American tradition has it that on Thanksgiving, you stuff yourself silly with all kinds of delectable treats. Later in the day you might watch a football game on TV, take a nap or hit the stores. Friday, of course, is all about fighting the crowds for bargains and deals at the mall. But what if you turned tradition on its head?
That’s the thinking behind outdoor retailer REI’s successful #OptOutside campaign, which since 2015, has led to over 8 million people getting out of the stores and into nature on Black Friday. As REI puts it, you can “feel the calming power of simply being outside, the connection to something bigger.”
Want to join the party? Here are six ways to #OptOutside this holiday:
1. Take a hike
There’s a whole world of local, state, and national parks out there ready for exploring. Hiking is a great cardiovascular and strength-building workout and can be family friendly as well. Want to up the ante? Erwan Le Corre, founder of MovNat, suggests heading out for 30 minutes of fun, yet challenging moves, such as crawling over and under obstacles like logs, balancing on narrow surfaces just above ground level, or hanging from something like a tree limb as you pass under it. “This approach provides the same physiological benefits of other workouts but without the isolation, boredom and repetitiveness you’ll find in something structured and indoors,” he says.
2. Run a Turkey Trot
Fast becoming a part of many families’ routines Thanksgiving morning, you can find local Turkey Trots in most communities these days. In fact, Running USA says that 858,000 people finished a Turkey Trot n 2012. Most are in the range of beginner-friendly 5ks and are welcoming to runners of all ages. If speed is your thing, you might go home with a pie or even a turkey for your winning efforts. Turkey costume optional.
3. Go for a bike ride
Like hiking, getting outside and onto a bike path is a fairly convenient and local endeavor for most people. Growing bike share programs, bike paths and bike lanes encourage participation from two wheels. “Planning a route ahead of time will make it easier and more enjoyable,” suggests Steve Taylor of the League of American Bicyclists. “Also make sure your bikes are in good shape — check the tires, the chains and the brakes before you head out.” This was how Iowa-based REI store employee Ace Hainley spent his Black Friday last year, alongside his dad. “Since we have some rocking bike trails, it wasn’t hard to decide to use our day off this way,” he says.
4. Try geochaching
A real-world, outdoor treasure-hunting game, geocaching appeals to even those not-so-adventurous types. Using a GPS-enabled device, players navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates to hunt for a hidden container. Inside, game players will find small toys or trinkets. The idea is to take something from the container and then add in something new to replace it. Want to geocache while improving the environment? Try Cache In Trash Out, where players clean up litter, remove invasive species, and help improve trail conditions.
5. Download the Nature Passport app
Have a family member whose phone is permanently attached to his or her hand? Use that to your advantage and download the Nature Passport app. Created by two non-profits, IslandWood in Washington state and Nature Play in Australia, more than 600,000 families have used the app to explore their nearby outdoor world. The app encourages climbing, foraging and discovering. Users can filter activities by age, season, duration and difficulty to customize it for each experience.
6. Get on the water or the snow
If you live in a warmer climate, the beach, rivers or lakes might still beckon you. Try stand-up paddle-boarding, kayaking or surfing. Many stores in these water-rich areas offer rentals and/or lessons to first-timers. If summer temperatures are long forgotten where you are and snow is within reach, try strapping on snowshoes, skis or a snowboard. City bound? Many major metropolitan areas have opened up ice rinks for the season, and rentals go with the territory if you don’t have your own skates.
No matter what option you choose, you’ll be doing your mind and body good by choosing to #OptOutside this year. As novelist and poet Alice Walker put it: “In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.”
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