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Tips for staying safe, whether you’re out and about or working out at home 

EXERCISE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

click to enlarge TIM KRANZ
  • Tim Kranz

As I approached an older couple on the trail, they stood off to the side, and one of them held out his trekking pole, demarking their all-important 6 feet of clearance. From my perspective, the gesture felt a little ridiculously over-aggressive, and I laughed as I jogged by. But who could really blame him? Such is exercise in the time of COVID-19.

I was running in Strawberry Fields that day, not a go-to run for me. I prefer Stratton Open Space for its nice rolling single track, gradual climbs and swooping descents. However, the last few times I’d been there, parking was a matter of luck and the trails were similarly crowded. The parking was easier at Strawberry Fields, but the trails were no less busy than Stratton (and far less rolling with my poor choice to take Cañon Trail to Chamberlain Trail, straight up).

It’s clear that with so many working from home — or, worse, unable to work at all — people are escaping to our trails and open spaces. I’m with them. After so much time isolating, I need the mental refresh of getting outside and recreating. But it’s also very evident that the increased use is stressing our open spaces, such that even in those open spaces we have to be aware of respecting social distance — or risk being skewered by a trekking pole.

click to enlarge Consider a socially distant hike to this old hydroelectric plant. - TIM KRANZ
  • Tim Kranz
  • Consider a socially distant hike to this old hydroelectric plant.

Take the one less traveled by

Colorado’s safer-at-home orders originally suggested recreating within 10 miles of where you live, which isn’t a bad idea, even now. But to escape the crowds and seek out new trails, a friend and I stretched the distance rules a bit in May and went to Skaguay Reservoir in Cripple Creek to hike down to the decommissioned hydroelectric plant in the canyon. Don’t worry: We drove wearing masks, one in front, one in back, windows cracked, no stops. 

The trail is a little rough in places, but well worth it with vista after vista of awe-inspiring Colorado views. We passed a beaver dam so big that it towered over our heads. The creek that feeds into the reservoir happily trickled along the canyon near the trail, and offered many tempting pools. The hydro plant itself appeared out of the forest above the creek after 5-plus miles. It’s a haunting sight, and mind-boggling that it’s been there since the turn of the century. 

If you go, please leave space in your backpack to carry some trash out — a group effort to clean up the area is much needed. For the more adventurous, don’t believe Google Maps. The forest road straight up from the hydro plant is actually a private drive… we learned the hard way.

Some tips:

  • Have more than one plan; if a parking area is full, move on.
  • Try new trails; lesser-known often means less crowded.
  • As always, pack it in, pack it out (and if possible take some trash with you when you leave)!
  • Alltrails.com is a great resource for trail info (and do better than I did in checking out the slope profile).
  • Bring a mask; some trail areas will be too tight for safe social distancing.
  • Run local; I’m hitting the street more to stay off the packed trails.

click to enlarge Getting away from the crowds is good for your health. - TIM KRANZ
  • Tim Kranz
  • Getting away from the crowds is good for your health.

Hitting the slopes

Prior to the travel restriction and after the ski resorts had closed, some friends and I went skiing on Monarch Pass. It was an “earn our turns” day, hiking up with our skins on our skis (skins lightly glue to the base of the skis, making them excellent snowshoes for hiking uphill), then peeling them off and skiing down. 

With the resorts closed, there were clearly more folks here backcountry skiing than usual, just like what we’ve seen at overcrowded hiking trails. Many were boot-hiking up, no skins on their skis and no avalanche beacons on their persons. Not the best choice, considering that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were already overstressed at that point, and inexperienced backcountry travel with improper gear is never a good idea. 

After the travel restriction was implemented, we stayed closer to home to stretch our legs skiing on Pikes Peak. Better yet, we managed to do it on a weekday. We were the second car in the parking lot below The Little Italy Couloir in Glen Cove, and made first turns on our laps. It was absolutely gorgeous and a much-needed escape from the real world and crowds below.

Some tips:

  • Pikes Peak is in our backyard, get out there!
  • Keep it safe; EMS is stressed, and rescue from any trail is an arduous process.
  • Backcountry skiing is dangerous, and even more so without training and appropriate gear. Don’t do it right now.

Safer at home

Before these ventures outside, I’d tried to talk myself into doing more of a workout from home. The New York Times shared a nine-minute strength workout that looked to be just what the doctor ordered but, full disclosure, that’s not really happening for me. 

My neighbor, on the other hand, did it the smart way. He and some friends created a workout group to hold each other accountable. They get on a video call together every morning and do bodyweight-based workouts (he may have been somewhat giddy to escape said workout when we went to Skaguay together, but it’s been good for him). Their program typically runs in six-week cycles. Two months into isolation, all of them were feeling more fit, at least one dropped a solid amount of weight, and most importantly they reported significant mental health benefits, thanks to the group interaction and the joy of exercising together (“together” being a somewhat seldom-used word of late).

Some tips:

  • You don’t need equipment to work out at home.
  • Accountability with a workout partner is hugely helpful, and can be done from a distance.
  • There are great physical and mental benefits to exercising when you’re stuck at home.
  • The New York Times has a nine-minute workout that’s a solid place to start with a friend. Don’t scoff; it will kick your butt.

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