Exploring the Outdoors While Stuck Inside

I momentarily let go of the handlebars to frantically wipe at the sweat dripping into my eyes. My pedal strokes deteriorated into desperate vaudevillian heaves. Through gritted teeth I persevered as the crest of the climb came into view. The only thing interrupting this dogged pursuit of nirvana was the blaring alert of an incoming Skype call from someone wanting to discuss how we can keep our audience engaged during COVID- 19-induced isolation. Yes, you’ve correctly ascertained I wasn’t approaching the apogee of an epic mountain in the southern Utah desert, but was instead firmly affixed to a stationary bike trainer in my basement adjacent to a roaring furnace.

Likely you experienced something akin to this earlier in the year while attempting to enjoy nature’s visceral delights during social distancing. If your ear is more attuned to trained health professionals and scientists than to bloodthirsty capitalist cranks who can’t fathom the measure of human life against regression in their stock portfolios, this is something you understand we’ll likely encounter again. Here are some ways to get your outdoor fix while trapped indoors.

The Outdoor Cycling Pantomime

Nobody cared about Zoom or Citrix before this coronavirus mess, other than those senators who bought stock while insisting, “nothing to see here.” In the age of COVID-19, however, interactive online programs became integral parts of our lives, whether for tedious calls with brusque relatives or inspiring group sessions with the local yoga and fitness studios. Still, these virtual interactions don’t come close to approximating the feel of an authentic outdoor experience unless you’re cranking on the pedals. Nothing is as good as putting tires to pavement, but some programs deliver a modicum of the sense of accomplishment as the real thing once you’ve deluded yourself through the monotony of isolation and the use of illicit substances.

The Peloton app isn’t just for people trapped in ill-advised Stockholm- syndrome-promoting propaganda ads. It can be used with any stationary bike setup—any spin bike or road bike with a traditional trainer, rollers, etc.—without additional specialized equipment. The $14.95 per month app is more analogous to a spin class than an outdoor ride, but the 90-day free trial should help you get a good workout through the next period of social distancing.

Those who want to chew some scenery while spinning should step up to Zwift. The full monty with the integrated smart trainer is a bit bourgie, but the app can be used on any trainer-or-roller-equipped bike along with an affordable speed and cadence monitor equipped with ANT+ or Bluetooth connection, which shouldn’t run you more than $70. Zwift delivers augmented reality courses and races through real-world terrain that should o er just enough motivation to stay in shape for when you’re allowed out of the house again. The Zwift app costs $14.99 a month and has a 30-day free trial period. peloton.com, zwift.com

Views at Your Fingertips

You can strap yourself to all manner of human hamster wheels to achieve the endorphin release of exercise, but it’s not easy to replicate the sense of grandeur and awe of nature’s wonders in your house. Virtual outdoor tours can get us through in a pinch.

After an ill-advised decision to offer complimentary entry to National Parks at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, officials closed the parks. But just because you can’t physically enter Utah’s Mighty 5 Parks, doesn’t mean you can’t explore them remotely. The National Parks Service offers virtual shuttle tours of Zion National Park, first person virtual hikes of the Kayenta and Canyon Overlook Trails and even an Angels Landing eHike on their website. Or you can virtually visit Grand Swaner Preserve and Eco Center View Point, Mesa Arch and Fort Bottom Ruin at Canyonlands if you prefer. Check out Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Arches from your couch while you’re at it. It’s not the same as being there in person, but it’s a nice effort by the NPS to bring a piece of the parks to you.

In Park City, the Swaner Preserve and Eco Center has taken their programming online with SOLACE: Swaner Online Learning and Community Engagement. Swaner has put a five-week learning program for kids on their website, which includes detailed instructions for creative activities to help parents keep little monsters engaged and learning about local wildlife, plants and habitat. Adults can stay connected to nature through live webcams, live virtual nature walks, talks and workshops. nps.gov, swanerecocenter.org

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Tony Gill
Tony Gillhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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