Erik Hansen is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy and the “When I Was a Mustang…” columnist.
With the Recreation Center closing its doors for the summer and an undetermined number of quarters to follow, some students are in a tizzy, causing them to remove the G from their GTL routine. This is going to force many people to join a local gym — a gym where they are free to wear cut-off sleeve shirts and flex in the mirrors. However, there is another great place to workout, and while the equipment isn’t free, the facility is. It’s called “outside.”
Though a foreign concept to many, because we don’t live in some Godforsaken place like Illinois or New Jersey, the temperature and conditions outside should be good enough for you to endure until the Rec Center reopens and you can continue doing all those curls for the girls. Plus, outside is a place where you can get your workout in and fry your skin to George Hamilton status. It’s a two-for-one.
While weight training is a great complement to outdoor activities, some might not be able to afford a gym membership, have no desire to join a local gym and/or have yet to take advantage of all of the outdoor opportunities we have here in our own backyard. The following list is just a small sample of these opportunities and can help act as a primer to get you outside. The list also identifies which muscle groups are worked so you can plan your “total body workout.” Now there’s no need to order those P90X DVDs!
Kayaking. Primary muscle groups worked include shoulder/back, arms (biceps and triceps) and core (including abdominals). Kayaking also provides a moderate cardio (fat burning) opportunity.
There are several great locations to kayak out of Morro Bay and Pismo/Shell/Avila Beach. Kayak Horizons in Morro Bay and Central Coast Kayaks in Shell Beach both rent kayaks and are conveniently located right on the water. As an added bonus, bring your fishing pole and drop a line in when you get tired. You can get your workout in and bring home dinner, hunter-gatherer style.
Standup Paddle Boarding. Similar to kayaking, primary muscle groups worked include shoulder/back, arms and core. However, standup paddle boarding, or SUP, relies more heavily on your core and brings balance and coordination into play.
Again, there are several great locations to SUP out of Morro and Pismo/Shell/Avila. Central Coast Stand Up Paddling in Morro Bay and Pismo Beach Surf Shop both rent SUP and are located right on the water. Laird Hamilton is big into SUP, so if that doesn’t legitimize the sport for you, nothing will.
Mountain Biking. Of course, primary muscle groups worked include your upper and lower legs; however, shoulder/back and arms get brought into the picture for those riding hard. Mountain biking also provides an excellent cardio opportunity.
East Cuesta Grade is a great out and back ride on a fire road. Parking is always plentiful off the northbound 101, at the top of the grade. Poly Canyon is a nice quick loop as well, and you can either start your ride from Stenner Creek or Poly Canyon roads. Occasionally the University Police Department will post mountain lion warnings, but those can be ignored. The only cougar attack you have to worry about will usually occur at Blue on any given Thursday evening.
Road Biking. Primary muscle groups worked include upper and lower legs, but for long rides, make sure your lower back and arms are already in good shape, as they can get sore after a while. Depending on how hard you ride, and the incline, road biking can be an excellent cardio opportunity.
While relatively flat rides exist all over the place, including the Bob Jones Trail and on the 227, if you’re looking for a challenge, try riding up Prefumo Canyon Road. Pick it up off Los Osos Valley Road and head up, and up … and up. The views are amazing at the top, and you can take See Canyon Road and San Luis Bay Drive back into town. Just be ready to clean the dirt out of your components, as it can get a little rough heading down See Canyon. Alternatively, you can fly back down Prefumo Canyon like a bat out of hell and pray no car is taking one of the turns too sharp.
Trail/Hill Running. Primary muscle groups worked include upper and lower legs, with some work put on the shoulder/back and arms. You could carry water bottles in both hands if you’re looking for more of an arm workout. Of course, running provides an excellent cardio opportunity.
While at any given time you can drive around town and see people running the streets, try tying your laces a little tighter and heading up one of the trails we have in town. From the parking lot located just off the southbound 101 entrance at Marsh Street, try running all the way up Cerro San Luis Obispo, more commonly known as Madonna Mountain.
At the summit there is a platform where you can do pushups or just stand and take in the panoramic view. Alternatively, the Felsman Loop, located in the Ferrini Ranch Open Space, provides another, though less intense, incline. You can pick this trail up off of Patricia Drive.
By taking your runs to the trails, you can run without the worry of being hit by a car, and just focus on not tripping, falling, hitting your head on a rock, being knocked unconscious and not being found for a few days. Oh, and ticks — watch out for ticks too.
Beach Running. Another type of run you can do off the streets is a beach run. You can even do beach runs barefoot (shout out to all those no-shoes people on campus). Two great places to do an out and back run on the beach are along Sand Spit of Morro Bay State Park and from Morro Rock.
To get to Sand Spit, take Los Osos Valley Road out to Los Osos, which will turn into Pecho Valley Road. Stay on Pecho Valley Road until you see a sign directing you to the Sand Spit parking lot, on your right, just before you enter Montana De Oro State Park. To get to Morro Rock, head north on the 1, then look for a big rock as you get closer to the Pacific Ocean. If you are looking for a long run, it’s just over 12 miles from Morro Rock to the Cayucos Pier, and back.
Open Water Swim. Primary muscle groups worked include shoulder/back and upper legs, with some work put on the arms. Swimming is an excellent cardio opportunity.
Open water swimming is just like swimming in a pool, except it’s harder and more exciting. Two great locations nearby to get an open water swim in is at Avila Beach and Lopez Lake (in Arroyo Grande).
At Avila, start just south of the pier, swim to Fossil Point, then head back to the pier and swim around and down the north side of the pier. This swim is just over one mile and the conditions are usually pretty calm. At Lopez Lake, just pick one or two of the buoys to swim to and start your out and back. It’s easy to create your own swim at Lopez Lake, as it can accommodate those who are just starting out or are more experienced.
You’ll need goggles and a wetsuit, unless you’re a badass. If you’ve never done an open water swim before, forget what I said about it being just like swimming in a pool, it’s not. The initial shock of being in open water and keeping your orientation can be tough for those just starting out. It would probably be best to start off at Lopez Lake if you’re a novice. If you decide it’s not for you, head over to the Mustang Waterslides waterpark, located at Lopez Lake, and hang out with the kiddies.
Keep in mind we also have the climbing wall and track on campus, but you’re probably already aware of those two options. Just make sure that during your time in San Luis Obispo, you don’t let these unique outdoor opportunities slip by. And with the reopening of the Rec Center nowhere in sight, you might want to get moving before you experience the freshman 15 all over again.