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How to increase creativity — go hiking

| February 6, 2015 | 0 Comments


Sometimes the best ideas come to us when we’re least expecting them.

A quick poll of my friends validated my own experience of getting the best ideas when in the shower, out walking, or lying half-asleep in bed in the morning. A Stanford University study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology backs up the idea that walking increases creative inspiration — and by an average of 60 percent! Even better, the creativity boost continues for a while afterwards.

Some ideas for how to increase creativity

It doesn’t seem to matter whether we’re walking indoors or outdoors, and we can even be on a treadmill staring at a blank wall. Now, that’s not a suggestion to exchange your wilderness hikes for a treadmill, but if you’re in need of creative inspiration and can’t wait until your next big hike, a walk around the block may help you to get the answer you’re looking for.

To boost creativity, you can also schedule walking meetings with colleagues at work. Getting out from behind a desk and taking a walk  brings a different vibe to the meeting. It’s more relaxed, informal, and really does get the creative juices flowing. It’s not for every meeting, but in my experience as a people manager it’s a good tool to have in your toolbox for when you’re coaching someone, kicking around ideas, or just need to work around an energy low.

The idea of holding walking meetings is not new and some well-known business leaders, such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerman have been known to walk with colleagues. Nilofer Merchant suggests turning meetings into walking meetings in her TED talk.

You might also want to try a community walking group that aims to mix walking with idea sharing, such as the Hikestorming group in Silicon Valley.

Now, before you get the idea that walking is going to serve all of your creative thinking needs, the Stanford study finds that although it helps with the generation of ideas (divergent thinking), it doesn’t help with the focused (convergent) thinking that’s needed to solve a problem when there’s one right answer. So, don’t put your desk out on the curb just yet.

If you want the full details, you can read the Stanford University research report by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz.

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Photo credits: Mark Beresford.

How to fit in exercise – one way to prepare for hiking

| December 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

untitled-070_300BWe lead busy lives and it’s not always possible to take the time to drive to a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors. Yet, we still need to fit in regular exercise so that when we do have time to get out there for a whole day or longer, we are physically able to enjoy it. How can we do this?

One option, of course, is the gym. If your company has a gym available for you to use, it can be a great option, although if you’re like me, the idea of showing your sweaty T-shirt to colleagues who you’ll be meeting with in an hour is a little rank. If you have a commercial gym or city-run community center with a gym close to home, these can be a convenient option for fitting in an session before or after work, although they can be expensive.

How to fit in exercise using urban trails

Another option that we often overlook for squeezing in more exercise is urban trail systems. These are great resources when time is short and can be used for walking, running, biking, or even roller blading (if anyone still does that).


Urban trails also offer the option of multitasking our exercise with some bonding time with others by bringing along Fido (a tired dog is a happy dog), our spouse (hint: marriage booster), friends, or even business colleagues. We’ll probably see a few three-wheeler pushchairs and bike trailers with kids in them too.


Some urban trails even have exercise points along the way where we can throw in some push ups, or chin-ups, or sit-ups.


And if we don’t have an urban trail close to home, we can always make our own urban trail. We can plan a route around our neighborhood, if possible adding in a few hills, and then multitask it by dropping by the grocery store on the way back to save a car journey later! If we combine our exercise with a podcast or some music on our smartphone, we can exercise our brain at the same time. What can be better than that? Okay, so it’s not mountains and rivers, but it’s still pretty great isn’t it. And, there’s usually some wildlife to see along the way!


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Photo credits: Mark Beresford

Carrying our weather with us

| November 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

uowHenryCoeRain-005_300The winter rains are setting in and it’s all too easy to let them be an excuse for staying home. But to truly learn to love the outdoors we have to see them in all of their seasons, weathers, and times of day. If we select one place and visit it often, there will always be something new to see, no matter how small.

I headed out to one of my favorite places in the rain last weekend. The air was cool and fresh, and thick with earthy scents.

Climbing up the ridge through the drizzle and mist, the soft flat light wrapped the world in a lovely smooth, soft veil.

A family of feral pigs that were digging for roots decided to flee when they saw me stop and take an interest.


Dozens of salamanders crept in slow-motion across the trails. It was hard to avoid stepping on them.


Sheltering under a tree for lunch was an opportunity to appreciate all of the different moss and lichen formations on the rocks. The closer you look the more you see.


The clouds constantly cleared and re-formed in the valleys, giving glimpses of the slopes below with occasional bright illuminations.


The oak tree acorn pantries were filling up courtesy of the local woodpeckers.


And the splashes of red in the deep green foliage evoked Christmas.


As the sun lowered and broke through the clouds, it streamed in through the canopy and dappled the grass.


And backlit the lichens draped across the oak branches.


With the sun heading down it was time for me to do the same, all the while reflecting on the wonderful things I’d seen and wondering what I’ll see the next time I visit.


If we carry our weather with us, there’s never a bad time to be outdoors.

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Photo credits: Mark Beresford

Test your metal with the Men’s Health URBANATHLON

| September 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

menshealthurbanathlonMen’s Health magazine is sponsoring its 9th annual URBANATHLON series this fall. The URBANATHLON course is designed to challenge strength, mobility, fitness, and toughness. There will be three events this year, taking place in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.

Why not challenge yourself and give it a shot?

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