When I was younger, the family took a summer vacation to Canada. Of course it was summer. No native Georgians are going to brave the frozen wastes of Canada in the wintertime. We visited Quebec and saw the historic sites of the old walled city. We went to Toronto and went to the top of CN tower, back when it was the tallest tower in the world. I probably just dated myself. That tower hasn’t been the tallest thing in the world in decades.
But my age is beside the point. One detour produced life changing experiences for me. On a lark, we decided to also go rafting on the Ottawa river. I’d never done it before, but wanted to try. We rolled into the rafting place, out in the country and away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto. We got suited up in life jackets and grabbed our paddles. Then, a strange thing happened. The Canadians warned us that it was going to be “hot” that day. Seventy-six degrees. We tried to contain our laughter and somewhat condescendingly told them that we called that “room temperature” in Georgia.
Anyway, the rafts were loaded into the river, and we paddled vigorously in the “hot” Canadian sun. After a while, we came to the first set of rapids and gleefully steered towards them. As we hit them, the raft lurched and there was a distinctive “whump” sound as it hit the hardest part. It was a rush. Not unlike the feeling one gets on a roller coaster.
After that, I was addicted, and I have gone down several rivers since then. And there are some very good ones in Georgia. Such as the Chattooga river, made famous by the disturbing cinema masterpiece Deliverance. I can claim now that I made it down the river that Ned Beatty and Burt Reynolds couldn’t. Of course, there were no banjo players with a penchant for sexual assault on the river when I did it, so I had an easier time than them. And yes, I know I just ripped off a Jeff Foxworthy joke. Sue me.
The rapids on that river are pretty fierce. Rapids are ranked from one to five, normally. One is for the kids, and five is for the suicidal, kamikaze adventure types that want to get sent flying through the air and possibly land on jagged rocks. Good times. The Chattooga has a lot of threes, fours, and fives, and even one six. This one is basically only good for people who’ve grown tired of life.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. A bit. But rafting can turn a river into a naturally formed theme park ride. It’s exhilarating. And I’ve noticed, now that I’ve been getting into shape, it can be a good way to stay in shape. An hour of rafting can burn off 300 to 400 calories. So, it’s not as good as just going for a run or a bike ride, but the advantage is that a single trip usually takes three or four hours. Do that in the morning and you can eat almost anything you want for the rest of that day.
And if you’re a weird, misanthropic loner, there’s an option available for you too. Take a ride in a boat created by the native peoples who were deranged enough to ride it on icy rivers. Kayaking can be done solo. I’ve mentioned before how kayaking (and also canoeing) on ponds or streams can be good exercise. But doing it on a wild mountain river is better for burning calories. Expect to burn 300-400 calories per hour. Just don’t complain if there’s no one there to save you from drowning.
And since these trips to rivers with rapids are inevitably in the mountains, I’ve discovered there are plenty of other unwise things I can do in the mountains. Like hiking treacherous paths while overloaded with an ungainly rucksack. This kind of hiking, known to pretentious outdoorsy types as “mountaineering”, can burn anywhere from 300 to 650 calories per hour. Depending on how badly you’re weighted down and how “technical” (Read: deadly) the terrain is. Or, put simply, the loonier you are, the skinnier you get.
If traversing vertical terrain is more your thing, you can always go with rock climbing. That’ll burn about 450 per hour. I mean, I suppose you could be one of those guys or gals that does fake rock climbing in the gym. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count as rock climbing unless you’re doing something your life insurance company would deny you coverage for.
And if being in contact with solid ground isn’t your thing, you could always traverse dizzyingly high crevasses using ropes. “High roping” is that thing where you have two ropes, one to rest your feet on, and one to slide your hands along. There are plenty of nuts out there that will gladly do this over a canyon or ravine, or between two skyscrapers. And, for the lily-livered, there are courses where you do this only twenty or so feet off the ground with safety equipment to prevent an untimely demise. It doesn’t matter how you do it as far as the waistline is concerned. Either the crazy way or the cowardly way will burn 250 calories per hour.
And if you’re really into daring gravity to take you, there’s skydiving. I’ve never done this, since I inherited a fear of heights from my Dad. Sure, he overcame it by jumping out of airplanes in the Army, but I’ve just never felt that much of an urge to rid myself of it. Technically, it’s decent exercise. It burns about 200-250 calories per hour. But it’s unlikely that it would take that long to hit the ground. If you fall for more than an hour, you probably fell off the Earth somehow.
There is another alternative, though. You can pretend you’re a bird and rude one of those things Leonardo Da Vinci designed but was too chicken to try himself. Hang gliding burns about the same number of calories as skydiving. And because of how physics works, gliding allows you to burn calories for a longer time than plummeting directly towards the Earth.
But if risking becoming a pink stain on the ground is not your cup of tea, you could always go for a watery grave instead. Diving into the sea and seeing the exotic sights at the bottom is a good way to stay in shape. Most of the campsites I visit have a lake nearby. I also live 100 yards from Tampa Bay. So various options are available if I feel like daring Neptune to claim me and drag me to Davy Jones’ Locker.
Snorkeling will burn about 300-400 per hour, and requires minimal preparation and equipment. But if you’re willing to go through lengthy training, licensing, and buy expensive equipment, scuba diving is nearly twice as good. You can burn 500-600 calories per hour while exploring a coral reef or underwater wreckage. The downside is there’s an off chance a shark will take a bite out of you. I mean, that’s technically a form of weight loss (very rapid weight loss), but it has consequences. Like amputation and possibly an early appointment with your Creator.
And if you don’t fancy going far to do wacko stuff and have the maturity of a thirteen year-old, there’s another unhinged thing you can do. Skateboarding can burn 300-400 calories per hour. But there’s a problem. There’s apparently always someone with a camera around. So when you inevitably faceplant or rack yourself on and handrail, the humiliation will be preserved on YouTube for all time.
And it’s not just about public shame. You can seriously hurt yourself. World Class skateboarder Tony Hawk got injured so many times growing up, his doctor thought his parents were abusing him. And he got off light. The off chance of a gruesome final exit from the mortal coil is ever present when you do this.
If you haven’t noticed yet, there are risks to these things. There is the possibility of a painful demise involved in all of these. Which is a bummer. I mean, I guess decomposition is a form of weight loss, but it has numerous downsides. Still, your other option is to engage in boring things outdoors (which can still be good for you) or just “lift weights” (which is actually kind of awesome) or “go for a run” or “go for a bike ride”. You know, “normie” stuff. A word I learned recently that I’m about twenty years too old to be using.
But for people who prefer not to be absolute dullards and prefer to live life by risking losing it, these nutty outdoors things are for you. If you’re willing to play games with life, the bonkers stuff is a pretty good way to kill a weekend while killing some calories. Just try not to kill yourself in the process.
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