Don’t depend on the summer sunshine to arrive before getting off the couch

Our so-called summer has been very disappointing, so far, but don’t let it put you off doing outdoor activities

Mary’s runners enjoy a Sunday running adventure in Lough Boora parklands, Offaly.

Mary’s runners enjoy a Sunday running adventure in Lough Boora parklands, Offaly.

 

We were spoilt last summer. By the end of June we already had six weeks of glorious sunshine, happy memories and warm evenings behind us. Everyone was in good form. As a nation we were active, positive and moving outside without really having to make a conscious effort. The outdoors drew us away from the office, the TV and the couch. Office workers longed for lunchtime escapes and the freedom of home time. Parks ands playgrounds were busy right until closing time and the smell of barbecues and suncream became the norm. Those were the days, my friends.

As I look out the window today the rain is pelting down and we are not far from the end of June. My summer wardrobe has yet to see daylight. Everyone I speak to is just so disappointed and tired of the early ‘summer’ weather. No one can predict if or when we will get guaranteed sunshine again and for that reason many of us are reluctant to make outdoor plans. But we cannot wait for the sunshine to arrive before we decide leave the couch this summer. Our bodies need to be outside and moving. Regardless of the weather, July and August will come and go. Don’t spend these next weeks waiting for the summer. We have such long days right now that it’s up to us to create our summer memories rather than wait for the perfect day to arrive.

If you were to plan your life by the weather forecast you would never leave the house. Expect that it might rain, but decide to go anyhow. As someone who teaches classes outdoors most days of the year, I can promise you that we are almost always pleasantly surprised by the weather. We might get an occasional shower, but nothing that a tree won’t shelter us from for a few minutes.

Mary’s family get out on their local paths.
Mary’s family get out on their local paths.

I’m lucky that my work takes me outdoors and into nature daily, but I do realise how hard it is for people to make time to get outside in a world that always has something on a list you we are supposed to be doing. But the evidence is constantly mounting up, time spent outdoors is good for us – mentally and physically. The more of our day we spend indoors, the more we need to get out. Although there are endless scientific studies on the benefit of nature, most of us already know our mood and energy and sleep quality are decidedly better after time spent outside.

A little different

Weekdays can all merge into a treadmill of work, housework and planning for the next day if we are not careful. A month can pass in a blur. But what if you decided this summer to try something a little different. Could you bring dinner to the park and just have a picnic? Could you arrange to meet a friend for a walk rather than a drink? Could you bring the children for an evening cycle or playground adventure and tire them out that way rather than have a battle over a TV remote or computer game. Choosing to take advantage of these long evenings, even if they or not roasting hot, really breaks up the monotony and routine of a typical working week.

It’s not just about the evenings. Consider your weekend too. There is so much on our doorstep both locally and within a hour or two from home. Last weekend, I look a group of runners on a Sunday getaway to the midlands. The stunning Lough Boora parklands in Offaly was our running destination and the weather forecast was decidedly average. We’d all packed a change of clothes expecting to get soaked. However, our whole time in the park was in glorious sunshine. You just cannot plan the weather. Escaping the city for the day, by 11am we felt we were on holiday. The silence, beauty and tranquillity of the stunning park was incredible.

Mary’s runners enjoy a Sunday running adventure in Lough Boora parklands, Offaly.
Mary’s runners enjoy a Sunday running adventure in Lough Boora parklands, Offaly.

You don’t need a group to take you away, you can create your own weekend adventure. You don’t even need to travel that far. But the one thing I would suggest to do is to plan in advance. It’s a lot harder to be spontaneous on a damp Sunday morning. A little more motivation is required. However, rain isn’t all bad. I spent last Saturday morning keeping up with a toddler as he searched out the biggest puddles to splash through on his bike. Children as not as obsessed with the weather as we are. In fact, they would choose puddles over the application of suncream any day.

I am hoping by the time this piece goes to print that this article will be obsolete and the sunshine and good moods will have broken though. But if not, I encourage you regardless to get outside. Wear an extra layer if you must, but commit to going out. Make a midweek evening plan. Plan a weekend day getaway. It’s always better once you are up and out. Start today with just drinking a cuppa outdoors.

Even those few minutes in nature will tempt you to explore a little more.

- Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary’s new book Get Running, published by Gill Books, is out now

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
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- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
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Best of luck!

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