Preparing for the Outdoor Gym

I have been in the gym business for far too long and I have heard too many creative excuses for not attending one, especially during the summer. “The mountains are my gym,” is a typical quote. I often chuckle at that.

But I get it. I live here because I love the outdoors too. As a trainer, I have perfected doing the absolute minimum necessary maintenance in the gym —because your gym is my work. I love what I do, but I also love my time out of the gym. I use my gym only to keep me tuned up enough to continue mountain and dirt biking.

Coincidently, the phrase “the gym” is about doing some type of conditioning and maintenance for your body to counteract the damage done in the outdoor gym. This conditioning doesn’t have to take place at an inside gym, but the chances of conditioning and maintenance actually occurring increases with the use of some kind of gym, yoga studio, physical therapy clinic or spa.

I see the best results from people who “check themselves in” to some kind of program or activity that is supervised by a qualified pro, a program that supplements their fun activities.

We humans tend to gravitate to activities we enjoy and totally ignore ones we don’t. After more than 25 years in the business, I can confidently recommend that you must do the required maintenance if you want any machine to run well. That’s especially true for the machines we call our bodies. Just being a little more active or hiking a little over the summer is a great start, but it’s often too little to maintain the body, let alone improve it.

Outdoor Athlete Basic Techniques for Success

Corrective Exercise—Most of us have sustained a few repetitive injuries. If you are an outdoor athlete, I would almost guarantee that you can benefit from some preventative and corrective exercises. These exercises address repetitive injuries, instead of just ignoring them. Finely-targeted corrective exercises will make a big difference both now and over the long haul.

Stretching—You will not stretch on your own. That’s ok. Once you accept this truth, you can move on to a solution. Every top-level athlete stretches to maximize the range of motion in joints, to speed recovery and to reduce the effects of injuries. In my opinion, this is by far the most avoided activity and the one that causes the most problems.

Self-Myofascial Care—This kind of care has evolved from foam rolling into the detailed flossing of tissue to improve mobility. Athletes across the board are seeing major benefits from various myofascial techniques. The outdoor athletes I coach use the indoor gym for this care because the indoor gym is equipped with the right tools, the equipment and know-how.

Strength Training—You may have heard that stronger athletes have a huge advantage. Almost all joint dysfunction has its roots in muscle weakness. Endurance athletes who previously avoided strength training and stretching like the plague are changing their tune. Almost all modern athletes work on strength training because it works.

So go ahead and make the mountains your gym—it’s the best one out there. Just do your maintenance so you can stay there!

Steve Wells is the head trainer at Midland Fitness in Glenwood Springs. You can read more of his articles at