We’re halfway through January, and by now the anticipation of a new year would have started to wear off. Supposedly it is by this point that many people would have already quit their resolutions for the new year.
If you’re anything like me, the time off over Christmas gives the illusion that I have ample time to do everything that pops into my brain. Run an ultra? Sure. Write those five books I’ve been mulling over? Of course I can squeeze those in. And so on and so forth.
But mid-January hits, and with it the reality check I can only pack so much in one day. So to make new year resolutions more attainable, I’ve created 12 ‘outdoors goals’ that can easily be completed in a month and are centered around having fun. Each goal will also inadvertently help towards any common new year resolutions as well, i.e. get fit, give back to charity, etc.
Pick up trash you find on the trail
Few things are more annoying than enjoying a beautiful hike or paddle outdoors, only to come across rubbish someone has fly-tipped over a gorgeous stretch of the countryside (okay, maybe bear attacks or snake bites would top this…). Not only is it unsightly, but it can harm the animals that live in the area and the flora that grows there too.
There are numerous clean-up events throughout the UK that anyone can join, but even small actions, like picking up a discarded water bottle or food wrapper, can help without requiring too much time or effort from others.
This brings me to my next point…
Take your trash home with you when outdoors (even organic matter)
Discarded trash on the mountains, including organic matter, has been a long-term problem for national parks. Many hikers assume food items such as apple cores or banana peels will decompose over the course of a few days out in the mountains, but studies show a banana peel can take up to two years to decompose. Not only that, but they can also be poisonous to some animals.
Meanwhile with hundreds of people summiting Snowdon in a week, particularly during the ‘Three Peaks’ and peak summer season, some of the UK’s most popular mountains are dotted with the tell-tale ‘brown sludge’ markings of banana peels.
This year, commit to ‘leaving no trace’ and take the remnants of those healthy hiking snacks with you. I mean, no one wants to be the punchline in the old ‘banana peel slip’ joke, do they?
Drink more water
If you’re anything like me, this is both the easiest and most difficult goal. Obviously, having adequate water supplies while out hiking is important; it can affect your enjoyment of the outdoors, and your performance. Yet how often have you taken a hydration system or water bottles out with you, and returned at the end of the day with the bottles/system half-full (full disclosure, this is me most of the time)?
Aim to give yourself more regular breaks, and commit to drinking water whenever you stop. Those tell-tale signs of dehydration will fade, and you might find yourself capable of staying out a little longer.
Make getting outdoors part of your daily routine
Every January, countless studies and resolutions (including this one) are published, highlighting the benefits of exercise and getting outdoors. It’s been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, along with physical benefits such as decrease in weight and a healthier heart.
So while it’s no secret that exercise and outdoors is healthy for us, actually making the time to get outside can be trickier. If gyms are not your thing, and you can’t dedicate a whole day to hiking at weekends, why not try the #walk1000miles challenge?
By walking for one hour every day (roughly 3 miles a day) on your lunch break, from work, with the dog, etc., you will end up walking 1000 miles across the course of a year. Speaking of challenges…
Push yourself with a (fun) challenge
A physical challenge can be a good way to motivate yourself to stay fit and get outdoors. The challenge doesn’t have to be gruelling, but it needs to be fun, otherwise you won’t do it, or make it a habit in the future.
Training for Everest Base Camp, taking on a marathon for charity, or even pushing yourself to go wild swimming, any challenge is good as long as it pushes you outside of your comfort zone and leaves you with a smile at the end.
If you’re struggling for inspiration, I normally find discussing ‘bucket lists’ with friends a good start.
Invite a friend along for the outdoors fun
Any activity is improved with good company. Camping, running, climbing; having a friend along for any sport can add a small competitive element that encourages you to push yourself, and enjoy it at the same time.
Not only that, but sharing favourite outdoors spots between friends can help everyone discover new locations and sports, which just might become your favourite as well.
Borrow, or try before you buy
Buying new gear is quite possibly the next best thing to being outdoors. The anticipation of new adventures, imagining the different trips you and your friends will use it on, plus all the fun of researching the different options available beforehand… in short, it’s great.
But hands up, how many of us have outdoor gear collecting dust at home (I’ve got both hands and legs raised)? Or even, how often have you spent a fortune on a specific piece of gear, and only used it a couple of times?
If you are already feeling a little guilty about the splurge, think of the environmental impact it took to make that item. Now, think of how many friends or family members you know that are probably in the same situation as yourself.
While buying outdoor gear is undoubtedly exciting, it is being outdoors while using that item that makes it enjoyable. If you and your friends enjoy getting outside, there’s a good chance someone else already has the item you’re looking for and would potentially be happy to lend it to you. Next time you are tempted to buy a piece of kit, try borrowing it from a friend or family member instead. It will save you money, and help you determine if you need this particular piece of kit.
Alternatively, you big spenders can also give Arc’teryx’s Gear Library programme a try.
Plant something for bees
The plight of bees has been covered worldwide for a couple of years now. Habitat loss, climate change, pesticide use; all this and more has contributed to their overall decline.
Given we rely on bees to pollinate some of favourite foods, such as avocados, pears and wine (yes, you read that correctly, WINE), it seems only right to give them a little hand. The folk at RSPB have provided a handy guide for plants that feed bees for all seasons, and how to care for them. Perhaps 2019 will be the year you discover you have ‘green fingers’?
Try a new activity
Sometimes learning a new skill or sport is the perfect way to break out of routine. It can even help give you the confidence to make bigger changes in your life.
Trying a new activity or skill can be daunting though, particularly if you are doing it on your own. Luckily plenty of businesses cater for women more often, such as climbing centres offering female-focused classes or drop-in sessions. It is also worth checking meetup groups on social media. Many are happy for additional members, and organise trips or weekly classes for new members to meet and learn from one another.
Learning a new skill or activity can have a benefit on other parts of your life. For instance, learning yoga can help improve your flexibility for climbing or running.
Read a book about the outdoors
Staying inside and reading a book might sound like the opposite of an ‘outdoors goal’, right? There is some entertaining and informative literature out on those shelves in the world that can help improve your experience, or give you inspiration to venture to new places.
For instance, an author’s account of their hike across South America might give you inspiration for your next big trip, or even a coffee table book of beautiful landscape photography will help you find new places to explore in your own backyard.
Explore somewhere new
A new year is a time for new adventures. Break out that map and draft a list of places you’ve ever wanted to see or explore. Whether it is the year of backpacking around the world, or squeezing adventures into weekends, any adventures big or small are worthwhile if it leaves you excited, happy and wiser than before.
Learn about some of the natural history/heritage of your favourite outdoors area
Initially this outdoors goal might sound odd. How can reading history books improve my understanding of nature?
Humans have been shaping their landscape for thousands of years. We’ve been quarrying mountains, building lakes, constructing roads and more since before written records began. Time and nature has reclaimed some of these spaces and can make them difficult to detect, but knowing a few tell-tale signs can completely change your perspective of landscapes.
OS maps are good place to start, but if you want to delve deeper then I would recommend Hidden Histories by Mary-Ann Ochota, The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane, and Ancient Tracks by Des Hannigan and Simon McBride to start.
Have you got any outdoors goals for 2019? Share them below and inspire others!