blog post about my favourite podcasts suitable for Android or Apple.

2. Set an Intention

Before heading out on a walk or ride, I often choose an intention – something I want to focus on or get out of my experience. This is a personal choice, so it can be anything at all. Some of the intentions I’ve set for myself go like this:
“Today I will notice new growth”
“Today I will focus on the sensations in my legs”
“Today I will find fun”
“Today I will discover colour”
“Today I will notice sounds”

3. Mindful Walking

With mindful walks I like to focus on one sense at a time and when I notice my mind has wandered away from my body, I gently bring it back to rest on my senses. I’ve especially enjoyed focusing on my sense of hearing – noticing the many different bird calls, the sounds of the breeze in the trees, my footsteps on the ground, insects buzzing around, wallabies bounding along. I usually focus on one sense for a few minutes, then move onto another one. With my sense of touch, I focus on how it feels to have clothes on my skin, feet in my shoes as I take a step, muscle movement, sunscreen on my face, leaves brushing my skin. When I focus on my sense of sight, I challenge myself to find colours and light and patterns that I don’t normally notice. You can also use a meditation app with a guided practice for mindfulness of walking.

4. Photography

I’ve discovered that taking photos along the way really helps me to bring my attention to the beautiful things. Sometimes I combine photography with an intention or a mindful walk so that I can collect images that bring me joy, and at the same time it helps my brain to collect evidence that there is hope.

5. Make it Social

Walking or riding with other people can be really helpful because the focus is on that invisible connection between myself and someone else. Give me a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend any day, plenty of laughs, a chance to debrief the stuff of life that drives me crazy, and to celebrate the rest. Sometimes, too, there’s a sneaky competitive edge that sees me running or riding faster when I’m with others. Inevitably that ends up in a heap of laughs too, gasping for air, heart pounding out of my chest, and the satisfaction that I’ve done my weekly interval training.

6. Mix it up

I’ve always said “I’m not a gym person”. I’ve built a business and identity around my outdoor adventures. BUT, being unwell and being in the drought has helped me re-set my rigid thinking about exercise. Instead of going outdoors everyday, I went to an aqua class with a friend, did loops of the river walk in town where it’s a bit greener, and took up an irresistible offer to join a gym. I’ve extended the variety of exercise I get which is a fantastic thing! It will help me enjoy and have greater success with my outdoor adventuring which I’m still doing at least a couple of times a week. Going to the gym also gets me focusing on my sadly neglected strength training (one of those things I really ‘should’ be doing at my age!), all whilst staying out of the flies and heat. I get to make new friends and pace myself sensibly (sort of) as I recuperate. At home I’ve also begun a more regular yoga practice – something I’ve been wanting to do but it’s been a lower priority until now.

To Sum Up: Choose Your Focus!

It’s really all about CHOOSING WHAT YOU FOCUS ON. When we feel like we have What's my plan of action to deal with this issue?no control or influence over a situation (like the drought), it’s important to push the pause button, think about it creatively, and choose your focus. Like many people, I’ve struggled with exercising outdoors in the drought. The ideas I’ve shared in this article have made a huge difference to me, my mental state and my physical health. My hope is that they help you too.

Let me know what works for you! Have you got some other ideas to share with our readers?

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to get started bushwalking

I meet many people who would like to take themselves or their family on outdoor adventures, but they’re not sure how to get started bushwalking. In this article, I’ll outline some simple steps you can take to get started, stay safe, and have loads of fun! Keep your eyes open for a whole series of articles on places you can bushwalk across South East Queensland and beyond.

What equipment do I need to go for a bushwalk?

The basic equipment is really quite simple:bushwalking boots
  • a comfortable and sturdy pair of covered shoes
  • a drink bottle,
  • a hat, and
  • some sun protection such as sunscreen and sun-safe clothes
  • basic first aid and medical supplies for yourself or your group such as an asthma puffer and snake bandage – I slip a snake bandage into my pocket or backpack even on short walks
If you’re bushwalking in cold or alpine areas, you’ll also need:
  • warm layers of clothing eg jacket, beanie.
And if the weather is damp, you might like to have:
  • a rain coat or poncho
What else do I need to think about for longer or more challenging walks?

As you become more experienced, you might like to go on longer or more challenging bushwalks, so it’s important to have:

  • well-fitting shoes and socks suitable for the terrain and the climate
  • a small backpack that can hold all the gear you’ll need for an awesome day out – snacks, water, extra layers of clothing, raincoat, maps, emergency devices, and a camera,
  • some people like to wear gaiters to protect against snake bites and prickly plants
What about overnight hikes and camps?

If you plan on a multi-day bushwalk you’ll also need to have:bushwalking and camping

  • a well fitting backpack large enough to hold your gear, especially if you plan to be self-sufficient,
  • a shelter such as a tent,
  • food for the duration of your expedition
  • enough water plus a bit extra to get you to your next water supply – this includes water for drinking, cooking and cleaning,
  • a water purification system if you plan to collect water from untreated water supplies,
  • a sleeping mat,
  • sleeping bag,
  • toiletry items,
  • a trowel and toilet paper,
  • extra clothes to sleep in or if you want a clean set of clothes for your second day,
  • a stove and cooking equipment,
  • maps and navigation equipment such as a compass and / GPS, and
  • emergency communication equipment such as an emergency beacon, EPIRB, or GPS communication

We’ll cover equipment for overnight hikes in more detail in a future article.

How much water will I need?

The amount of water you need to take depends on lots of things including how far and how long you’ll be bushwalking as well as the temperature and humidity, whether there is drinking water available along the way, how strenuous your walk is, and how much you as an individual need to drink. A very rough guide is usually a minimum of 2 litres per day, however I’d recommend more than that especially if the weather is hot, and just in case you stay out longer than planned. If you’re planning to cook, you’ll need extra as well.

How much food should I take on a bushwalk?

If you’re going for a short walk (less than an hour), you generally won’t need to take food. bushwalking foodHowever, I think every walk is much more fun when you stop for a little picnic along the way. Choose food that won’t easily spoil or be squashed. It also pays to think about how heavy your snacks are and take a bag or container to transport your scraps back home.

Where can I go bushwalking?

Popular public walking spaces in Australia can be found in regional or council parks, state reserves and forestry, and in national parks. There also some privately owned land holdings that are open to the public. You can search the Internet for what’s available in your local area. Regional tourist information sites and centres also provide this information. Australian walking trails are often classified according to levels of difficulty from Class 1 to Class 5. This makes it easier for you to plan the right type of walk for your group.

In future articles I’ll share some of my favourite places with you.

How much does it cost to go bushwalking?

Most walking trails in Australia are free, however there are some parklands that require you to purchase a permit for vehicle entry (such as some national parks in some states). And you need to book ahead and pay an entry fee for some multi-day walks which assists with managing and maintaining the trails and surrounding environment.

Is it safe to go bushwalking alone?

Walking solo can be a great experience if you are properly prepared. I’d recommend:

  • Tell someone where you are planning to go and when you expect to be back, and then make sure you let them know you’ve arrived home safely afterwards.
  • Be extra careful about preparing and packing for your walk because you only have yourself to bushwalking equipmentrely on.
  • Take some extra water and food, as well as first aid supplies.
  • Stick to trails that are within your level of expertise.
  • Take a phone but don’t rely on having mobile coverage everywhere. (Remember you can use your phone’s GPS to help you work out where you are even if you don’t have phone coverage. The GPS function uses a satellite system not a mobile phone system.)
  • Download navigation and emergency services apps and practise using them before you go! Some suggestions include:
    • Orux Maps
    • GPS to SMS
    • Emergency+

How can I meet other people to bushwalk with?

Here are a few ways to meet other people who like to bushwalk:

  • join a bushwalking club
  • look on Facebook and MeetUp for bushwalking groups and activities
  • find a professional guide who can lead you on an organised walk
  • ask about walking groups and organised activities at tourist information centres and national parks offices
  • say hello and strike up a conversation with other people you meet along the trails – you’ll be surprised how much information other people have!

So there you have it – a brief introduction on how to get started bushwalking. Join me for future articles where we’ll explore more details about the amazing places you can go no matter your level of fitness or experience. And send me a message if there’s a particular question or topic about bushwalking that you’d like answered.

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.