Don’t get left behind: Alaska summer affords more opportunity to build fitter bodies

by • June 16, 2018 • 61 North, HighlightsComments (0)1712

It’s somewhere around the middle of May that I realize all of my pants are too tight. Then, I have a choice. Freak out and research every cleanse on the market or take the sane approach—cut back on calories and get more active. It’s a predictable pattern I have and, thankfully, I go for the more realistic option and by July, I feel like myself again.

Running partner Brandon Browning starts a rainy run on North Bivouc trail with Sarah trailing way, way behind. COURTESY SARAH ZERKEL

I know I’m not alone. Long, cold winters are a great excuse to hunker down, fill up on treats, and ignore the gym. But with absurd amounts of daylight at our disposal, Alaska summers are ideal for trimming down and spending more time outside. The benefits are well-researched for both mind and body (a la “The Nature Fix”), and getting back in the swing of things is a matter of small, easy changes that can be sustained for the long term – or at least until next winter.

So, whether you’re experiencing “tight-pants-itis” or just ready to get more active, here are my favorite ways to get in the swing of things.


My Fitness Pal – that little blue app that sits unused on my phone for the majority of the year – is my favorite tool when it comes time to cut back. I hold the unpopular opinion amongst my outdoor-enthusiast friends that fad diets like Paleo, Keto and Whole 30 are utter nonsense. If it works for you, thumbs up. Keep at it. For the rest of us mere mortals, I like a more flexible approach. And, setting a healthy calorie and macronutrient goal seems to help me be healthier and doesn’t make me insufferable at family dinners.

Mostly though, it helps me stay the right amount of fueled up
for outdoor adventures. If you’re anything like me, going on a hike makes you think you have carte blanche to nom on whatever you want for the rest of the day – which is why tracking helps my sense of portion control while still enjoying a doughnut – but just one.


Shake things up. Whether it’s a new activity altogether or just deciding to take a different route up that peak, novelty can be a huge motivator. Dr. Kori Propst, a licensed personal trainer, clinical psychologist, vice president of the Diet Doc, and one of my personal favorite authorities on diet and exercise, often touts mindset and novelty as important parts of making and sticking to goals.

So, taking a page out of her book, I’m constantly looking for ways to get out of fitness and outdoors ruts. I’m a huge fan of running, but when I’m looking for change, I’ll try out a new class, or activity. While I always return to my favorites such as hiking and running, I’ve found yoga and boot camp classes are great for keeping things fresh.


Find a friend with whom to keep you accountable. If you’re really ambitious, find a friend who’s a little stronger than you and will by default push you harder than you might push yourself.

For me, this means partnering with a marathon-runner friend in the midst of training for his next race. Do I bemoan the 6 a.m. trail runs in the moment? Absolutely. But, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be nearly as consistent if I didn’t have someone holding me accountable. The plus? I’m up with the sun, enjoying tranquility on the trails, and by 8 a.m. I’m already done with my workout for the day.
Regardless of what time or activity you choose, having a friend to do it with certainly makes the time pass quicker and can stave off lost motivation.

When it comes to slimming down in the summer, it’s easy to get bogged down by guilt or other counterproductive thoughts. Just remember, the best and fittest amongst us have ups and downs. And, regardless of where you are on your journey, we Alaskans have the advantage of the midnight sun and an active culture to keep us moving toward our goals.


“Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,”by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

“The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative,” by Florence Williams

“Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete,” by Steve House and Scott Johnston


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