Things I learned during my recent outdoors trip...
I’m writing this on Monday 3/5, which means a snowstorm is currently in the process of taking over MN. Since my yoga class has been cancelled and patients have rescheduled, I thought it would be the perfect time to write. The fact that this week I’m writing about the health benefits of being outdoors and swimming in cold water, seems even more fitting considering the current weather.
Last week my boyfriend Scott and I packed up and headed out to AZ to meet up with my cousin and his friend for a camping and hiking adventure. As Scott and I were walking through the airport with backpacking packs on our back I told him, every time I said I’ll never do something, I always end up doing that thing and loving it. Example A, years ago, while walking through the airport I said “I’ll never be that person wearing a hiking backpack.” And here I am in the airport wearing one of those very backpacks, being that person, and totally loving it. So never say never folks, it means that’ll surely show up in your life soon and teach you a lesson, albeit it may be a very enjoyable lesson.
Hiking and Camping at Havasupai
The purpose of our trip was to visit Havasupai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon to see the amazing waterfalls there. It’s SUPER hard to get a reservation there, we wanted to go end of April and when I booked the trip, the only time available was end of February, so our trip was moved up 2 months! And the weather would be significantly colder than we thought. Typically, during this time, the highs are in the 60s and lows are in the 40s. However, they experienced a cold snap during our trip. Highs were averaging around 40s, and lows in the 20s. Those of you who know me well, know I am a total freeze baby, so I was a little nervous about the weather. My favorite temp is like 85 degrees and really humid, quite a bit different.
I bought all my back country camping gear, including a very warm sleeping bag, thank goodness! And we set off for our adventure. First we visited the Grand Canyon and hiked along the rim, SO GORGEOUS, and so cold and windy haha (think 18 degrees and very blustery), every picture you snap there turns out incredible. I definitely want to visit there again and spend more time.
Health Benefits of Camping
Next morning, after sleeping in our cars we started our hike into the Grand Canyon on the Havasupai Reservation. It was an 8-mile hike into the canyon to the Village and then another mile or two to the campsite.
At this point in the story I’d like to share with you some health benefits of camping, there are also tons of health benefits of being outside if camping isn’t your jam! Here are just a few benefits from these articles by HuffPost and Eureka, to read about many more benefits, check out the articles!
- Fresh air! So many benefits from just this one.. blood pressure and digestion are improved, also your immune system gets a boost! The extra levels of oxygen and low levels of pollutants give your body a boost!
- Socialization: I had so many benefits in just this category alone. It brought me closer to Scott because you have to improve your communication (you’re in a canyon away from society haha) and I had to rely on him more, I couldn’t just ask my brothers or parents for help (thankfully he’s got a LOT of experience backpacking/camping/hiking). I also had the benefit of traveling with my cousin John who is a great friend of mine, and got to meet his friend, the lovely Sarah. It’s amazing how quickly you get to know someone when traveling with them, I feel I know Sarah so well after only 4 days, and am closer to everyone on the trip. Not only do you work together as a team to get through the physical challenges, you are also experiencing amazing things together!
- You may sleep better: For this one as far as the actual amount of sleep, I didn’t get a lot, somewhere in the 2-6 hour range, I’m a really light sleeper which is the main reason. HOWEVER, I am usually a total night owl… but it gets pitch black in the canyon at 7 pm, and after a day of hard physical activity and without much light we went to bed at 7 or 8 pm both nights of camping. One night Scott and I got up to go to the bathroom after sleeping for a while, and when I asked him what time it was, I was shocked to hear it was only 10 pm! I usually don’t go to bed until 11 or 12. Then because we were in bed by 8 pm, I was up at 7 am, cause you can’t stay in bed longer than 12 hours haha. And I felt so refreshed! Turns out it feels so natural to go to bed when it gets dark, and when you wake up with the sun and eat breakfast outside, it makes it easy to get up in the morning.
- What’s the science reason for this? Going to bed and rising with the sun resets your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s natural sleep and wake cycles. Guys, it’s so refreshing, try it out! It’s not been long since we got back from the trip, but I’ve found I start to get tired when it gets dark, like massive amounts of yawning, and getting out of bed in the morning is a lot easier. I’ve even been waking up before my alarm, what?! That never happened before. I literally gave up snooze for lent, because it used to take a minimum of 3 alarms to DRAG myself out of bed.
- Being Unplugged! : Use of tech can lead to feeling of anxiety and poor sleep. It was SO refreshing to just use my phone to take pictures and nothing else. No texts, phone calls, emails, social media. Just totally being in the present moment, being with people I care about and experiencing awesome nature. Win, Win, Win. Do it, you’ll be so happy. Also if your phone is in airplane mode and you just use it for pics, you would not believe how long your battery lasts, like forever. (Forever being 3 days without charging and still having charge left over!).
There are lots more benefits, but it could take me all day to tell you about all of them, check out the articles for a quick read! But now it’s time for another story from the trip!
Why Swim in Cold Water when it's 30 degrees...
When people visit these waterfalls, they love to swim in them. They are unbelievably gorgeous, and typically when people visit it’s SUPER hot in the canyon, for example 110 degrees Fahrenheit, which would feel so refreshing. When we had time to swim in the falls, it was 5 pm, and sun was setting and it was about 30-35 degrees out. Sounds chilly right?
We were psyching ourselves up to swim. The guys unfortunately didn’t have wetsuits, luckily Sarah and I did. John was beating on his chest saying “We can do this.” He was the first to run in. I was telling Sarah and Scott about the health benefits of swimming in cold water. When we actually got in the water, it was SO cold, I was making I’m freezing sounds and was shivering so much, and Sarah said, “Tell me more benefits of swimming in cold water!” So here are some of the one’s I shared with her, and some reasons you should swim in cold water! As Minnesotans, it’s not hard to find an opportunity to do that. 😉 Dutchman, Wim Hof, has experienced and studied this extensively, if you’re curious, look him up. He’s climbed Everest in shorts and bare feet and run a marathon barefoot in the artic, just to mention a couple things!
Health Benefits of Swimming in Cold Water
- Building Mental Fortitude: Before jumping in, my brain was saying, “You have no shower to warm up in! And you’re sleeping outside tonight and it’s going to get down to 20 degrees!” That’s when you have to decide to push past those thoughts and just go for it! Swimming in cold water is great at teaching mental fortitude, haha.
- Supercharge your metabolism! Humans are supposed to have white and brown fat, but right now most humans only have the white kind. Brown fat can be activated by cold water. It keeps you warm, and to raise your body temp, it will burn through calories at a high rate, and helps you shed excess weight. Cool!
- Boost your immune system: Increases number of white blood cells and increases levels of the antioxidant glutathione, which helps reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Boost of energy, makes you feel vibrant! After our swim, we felt this boost of energy and just felt happy and vital. Sarah was SO energized, she reorganized her tent and was jumping around saying she felt great!
Really, you’re SO much tougher than your brain believes you are. I wasn’t sure I could hike out of a canyon with no previous experience. But I did it wearing a 40 pound pack, and Scott and I hiked out in just 6 hours! To be honest, I really pushed the pace because a storm was rolling in and I didn’t want to get soaked. When I am truly motivated, nothing can hold me back.
Spend some time outside, weather you camp or not, just get out in nature, breathe in the fresh air and be in the moment.
Take a break from technology: Turn off your phone or use airplane mode for a while, it’s nice to not be bombarded with information all the time.
Try swimming in cold water or taking a cold shower: Make sure to be careful if you do this, know your body. You could just do 15-30 seconds of cold water at the end of your normal shower. What I do most often, is swim in June at the lakes in MN or up in Canada. That is plenty chilly! Notice how you feel after, more vibrant and more energy? I bet you will!
Comment and tell me: What outdoor adventures have you been on lately or one of your favorites! Did you notice any health benefits from you experience? What were they?