There's a new fitness law floating around. Let's call it the Five-Minute Rule. It came from a paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology preaching that running just five minutes a day will reduce your risk of croaking from all causes, including cardiovascular disease.
An estimated 25 to 35 percent of the U.S. population is sedentary, and heart disease costs the nation $300 billion annually, so the Five-Minute Rule is easy to champion—for the average person. (For the love of your own and your nation's well-being, just do something!) While there are benefits in those 300 seconds of movement, they are not enough to maximize your enjoyment of the outdoors.
You need all-around strength as well as cardiovascular conditioning to boost your endurance and keep you injury-free, says adventure racer and multisport coach Travis Macy. You aren't going to become an all-star athlete on five minutes of running a day, but 15 minutes of maintenance—with a stiff dose of sport-specific sessions on the weekends—will build a foundation of strength to help you become an adaptable athlete.
Below, Macy shares five quick and easy tips to stay ready for whatever adventure comes your way, no matter what sport or activity you choose to tackle.
Concentrate on Your Core
Time needed: 8 to 10 minutes
"General core strength is important for any sport, whether it's running or biking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing," Macy says. An eight- to 10-minute circuit of abs work (crunches, planks), pushups, and pullups is enough to give you a killer core.
Macy does it like this: 30 pushups, two minutes of crunches, 30 pushups, two minutes of reverse crunches, 30 pullups, two minutes of side crunches. Can't do that many of each exercise? Do what you can, then rest a minute. Taking on too much too fast can lead to injury. Even a one-minute plank performed once a day can help improve your core strength. Planks, "pushups, and pullups work a variety of muscles," Macy says. Plus, there's no excuse not to do them. "It's easy to install a pullup bar over a door frame."
Don't Neglect Your Ankles
Time needed: 5-plus minutes
"Ankle strength is important," Macy says. Sturdy ankles will resist injury when walking or running on uneven terrain. Ironically, Macy says an easy way to develop ankle strength over time is to walk or run on uneven terrain. So watch your footing. Need a boost? Add two sets of 10 calf raises to your daily routine, or try some of these exercises from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Use Gravity to Your Advantage
Time needed: 5-plus minutes
"If you only have a short time outside, run or walk up a hill or up stairs at a park," Macy says. "It's a great way to make the most of your limited time." Your body will work harder to counteract gravity, making your quick jaunt more effective at strengthening your muscles and cardiovascular system.
Time needed: 15-plus minutes
Sport-specific skill and knowledge are important. "Doing it right is a good way to not get hurt," Macy says. If you know you're going to be mountain biking, for example, have a pro show you the correct technique, setup, and gear. REI stores all over the country host classes in everything from climbing and cycling to paddling and skiing. Try one out.
Time needed: 5 minutes
Coaches, clinics, and camps are excellent resources. Yeah, you're not supposed to be sitting in front of a screen, but for a quick lesson, watch some online videos. At least you'll have an idea of what you're supposed to be doing. Thinking about ski mountaineering, for example? There's a video for that: