Summer exercising in the great outdoors


Bob Brady, 31, instructs novice rowers on the Anacostia River near the Anacostia Community Boathouse. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

Yes, Washington, it may stop raining any day now, and then you’ll be able to exercise outdoors again. If you’ve forgotten during the dreary winter and wet spring, that’s where the sun shines, breezes blow and birds chirp. Also where drivers come around corners without looking and holes in the outfield grass grab and twist your ankles.

“You find yourself when you are outside the comfort zone,” says Jimmy Minardi, an athletic coach based in East Hampton, Aspen and Santa Barbara who is writing a book about the benefits of outdoor exercise. “You are constantly surveying your environment and adapting to it. Adapting to change is a primal need.”

Confronting an uncontrolled environment — heat, hills, head winds and uneven pavement, for example — provides a tougher workout than a comparable routine indoors and stimulates the senses. Outdoor workouts have been associated with stronger feelings of revitalization, more energy and less tension than indoor exercise.

“You find joy outside,” Minardi says.

You’ll also find Vitamin D from sunlight, which helps you absorb calcium and promotes bone growth.


Caryn Muellerleile takes a novice rowing class out of the Anacostia Community Boathouse. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

When warm weather does arrive, however, remember that acclimating to heat can take 10 to 14 days of exposure and exercise, according to the American Council on Exercise. Once that happens, you’ll produce more cooling sweat and lose fewer electrolytes, according to the group.

And, of course, don’t forget to hydrate adequately. Trust your thirst. It won’t steer you wrong.

You might soon find yourself out there running, cycling or playing kickball, soccer or softball. But here are a few nontraditional ways to salute the sun, and one way to avoid it, while getting your summer workout.

Hit (the roof of) the gym

At a recent cycling class at Vida Fitness on U Street, Alexx Zamudio, 33, group fitness program director, had an important question for his students: “Did you put your suntan lotion on?” Muscles weren’t the only body parts that had the potential to burn during this 90-minute session on the gym’s roof deck, which is where he’s planning to spend a good chunk of his summer.

Outdoor classes keep members interested in the gym during a traditionally slow period, and also are a perk for Zamudio, who prefers exercising in nature. In addition to using the deck for cycling, he’s also taking advantage of it to host Zumba under the stars. And he always takes his early morning boot camps over to Meridian Hill Park.

“My boss has told me, ‘I hardly ever see you here,’ ” Zamudio says, joking about his out-and-about exercise schedule. That’s because Zamudio is convinced the change of scenery can do a body good. “You’re not looking at mirrors. The next thing you realize is that class is over and you’ve burned 1,000 calories.”

John Murray, 45, of the District, is already a fan. “Being outdoors makes the class go by so quickly. The idea of being inside is so claustrophobic. And you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car or wearing a helmet.” Another plus for D.C. cyclists: no potholes.

You don’t have to be a Vida member to sign up for the gym’s outdoor cycling classes or other roof offerings. The classes are $25 ($20 for members), and the next session is Sunday at 12:30. See www.vidafitness.com for the summer schedule. For something different, you can train free until May 31 at the new Roam Fitness (www.roamfitnessdc.com) in Glover Park, a gym focused on getting clients out into the city as much as possible. Give it a try by tagging along for an OutRun — a group training run with breaks that focus on strength building exercises.

Take a working vacation

Noelle Corley, 39, has lots she wants to do when she’s in Virginia Beach this June — dash through fire, scale walls, crawl through mud. Taking part in a Tough Mudder might not be the typical vacation itinerary, but it’s how Corley, a Defense Department employee, prefers to unwind.

“Some people think I’m off my rocker, but it’s rewarding,” says Corley, a Manassas resident who leads two teams devoted to adventure races. When she’s not off at an event, she spends weekends taking obstacle race training at the Urban Evolution gym in Manassas, or hiking and beefing up her wilderness survival skills in nearby parks. (Coming Saturday: kayaking and mountain biking in Shenandoah.)

Corley retired from the armed forces with joint injuries, so it’s a point of pride that she’s able to participate in these sorts of events at all. Her obsession isn’t competing, but completing. And with help from teammates, she’s convinced that anything’s possible: “If you tell me I can’t do it, I’m going to find a way I can.”

Once she reaches the finish line of that Tough Mudder, she’ll still have some time to hang out with her husband and 9-year-old son on the beach.

Want to tag along with Corley? She’s always looking for a few good men and women to join her race teams. Find her groups, the A-Team and DC Dirty Dozen, on Facebook. Or just sign up for the same races. Over the next few months, Corley will be getting dirty at the Rebel Race in Monkton, Md. (June 22), paddling an inner tube at the James River Splash and Dash in Richmond (July 13) and undertaking team missions at the SERE Urban Challenge in Philadelphia (Aug. 10).

See the city by water

Nardi Hobler, 65, was sitting in a hair salon on Capitol Hill when she overheard a conversation about rowing. It was the spark she needed to sign up for a course with the Capital Rowing Club, based on the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington.

“Going to the gym is just such a bore,” Hobler said.

Hobler has been athletic all her life, as a runner, inline skater and tennis player. But the former Missouri resident said moving to the District prompted her to try something new.

“I just thought, ‘It’s time to do this,’ ” Hobler said. “It’s totally body — totally body and mind. It engages your mind, just like tennis. You have to be there.”

Robert Brady, 31, who coaches Learn to Row and intermediate novice courses for the Capital Rowing Club, said there are several reasons some people never think to try rowing.

“It’s different than basketball and soccer where you can just get a group and go play,” Brady said. To go rowing, “you need a coach. You need good weather conditions.”

Fundamentals are taught indoors on an erg machine, which also comes in handy in the colder months, Hobler said, before rowers move onto the water in the spring and summer.

“You cannot just get into a boat and learn to row,” she said.

Rowing in Washington, Brady said, provides a different perspective of the city.

“We’ve got Nationals Stadium and the Navy Yard,” Brady said. “And if we make it down even further, you can go down into the channel, near Georgetown. Some people want to see the city in a different way. I think they try it for that reason.”

You don’t have to be a member of the Capital Rowing Club to learn the sport, but “you cannot just get into a boat and learn to row,” says Nardi Hobler, a club member. The club offers Learn to Row courses through November, as well as competitive teams, junior teams and private lessons. A 10-session course, based at the Anacostia Community Boathouse, costs $300. Go to www.capitalrowing.org for dates and registration.

Get a grip

Weather permitting, David Giacomin of Silver Spring will be climbing one of the biggest and most technically difficult mountains in the contiguous 48 states on July 11. By moonlight.

Giacomin, 41,is chairman of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Mountaineering Section, and one of nine memberswho will tackle Washington’s Mount Rainier this summer. The peak is 14,410 feet above sea level.

Weather is volatile on the mountain, Giacomin said, and the sun opens some of the glaciers during daytime. Most of the group’s ascent will be done at night.

Giacomin began Alpine climbing 10 years ago and rock-climbing three years ago. When he is not scaling mountains, he climbs in the D.C. area, including at the Carderock recreation area along the C&O Canal.

“A lot of people who climb outdoors look at the gym as their strength training program, and then take that outside,” Giacomin said. “My objective is to not climb on plastic.” The beauty of nature, he said, and the chance to push himself mentally and physically are what drive him to outdoor climbing and mountaineering.

“Big Alpine climbing is all mental,” he said. “The body can go a lot farther than you think. . . . You’re using less holds on much steeper terrain, and the consequences of falling are much more.”

Potomac Appalachian Trail Club members and outdoor climbers often visit Maryland-based Earth Treks, an indoor climbing gym that has three locations in the state.

Climbing indoors helps them build movement and technique, said Earth Treks’ assistant climbing school director, William Dudley. And indoor gyms are good places to be when the winter weather isn’t ideal.

“When you come to a climbing gym, there are ropes already hanging there,” Dudley said. “When you go outside there are no ropes. And so to be able to climb outside you have to be a little more proficient.”

There’s plenty going on this summer at the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Mountaineering Section. Along with weekly outdoor climbs, members meet and train at Earth Treks climbing centers in Rockville, Columbia and Timonium. Non-members can participate in climbs and other activities, but membership ($15 for a year, $25 for families) is encouraged and provides access to members-only trips, workshops and seminars. Other prices vary. Check out the group’s climbing calendar at www.potomacmountainclub.org.

Escape the elements

Not everyone will be heading outdoors this summer. For Molly Crawford, 19, of Germantown, summer is a lot like winter — and spring, and fall. She’ll be at Cabin John Ice Rink in Rockville, teaching kids at a summer camp how to skate, then spending two to three hours a day practicing her own figure skating.

Crawford has devoted herself to skating since she was about 6, spending hours honing her routine and competing in local and regional contests. Her brother Bobby, 21, and sister Maddy, 13, do the same. So the rink is pretty much a second home for her family.

“I started so young, it was how my life always was,” she said. “I enjoy it. [But] there are definitely days when I wish I could have a day off and do some of the summer things.”

During the summer camps, Crawford does get outside with her students. And when the temperatures rise, the skating rink sees an influx of people trying to beat the heat. Some just come inside to cool off for a few minutes, with no intention of taking the ice.

“It’s cooler in here,” she said. “There aren’t any bugs.”

Crawford, who is home-schooled, is heading to Fordham University this fall, and she hopes to continue skating there. She also is eager to explore New York and add variety to her life.

“I think I’ve not quite realized I’ve missed the outdoor experience,” she said.

Cabin John Ice Rink is open to the public all summer. Go to www.montgomeryparks.org for schedules. Public skating costs $3.50-$6.50 depending on age and day of the week and skate rentals cost $3.25. In addition to the rink’s main Summer Fun Ice Skating Camp, it also offers camps devoted to ice hockey, tennis and skating, synchronized skating and “Theatre on Ice.” See the parks Web site for dates and prices.

@postmisfits on Twitter

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
Margaret Ely is a digital editor for Lifestyle. Previously, she was an intern for the Post’s Metro section.
Lenny Bernstein writes the To Your Health blog. He started as an editor on the Post’s National Desk in 2000 and has worked in Metro and Sports.
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