Tackle Hiking and Mountain Climbing with REI and ACE's New Classes
This new series of fitness classes will prep you for any outdoor adventure.
While working out at the gym or fitness studio will do you good, the environment can get mundane. It's too easy to lose focus when you get bored staring at the wall while you run on the treadmill or look back at your reflection while lifting weights.
That is what the great outdoors are for. Nothing reinvigorates the body like a challenging uphill climb or a long trek with a view. Fitness turns functional as you navigate mountain trails, scale rock formations or take on a long-distance race. If this sounds appealing to you, turn to REI and the American Council of Exercise's (ACE) newly launched collaboration: a series of seven-week outdoor group classes aiming to prepare participants for mountain climbing, hiking and backpacking or running a 5K or 10K race.
Every fitness level is welcome—even amateurs. "We make our programs really accessible to beginners," says Rebecca Bear, Outdoor Programs and Outreach Manager at REI. "If you've never run a 5K, or if you've never run—ever—we can help with that." She explains that the classes, which include 12 people max, are highly individualized so you can expect that the instructors will customize the experience to your capabilities. In fact, the first class in each session is an assessment, where you'll be evaluated on your flexibility, weight bearing exercises, pushups and sit ups. From that starting point, you'll begin real training in the second session.
What should you expect from a typical class? Not actual hiking or rock climbing. "People don't know where to start, what they need or how they need to prepare their bodies," says Jacque Ratliff, Exercise Physiologist for ACE. The group tapped experts in backpacking, mountain climbing and running to create a curriculum that targets muscles you will definitely be using. Each course uses ACE's five primary movement patterns: squats, bend and lifts, lunges, rotational movements, and pulling and pushing. Some of the classes will condition the body using jumpropes, kettlebells, stability balls and resistance bands. By the end of the seven weeks, you will have built muscle memory and techniques to use once you are out in the field.
If you're thinking you can just do such workouts on your own, you'd be missing out. Signing up for a course like this allows you to work toward a common goal with others and gives you the chance to seek guidance from experienced instructors. If you've never navigated with a map or packed a backpack for hiking, you can be pointed in the right direction.
These classes ($120 for REI members and $150 for non-members) are available in Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Puget Sound, Raleigh, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington DC. They're starting in February and March and will be continually rolled out through the year. To find out when the nearest class by your hometown will start, just plug in your zipcode here.