How does one learn to be more outdoorsy?
June 20, 2022 4:17 AM   Subscribe

How can I learn to be more outdoorsy, as a fat person? I have a few upcoming commitments this summer which will require spending the majority of the day outdoors doing outdoorsy things. I want to dread this less.

I have a few upcoming commitments visiting extended family which is going to be involve being outdoors because they LOVE being outdoors. Within my extended family, there is a sort of accepted narrative of nature being good and wholesome while preferring to be indoors (like I do) is a sort of moral failing. They are always urging me to participate in nature-y stuff, which I am very bad at, and it just sucks.

I am a city mouse. I have no easy access to natural spaces. Whenever I go outside of the city, I feel out of my depth. This is exacerbated by the fact that I am overweight and not in the best condition generally (though it could be, and has been worse).

I find uneven terrain, hills, stepped paths etc difficult, unpleasant and scary. If the weather is warm, that adds an extra level of badness as I don't do well in the heat, I start dripping with sweat and go bright red. I also have a strong and unpleasant visceral, physiological response to heat and sunshine. I do MUCH better in the cold weather, even if outdoors, it's weird but I actually feel stronger and more energetic when the weather is cold. But sadly, that's months away.

Re: my commitments this summer, I intend to draw boundaries as well as I can over what I will/will not do, but I don't want to say no to everything and I can't control things the whole of the time as I am the one visiting them. Also, I don't want to be like this! I want to be confident in all spaces not just my safe space.

I know that practice is the one way to get better at managing uneven terrain etc but I don't have access to spaces like this on the regular. I also am accommodating all the exercise into my life at the moment that I can - aiming for 10k steps a day, but averaging about 8k if I'm honest. I am actually ok with my body, it serves me well in the context of my everyday life.

How can I just like being outdoors better? Not asking for advice on how to become a super fit hiking champion, just to feel happy and confident being outdoors away from all my creature comforts and everything that makes me feel safe.
posted by unicorn chaser to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (45 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of the best things I've done as a PALE person is to invest in good tools for being outdoors. You're going to sweat, everyone will be sweating. I have a few things that make a difference for me. (Some assumptions here about gender but these sorts of things exist in incarnations suitable for anyone.)

1. A good hat. I love a good sunhat and it makes a giant difference when you're outside. If you google "hiking hat" you'll find all kinds of nice options with a wide brim, which is what you want. I especially like Coolibar hats but there are all sorts of options at all pricepoints.

2. Excellent Sunblock. Again, as a Pale, I invest in good sunblock and Blue Lizard has yet to let me down.

3. Neck Cooling Wraps are actually purported to work to help regulate your body temperature and sweating.

4. Good bug spray for the area you're going to be in. I'm not an expert on the subject so I won't suggest, but you'll want something.

5. Some kind of wicking undershorts to help keep your thighs from chafing.

6. A bag to carry that doesn't annoy you. I have a Kavu bag that goes diagonally across my back because I find it less annoying than a traditional backpack.

7. Make sure you stay hydrated. A water bottle that you can wear on a strap, or even just a carabiner clip thing that holds a regular plastic bottle might be more pleasant than having the weight in your backpack or in your hands.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:34 AM on June 20 [20 favorites]


Do you have the right clothes for these activities? Maybe if you had a few items that are comfortable and suitable for the heat, you would enjoy these activities more. I know you don't do them often, but a hat with a large brim, airy tops and hiking shorts, and proper shoes for the terrain would go a long way. Dress for success, ya know? Might be worth the investment.
posted by XtineHutch at 4:37 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


Plus 1 on the neck cooling wraps.
posted by XtineHutch at 4:38 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Is there anything that can be found in the outdoors and that you might find interesting to look at? Birds, plants, insects, rocks, geological structures?
You might even be able to cultivate an interest in such an area by reading about it. Then you could be on the lookout for the things that you've read about. Maybe there is something that you would like to take pictures of?
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:39 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


For the heat - make sure you bring ice water, even ice packs! I have also found cooling towels handy (they are made of some kind of synthetic material that encourages water to evaporate super-quickly, so you get them a bit damp them hang them over your shoulders or head and it feels really nice). (On preview: see? We all agree they're great!)

But yeah, practice is what's going to get you more comfortable, psychologically (and fitness-wise). I'm not sure where you are exactly but there is uneven terrain in almost any environment - not just natural environments! A cobbled street is uneven terrain; the non-path parts of a park are uneven terrain; a broken section of sidewalk is uneven terrain; a playground is (usually) uneven terrain. Likewise the skills and muscles for hills and stairs are almost the same - if there are stairs you can climb (indoors or outdoors), that's good practice. Shift just a small portion of your 8,000 steps to stairs and/or rougher terrain - you could start by seeking out the uneven patches on your walks rather than going around them.

And if you can make it a priority to go out to a more-natural place (I'm talking, like, a public-transit-accessible park, not Mont Blanc) once a week or even once a month I think that will help to get you more comfortable.

I grew up in a very outdoorsy family, was mostly anti-outdoorsy in my teens and twenties, got very outdoorsy in my 30s, and am now moderately outdoorsy in my 40s (my home is a 10 minute walk to the subway and a 5 minute walk to some nice woods, which suits me excellently). I know that shame and frustration of not being able to keep up and feeling judged, and it sucks. Try not to think about these outings as a test of your outdoorsiness but rather a chance to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone (which you say you want to do).
posted by mskyle at 4:41 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


Something that can give you a lot more confidence on uneven terrain is a pair of trekking poles. These are very popular with hikers of all experience levels. I have hiked and backpacked thousands of miles and feel far more comfortable on a trail with my trekking poles.
posted by rockindata at 4:51 AM on June 20 [29 favorites]


If the weather is warm, that adds an extra level of badness as I don't do well in the heat, I start dripping with sweat and go bright red.
ME TOO. Isn't it horrible? Apart from the answers already suggested, if you think you'll be actually in the sun and will have a hand free, a good sunblocking parasol can give you some portable shade. Otherwise, remind your family that overheating and dehydration are actively dangerous and they need to allow you rest stops even if they're fine.

Might a walking pole help you feel your footing is less shaky on uneven ground? You probably won't want to buy one but maybe a friend has a pair you can borrow?

Whenever I go outside of the city, I feel out of my depth.
Would a bit of prep help at all? Maybe see if you can find videos of people walking in similar terrain and see what they go past? Borrow a book from the library on the area's plants or wildlife or geology? Going from "completely unfamiliar" to "maybe I'll see an x" can be useful in feeling more comfortable.
Hah, also, you can get plant identification and birdsong apps for your phone. Stopping to "take a photo of this cool wildflower" or "Hey, is that a vireo singing? Wait a moment, can you see it?" can give you breathers :-)
posted by Shark Hat at 4:57 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


If you're not used to uneven terrain there is a good chance you don't have footwear suitable for uneven terrain. Walking/hiking shoes or sandals are a thing for a reason. And there are plenty of options for hot weather.

If you're looking at sandals make sure that the straps are adjustable in places where you need them to be adjustable. I am overweight and have slightly pudgy and wide feet and some walking sandals don't work for me because I can't make adjustments around the widest parts of my feet.

The good thing about this kind of footwear is that the soles have more grip than trainers and are much better suited for uneven terrain/slight inclines etc. And if you pick wisely, they are incredibly comfortable even if your feet swell a bit or whatever. Toe protection is nice to save you from stubbing your toes but having said that, my current pair of walking sandals has no toe protection but the sole goes less than a 1/4 inch beyond my toes and they are fine for my purposes.

Be sure to also wear SPF on any part of your feet exposed to the sun.

Sunglasses are always good.

If you are a person who normally wears make-up, strongly suggest you don't because at least in my case, make up just melts off my face in about 15 mins.

If you have long hair consider ways of wearing it that accommodate your hat and get it off your neck.

This may feel counter intuitive but especially on a hot day and when sweating a lot a very light and loose long sleeved shirt may be preferable to something sleeveless because it protects your neck and shoulders from bag straps and sun.

If you can find a way of including a few flights of stairs into your current day to day walking routine that will be tremendously helpful to get your legs used to steps a bit more.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:57 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


I read in Bust Magazine about a community called Fat Girls Hiking.

The founder wrote a book: Fat Girls Hiking: An Inclusive Guide to Getting Outdoors at Any Size Or Ability
posted by girlmightlive at 4:58 AM on June 20 [14 favorites]


Practice will also help you with heat acclimation.
posted by coldhotel at 4:58 AM on June 20


Another thing that you can do to make spending time outdoors more pleasant is to invest in some bug-repellent clothing. It is kind of magical to not have to deal with bugs and to not have to layer on the Bug spray.
posted by rockindata at 4:58 AM on June 20


Hiking boots with sufficient ankle support will also help with uneven terrain. And a balance board or wobble board will help build the muscles important for maintaining stability and feeling safe on uneven terrain.

Of course, if you are in more outdoorsy situations rarely, it may be hard to justify spending money on the clothing and equipment that will make that more comfortable or at least less unpleasant for you. It’s somewhat of a chicken and egg problem. One strategy might be to find something that could be a compromise between your preferred level and that of the rest of your family, and proactively plan that into the family schedule? Then for the stuff you least enjoy, you’ll perhaps be better able to decline, since you’ll have done something already. You can then target your equipment or clothing purchases to that specific activity.

A balance or wobble board might be a good thing to get and incorporate into your current exercise (eg. replacing some of what you currently do, since you note that you don’t have time to add more exercise). This will help you build relevant muscle strength for preventing falls in old age, so isn’t just a make-your-family-happy purchase. Stairs will also help, though less so for the lateral strength that will help you avoid twisted ankles or certain sideways falls. But also, if you have a regular doctor, or access to a physiotherapist, it’s always good to check with them before taking fitness advice from a stranger on the internet,, so you don’t damage your knees or something from starting off doing too much!
posted by eviemath at 5:06 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


(Proper gear and footwear covered above so I’ll offer a different angle) One thing that has helped me in uncomfortable, scary, unfamiliar situations is to let the other people or person I’m with know that I’m nervous or scared. And I ask for help when I’m unsure. I’ve gotten myself “rim-rocked” in the dumbest of places and have become an expert in just speaking up and asking for help Instead of suffering in silence. I’m hoping that the people you will be with will be honored to help you and offer their expertise/experience. Also, just because they may be more outdoorsy than you doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy taking it easier, going slow, finding a simpler path, or stopping a lot to admire the views. Also, taking a camera along with you (phone or otherwise) and wanting to take lots of pics is a nice way to take breaks, rest your ankles, etc.
posted by Sassyfras at 5:13 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


"Too scared to let you know; you knew what you were looking for
I lied until I fit the bill, god bless the great indoors
I lied about being the outdoor type
I've never owned a sleeping bag, never rode a mountain bike"
- The Outdoor Type - Lemonheads

As well as maybe being an anthem for you- the song care serve as a lesson: Don't try to mislead your outdoorsy extended family into believing you are going to be loving doing all those activities you are privately dreading. Tell them up-front about your preferences - before you get roped into long hikes or other stuff you are confident you won't enjoy; it is far better to say "no" up-front. Instead, extend your brainstorming session to include them: what kind of outdoor activities could they suggest that might work for you? Not everything need be physically arduous, involve walking for miles or need take place in the heat of the day.
posted by rongorongo at 5:41 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


if you also have fat thighs like me. the risk (and threat) of chafing is real, especially if you're the sort to sweat. I don't know what's the appropriate products to get where you are but your prime objective should also include reducing sweatiness across your skin folds. Body talcum powder, undershirts, summer tights (in addition to outdoor-appropriate trousers). Mobile fans are also pretty great these days - like the ones you hang from your neck. Consider only a small backpack or waist bag for the hiking excursions - i find the more i have to carry, the more miserable I become, especially as I'm trying to balance my weight across uneven terrain especially going downslope. If you have fairly flexible gait, sometimes firmer shoes might help as counterbalance (while others especially with strong legs prefer shoes that are just as flexible) - it's the ability to walk across the uneven ground that can be a challenge that seems worse the more tired you become.
posted by cendawanita at 5:43 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


The first thing to remember is that humans built the indoors for a reason. Millions upon millions of our ancestors found the outdoors inhospitable and built entire civilizations around flat areas to walk and shady buildings to keep the weather off. Do not feel even a twinge of guilt or low self-esteem for feeling that the great outdoors are a tad overblown.

Keeping that context in mind I think you’re on the right track with physical fitness. One thing I would definitely do is add elevation gain and loss to your 8k/10k steps, and at least a few flights of stairs as well.

Speaking as a fat guy I wish I had learned to use hiking poles correctly much much sooner. All that uneven terrain is a lot less of a problem when you’ve got four limbs. Get someone to show you how to wear the straps: all of your weight should be on the heel of your hand, with your fingers largely along for the ride.

If you’re going to do a lot of hiking then invest in good hiking boots and wear them in on your walks. They’re awkward on pavement but the difference is day and night after a long hike on uneven ground.

Psychologically I would find something specific you enjoy about being out there. Clean air does it for me. When the insects are biting, the weather is not cooperating, and we’ve just discovered that the trail map conflates meters and feet I can always say “Well, at least I’m breathing clean air.”
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:44 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


Great suggestions and I have one more. I live in the Green Mountains of Vermont, and I do a lot of walking and hiking and kayaking and all that outdoor shit, but I was raised a city kid and it took me years to really learn to love being outside.

Here are the special things that work for me:
First, being outdoors and getting on a sweat and moving my legs until they hurt is awesome because I create rewards for finishing. Maple creemee? Blueberry cobbler? Veggie burgers with cheese? Being outside creates a certain type of appetite and I love knowing when I'm back inside and showered, I am going to eat something really delicious.

Second, I've learned over the years that I am not a fan of any outdoor activity where I'm bushwhacking or in dense forests. I need to see at least 50 feet ahead of me to be happy, so I tailor outdoor activities that fit the criteria. No dense mountains but lots of fields and open hikes.

Third and most importantly, being outside provides the most amazing opportunity to just be present and practice mindfulness. Out in nature, I can completely quiet my mind and listen to the river, to the birds, to my footsteps. I hear woodpeckers, trees cracking, wind blowing, and all of a sudden I find I've been walking for an hour. There's a special inherent chance to just let go and be when you're outdoors. When you find it, all of a sudden you will likely look forward to being outside and you really won't notice your thighs chafing and your feet hurting and the sweat and the bugs.

Give yourself reasons to look forward to being outdoors.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:45 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


Nthing neck wraps and good shoes/boots - break them in!

If you use a gym, look for a balance board as stated above or a Bosu where you can walk/run on the squishy spherical part. One reason you get tired or feel unstable on uneven ground is the small muscles in your ankles are working overtime. Even a week or two helps. As stated above, looking for uneven city ground is great - think like a kid and take a few steps on the parking barriers, balance on the edge of a sidewalk, etc. Barefoot on sand is also great.

In case it needs to be said- it’s lovely you are thinking this way. But not loving the outdoors is just fine - no moral failure!
posted by warriorqueen at 6:18 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


These are all fabulous suggestions, but as a starting baby suggestion - can you just spend more time outdoors, not hiking or kayaking or whatever, but just being outside? I know you said you don't have access to outdoor recreational spaces in the city, but sit outside with your coffee, go to that outdoor concert, sit on a friend's stoop, sit on a friend's tiny outdoor patio, say "yes!" when the hostess asks if you're okay with outdoor dining. There's lots of ways of being outside and it doesn't all have to be "natural" spaces. Look for pocket parks though, too.
posted by joycehealy at 6:29 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


Get a good, lightweight camera. For me, this is the camera in my Pixel phone. Maybe for you it’s a macro lens attachment on your phone or a little single purpose digital camera, an old school disposable film camera, or even a dslr if you’re into that sort of thing. Camera stores almost always have some really great refurbished options for reasonable prices. Anyway, if you have a camera you’ve got automatic structure, goals, breaks, and ritual built into outdoor activities.

Structure: you are not doing the outdoor thing your family is doing, you are accompanying them to document family time, or to take pictures of mushrooms, or landscapes, or outdoor cats, or whatever. This helps me to not always think about how much nicer being at home would be. Also, getting my camera stuff together helps me get my outdoor stuff together so I forget less things. Like in my head, I connect putting together a little shade and light bounce kit with also slathering on sunscreen. (My “kit” is just some white and black paperboard squares, and a little flexible tripod thingy).

Goals: I like to tell people that I want to take pictures of certain things (my preference is cool textures and colors, maybe you want to identify some plants or get action shots of your family) and then they point them out to me. This helps de-emphasize encouragement to go “just over that hill” or prodding to “come be on my team!” And when I’ve accomplished my stated goal I can be like “gg everyone see you all back at the farmhouse.”

Breaks: this is a huge one! Taking a picture can involve lots of squatting and weird positions but it can also be a way for you to stop, look at something, sit down, stretch out, take deep breaths. If you’re out of breath or your hands are unsteady you notice much more quickly when you’re trying to take pictures so it also encourages you to hydrate and get your breath back instead of pushing through. If you’re doing something like bird watching and trying to get some pictures, that involves a huge amount of quietly chilling. If you’re doing plant or rock identification, setting up your specimens for a good picture is a calm stationary activity, too.

Ritual: in addition to the thing before where I remember to put on sunscreen when I get together my picture taking supplies, there’s also stuff afterwards that helps with healthy cooldown. Once you get back you can choose to unwind by uploading pictures and going through them to delete the chafe. You can send the good ones to your family or put them on Facebook or wherever. This all involves sitting, as well as gives you a reason to not be immediately helping with dinner or chores or whatever. I find it helps me work through a lot of unprocessed sensory stuff too, because I have SPD problems and outdoor activities can tip me towards overload.

Anyway yeah. Photography! An assistive activity!

Also definitely nthing really good shoes. The difference they make is invaluable.
posted by Mizu at 6:30 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


A small physical thing you can work on that can make a huge difference is gently strengthening your feet, ankles and calves. It makes so much difference to physical confidence when walking on uneven ground, and you can do it at home.

Building on eviemath's suggestion of a balance board, there are some other exercises that you could try that don't require equipment.

First up, you can try just standing on one leg, barefoot, for as long as you can manage, then the other leg. If you wobble so much it's impossible, stand by a chair or table and just let your hand steady you when needed. Fixing your eyes on a certain point on the wall helps. Time it and try and beat your previous time. Actually staying balanced isn't the only metric for success - just the wobbling that you'll do while attempting it will strengthen your muscles. If you get really good, you can try it with your eyes closed!

Another useful one is heel raises. Stand barefoot, feet slightly apart and parallel, and slowly raise up onto your toes. You can rest your hands gently on a table or chair for balance if that helps, but don't use it to push up. Then slowly lower down again, nice and controlled. You'll probably feel it in your feet and calves, which is great - exactly what you're after. Again, count how many you can do and try and gradually increase the number over time. Once you're pretty good at those, you can try them standing on one leg - drop the number right down again and build up. If you get good at that, you can try them standing on a step, so that your heel goes a touch down below the level of your toes and up again.

They're all pretty small exercises but can quite quickly make a big difference to your strength, balance, and proprioception, which really helps give you confidence on uneven ground.
posted by penguin pie at 6:43 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


I am overweight, get red and sweaty without moving when the weather is warm. I dislike hiking a lot, to point of stress and fear.
Also, i sometimes visit relatives that love hiking etc.
The last few times, what really improved my outdoor experience with the relatives, was to find someone in the group who actually loathes the proposed hike as much as i do. In the group of relatives that i spend time with, the outdoor lovers are very outspoken and make moral judgement statements about those who don't enjoy outdoors. Because my health last year was bad i actually spoke up and pushed against the judgement. To my surprise this caused two others whom i never would have suspected of disliking the family hiking to chime in, and also say that they prefer not to go, that it was to hot, etc. and together we stayed in a lovely shady place at the start of the trail, to wait for the hikers return. One actually came back early to join us in the shade.
What i am trying to say i guess is perhaps if you are able to share your own discomfort and dislike, someone will feel safe enough to join you?
I did not believe anyone would but was pleasantly surprised and no longer feel isolated.
posted by 15L06 at 6:53 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


I consider myself fairly outdoorsy, but I recoil from the notion of "outdoor activities". I much prefer outdoor inactivity. Most of the best outdoor activities don't involve much actual activity. Nearly all of my favorite hikes have some sort of resting place less than 15 minutes into the hike - a fallen tree trunk, a rock outcropping, etc. Especially now that I have kids and they're often unable to hike much longer than that, it's fun to just hike to the rest spot and just sit there. Likewise, the best part of kayaking is when you lift your paddle out of the water and just float for a bit. I promise you, nature is a lot more fun when you have the time to enjoy it, rather than hurrying to the next "activity".

I appreciate that a lot of the answers so far are "buy specialized gear" and "do specialized exercises", but I think that's kind of missing the point. You don't need any particular gear or any particular physical fitness to just be outdoors. It's helpful if you want to actually go hiking regularly, but it sounds like that's not really what you're after. There's a modern cult of gear (better living through science), but like, cavemen didn't have balance boards or Keen sandals. The human body is pretty adaptable, especially when we're only doing mild physical activity. If you're going on an off-trail hike with 10,000 feet of elevation gain, the problem isn't that you're not "outdoorsy" enough; it's that whoever is planning this activity is not taking various skill levels into account. Here's something fun you could try: Take a couple of classes to learn to fly a plane, then offer to take the activity planner up for a flight. In the middle of the flight, stand up and leave the cockpit, and ask the person planning these outdoor activities to take the controls. Maybe then they'll be a little more conscientious about planning expert-level activities for beginners. Or the plane will crash, shit happens. Maybe the crash investigation will chalk it up to moral failure on their part. Point being, if they're planning activities that don't take your skill level into account, the moral failure is not yours.

The sweat and redness thing is social anxiety. Nobody cares if you're sweaty or red. Everybody else is some degree of sweaty or red too. That's anxiety looking for excuses to tell you not to do something. Look for excuses and you'll usually find them. If your family is giving you shit about sweat, again, that's a different question, and no amount of hiking boots or balance exercises will answer it.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:05 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


To the end of learning to appreciate and enjoy being outdoors, I highly recommend learning about forest bathing! Basically it's a sort of walking mindfulness meditation built on the idea of playfully noticing the nature around you, and then talking about what you noticed as a group. it's very fun and really added to my own appreciation of nature.

this is the very best book on the subject wirh actual meditation prompts (which are called invitations in forest bathing).
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:08 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


This may feel counter intuitive but especially on a hot day and when sweating a lot a very light and loose long sleeved shirt may be preferable to something sleeveless because it protects your neck and shoulders from bag straps and sun.

This is a thing that totally depends on your body and physiology and your comfort level, but I also prefer to stay covered up when I am out in the intense sun. Long shirt, long pants, brimmed hat. Obviously, most people find it more comfortable to strip off in the heat -- shorts, tank top or just a sports bra, etc. -- and if that is what you find comfortable, then definitely go with that.

The real point I am trying to make is that if you are going to do these things, make sure you are as physically comfortable as possible in terms of clothing, including fit, material, coverage and how much skin you are showing, and so on. By no means does it need to be specialized (and usually expensive) hiking-specific clothing, either.

Personally I tend to dislike large group hikes because it always splits awkwardly between the people who want to bound ahead and the people who need extra time, either because they need rest breaks or they like to stop and watch birds, and it ends up feeling awkward. I'm a lot happier alone or with one or two people where you can settle on an appropriate pace and more easily make sure everyone is doing well.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:23 AM on June 20


A couple of strategies to help tolerate the heat:

If I go from desert Los Angeles to jungle forest Kentucky, I will feel it in every part of my body, and I understandably need a few days to acclimate for that and don't plan anything really strenuous until my body has had a chance to adjust.

It takes my body a few days to acclimate to heat, so I allow for the fact that I may feel lethargic, and rest more between 11-2pm. Lots of cultures build the mid day rest into their culture. I try to get any serious activity done really early in the morning, then kick back on the floor where it's cool with a good book, a cool drink and a fan for a nap. Second half of the day is another window of useful time until the sun sets. So, you could try for a short hike, a rest/nap/shower, and another physical activity. In fact, most doctors send out recommendations to the general public that they plan their activities to allow for the heat. Don't feel like you have to prove your physical fitness or keep up with the "tigers" in your group.

I take showers more often in the summer heat. Often a cool shower at 2pm will really boost your energy, rinse the dust off your heavenly body, and set you up for a nice second half of the day.

Try to incorporate a swimming pool into your activity. Swimming is a great mix of physical activity and temperature regulation for the body in hot weather.

I hope you have a really enjoyable trip.
posted by effluvia at 7:47 AM on June 20


I explicitly give you permission to not like the outdoors. people like different things.

but if you are going, it's best to give yourself some advantages. items from above i enthusiastically concur with:
1) stairs, up/down hilly bits, cobblestones, uneven surfaces, walking shoes.
2) lots of breaks, lots of water, bug spray, sunscreen.
3) trekking poles are brilliant. there's some reasonably priced ones. they do take a little bit of practice. and they are great in cityscapes, too. you'll need extra tips for streets/indoor stairs. contact the retailer to guarantee the tips & poles fit together.

also
a) i am on the low end of "fit".
b) i have a trick knee.
c) so i tell my people, "I'll go, but I'm slow and won't speed up to accomodate the group. I can't." I'm not shy or ashamed of it. it's a practical fact.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:55 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Electrolyte products are magic for increasing heat toleration. When I started using them before and after activities in hot weather, it was transformative. Look at any outdoors store and you'll find a whole range of products available, from pills/chews to flavored tablets you add to your water.

Also, get a metal insulated water bottle so that you can bring ice-cold water along.
posted by veery at 8:08 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Liking the outdoors in this case, is also about navigating group outings with less dread, and more comfort - physical, environmental and social. And IMO that means having the correct supplies. I know that can be expensive, even on the cheap, but it does make everything easier.

My kid participates in some outdoorsy stuff, which required me to rethink my outdoors approach. Daylong+ outings are less about rugged individualism and more enjoyment (projecting comfort) with others.

In addition to the very good clothing and gear advice above, I'd suggest looking at lightweight backpacking supplies, like a daypack, camp chair or blanket, small sunshade or something- along with a hand-craft of some sort.

That way, instead leaning sweatily against a tree, fanning your red face with your hands, and telling people to go on - you can set up camp, with some degree of comfort to craft while watching the outdoor activities nearby.

For me the few extra pounds of gear is worth the (appearance) of comfort in the group. It won't make the trek much worse - just don't over do it.
posted by bindr at 8:11 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Suggest saying you'll join them for X number of outdoorsy outings for the duration of the trip, and that you want those trips to be on"easy mode" - frequent pauses, more admiring the scenery rather than racing to the top, maybe even snack breaks.

I have literally told friends, "When you take me on medium to difficult hikes, no one is having any fun. I am either holding everyone back because I need frequent breaks and I can feel you all are getting antsy to move on, OR I try to grin-and-bear-it, just keep going, but I just feel like I'm dying, and I can't chat because I'm just trying not to pass out." They usually go, "No, it's totally fine, we'll stop as many times as you like!" But I insist on only doing the easy hikes/walks.
posted by tinydancer at 8:30 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


Speaking from experience: Know the signs of heat cramps, before they become heat exhaustion. Do not try to power through them. Stop, make at least one person stop with you, cool down (several good suggestions above), go slowly and carefully the shortest way that will get you back to civilization.

Am I saying it's inevitable? Nah, not at all. But I've had it happen a time or two.
posted by humbug at 9:46 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Having taken my kid to uncountably many Scout events, I can tell you there's nothing natural about getting out in nature. It takes a ton of acclimation, skill, and gear to get a person (regardless of their size) to the point where they can spend extended time outdoors and enjoy it.

But I am obese (35 BMI) and will be going on a three-day backpacking trip in the mountains this weekend. My guess is I'm going to enjoy the hell out of it. So, how did I get here? Getting started is honestly the hardest part. There's a lot of sedentary people and a lot of active people, and not much in between. Finding a group of moderately active people would be ideal. Maybe birders, geocaching, or historical tours? Walking in the city is a great way to be outdoors. Set yourself some goals, like walking to a favorite restaurant or park, or walking around the whole neighborhood. Give yourself plenty of treats when you do. Celebrate your accomplishments! (This is where a group is also very helpful.) There are so many activities, some people like swimming, others like walking, etc.

Gear is very important but the basics are not expensive. You can get wicking clothes and light sun-hats at Wal-Mart for very little money. Look for "Sport-Tek", "Dri-Fit", or similar brands. They don't feel as nice as good cotton tees when cool and dry, but it makes things much more enjoyable. A pair of carbon fiber trekking poles with cork handles from Costco is $36, and they perform like ones 3x the price. Wal-Mart also has lightweight hydration bladders, $5 per liter. You want light shoes with very stiff outer soles, the insole can be soft. Make sure you have plenty of room, even when walking downhill. Many people go up a full size in hiking shoes. I like Altra Peaks which are very breathable (avoid Gore-Tex, it's a scam) but Hokas, Solomon, and Merrel are good brands. Don't underestimate your shoes, if your feet are in bad shape, nothing is going to fix that. Get some Leukotape-P for blisters and rough spots on your toes. Long distance hikers can talk for hours about foot maintenance.

Skills are harder. You can read/watch a lot online. I hate to recommend Reddit but they seem to have the most active forums. Managing your core temperature is very important. Again, if your core isn't happy, ain't nothing going to be happy. I would push back a bit on some of the comments here, you don't want to have cold towels and drinks. The human vascular system simply cannot go from cold to hot instantly. Much better to have cool or room temperature to relieve the heat. Take a Red Cross CPR/first aid class (accept no imitations) and know the signs of hypo- and hyperthermia. Don't get back from your hike and crank the AC down to 50F / 10C, that's going to give you a headache and won't condition your body. Pre-hydration is extremely important. Your body can't absorb more than about 1L of water an hour at the most. If you wait until you're thirsty you can't catch up right away. (The eight glasses of water thing is mostly wrong but if you know you'll be sweating it does apply.)

As far as conditioning, I always say that you can only do what you can do. It's dangerous, and almost as important, no fun to go out on a grueling activity and then collapse at home. Pushing yourself a little bit at a time is ideal. Have a look at Alltrails, you can search for walks and hikes by location, length, and difficulty.
posted by wnissen at 10:25 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


Learning to speak up was life-changing for me. Who knew I was actually entitled to speak up when I was miserable? Your companions don’t want you to be miserable! And some may be powering through their own misery and would be grateful if you said:

“Hey, can we find some shade? The sun is killing me!”

“I’m overheating a little bit, gonna take a breather.”

“Please go on ahead of me, I’m not used to steep inclines so I’m gonna go at my own pace for a while.”

“Can we find a less challenging route? I’m not up to this.”

Etc.
posted by kapers at 11:30 AM on June 20 [8 favorites]


Get yourself a small, packable hammock for your breaks. Hammocks famously chill you down, use this to your advantage. It's also much nicer than getting up and down off the ground. My other suggestion is to literally practice spending time outdoors. Go to your local park and just plan to spend the entire day outdoors, bring a book or whatever. Just the expectation that you aren't going back indoors until seven or whatever is good training. You can even bring your hammock to practice.
posted by Iteki at 11:32 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


After being an indoor cat most of my life, I am learning to enjoy the outdoors more. Agree with the comments about having the right gear to keep cool, hydrated, and comfortable.

It’s also helpful if you can give yourself permission to be uncomfortable, to know you need to gain experience in new environments before you will really enjoy, and to ask your companions to be supportive as you’re trying this new thing. It’s hard when it feels like everybody knows how to hike or camp or kayak, duh, but people who really enjoy nature should be happy to help you discover it.

Blair Braverman’s columns for Outside Magazine offer great thinking about being outside just as and where you are; here’s one on finding nature in the city that might be helpful.
posted by tinymojo at 11:55 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


For clothes, you might want to search for "hiking pants" specifically - they're super lightweight, quick drying, and comfortable to move in. These were a game changer for me with hiking in the heat; I used to wear regular leggings and they'd be so sweaty, or shorts and get irritation where my thighs rub together. REI sells them, Columbia and Mountain Hardwear are the brands of my two favorite pairs, but they're all pretty similar. You may have to order online for a wider range of sizes, but REI has an awesome return policy.

Also, not sure if this was mentioned or if it will even apply to you with your specific activities, but I hate peeing outdoors, so I bought a pee funnel (P-Style is the brand) and a Kula Cloth which snaps onto my backpack. I still try to avoid it if I don't absolutely have to go, but it goes a long way for peace of mind if the situation becomes dire.
posted by carlypennylane at 12:53 PM on June 20


Couple more suggestions:

If this is a multi-day thing, with camping involved, you could be the person who sets up the camp or gets the meal prep started or whatever. So you have a good reason to turn back earlier than the rest because you are camp chef!

Totally agree with others who suggested to shift AWAY from making the summit the end goal. I famously tell people that I have never seen a summit that was worth the effort :) So I will take a hike or nature walk, but not to summit, or to measure my time/cardio/steps, etc. I want to see weirdly shaped tree trunks. Slimy slugs. Mushrooms, ferns, etc. Wildflowers and fat bees working really hard. I pause and say hello to all the doggos. Yes I use these as good reasons to stop and admire and take photos.
posted by tinydancer at 1:15 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


The Girl Scouts have an outdoor progression that works just as well for adults. As far as the sharing and talking parts: do you have a friend you could do this with? It could be an on-line friend, someone who's also interested in learning the basics and beyond.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:31 PM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Could you practice being out of your element generally? Like go somewhere new on a hot day, another town where you don’t know places to rest, get yourself around on foot, don’t take your usual bag, wear shorts if you usually don’t? This won’t acclimate you to the exact activities, but you’ll gain confidence from navigating unfamiliar situations.
posted by kapers at 1:43 PM on June 20


Outdoors should be for everyone! Would you be up for practicing spending some time in the park doing the things you already like? Playing phone games, chatting on the phone, knitting, whatever, but in a nice shady park? BYO comfy camping chair (REI has some that are really good and supportive and fat-friendly, but they are more expensive), just to see what you enjoy doing when you're outside?
posted by latkes at 1:57 PM on June 20


Download Seek or another field guide app. Point it at everything remotely interesting. This has several benefits -- you will learn interesting things and enjoy the outdoors more. It will slow down the hike and turn it into more of a mindfulness experience, less of a Marlboro man contest. Other people may also learn something and appreciate that with you.
posted by shadygrove at 2:07 PM on June 20 [2 favorites]


I enjoy spending time in the outdoors but also go bright red when I get too warm and overheat. It's very easy for this to happen on warm (not even hot) days, especially early in the warm months when I'm not yet acclimated.

You might find you could handle the warmer weather outside better if you kept your home a bit warmer before then. You could also spend time outside, but I know you don't want to do that.

Did you know that your face going bright red during exercise is connected to rosacea? I haven't been diagnosed with it, but I think it's likely coming. My face goes red pretty easily from a range of things, not just warmth, and I think this is common in my family. So that's worth googling about.

And yes, get the right stuff: sunscreen, a good hat you like. How about clothes made for the warmest days that you think are really great? Then you will want an excuse to wear them. Good shoes for hiking too.

I don't know that you not liking this stuff is going to put you on a road to liking it, because it sounds like part of the problem is that your family says it's superior so you feel defensive.

For what it's worth, I, a person with pretty decent "outdoorsy" credentials (I used to work in outdoor recreation and do a lot of my leisure activities outside), can sometimes find trails scary and overwhelming. You are not bad at nature.

I wonder if a way to cultivate more of an interest in these things is to find something to be interested in, like rocks or trees or flowers or views or topography or ... the quality of dirt? Spending time hiking is much more interesting to me as someone who is now interested in native and indigenous plants. You could also see if there are arboretums or gardens in your city and visit them, for a bit of more controlled nature in the city.

Also, for the future: could you visit your family another time of year when it's not so hot?
posted by bluedaisy at 2:46 PM on June 20


I think it might be helpful to have a think beforehand about what you are open to, and what you are not i.e where your boundaries are. For example, you might decide that you are very open to developing an appreciation of the natural world, and to finding ways to enjoy being outside. However, you are not open to exerting yourself beyond your comfortable limits. Given that the former is still a stretch for you, it could be seen (and will really be of course) as a compromise, i.e you are open to their way of thinking. You can show some enthusiasm for this thing they want to share with you- I'm so excited to see the lake/spot some of these native birds/feel some sun. Then, you might also feel more comfortable saying- no, I won't be going on that hike to the summit, thank you. That is beyond my skill set for now. I think the boundary might be easier to draw and accept if it feels like you are open to aspects of the experience, and to the idea that the outdoors can be fun. I know it might not be, in truth, but it might diminish some of what can be a kind of evangelical zeal from the outdoorsy types who sometimes really seem to want to pounce on someone who doesn't 'get it'.
posted by jojobobo at 7:42 PM on June 20 [3 favorites]


Also came to recommend the book Fat Girls Hiking. It's exceptional and really honors that people are coming to the outdoors from all different (mental and physical) places.
posted by tangosnail at 10:37 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


You might enjoy a battery operated misting fan. They're like $10. You put water in the bottle and spray a fine mist and the fan evaporates it and cools you. There are also little $20 fans that hang around your neck and just blow air at you. Consider having a battery pack too (like the little ones used for phones), to keep them running on long outings.

For hikes, get a proper tall hiking backpack with a thick hip strap and compression straps. In a non-hiking backpack, the load tends to fall back away from you and feels like it's dragging your shoulders, which is exhausting. The hip strap of a hiking backpack puts the load right onto your pelvis so you barely feel it, and the narrow shape and compression straps keep the load in close to your centre of gravity so again it feels much lighter. This is one place where hiking gear is WAY better than city gear. How you carry your stuff affects every single step you take.

If you tend to find endurance activities taxing, consider getting your iron checked. If it's low, try taking iron supplements or even infusions, and vitamin B, in the month or weeks leading up to increased activity. Low iron = low endurance because your blood can't bring enough oxygen to your muscles. It makes a huge difference!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:42 PM on June 29


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