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How Spending Time Outside on Purpose Helps Heal This Surprising Problem

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I think about time outside as a privilege — going outside is something I get to do.

But not everyone is so lucky.

For many, spending time outside is something that happens because they have no other choice. That’s because when you don’t have a home or are piecing together places to stay, spending time outside might be your only option.

 

Suddenly, the outside doesn’t sound so nice, does it?

Homelessness is a complicated subject and is often the symptom of other problems, like addiction and mental health battles. And in the thick of the fight against it are organizations and passionate experts taking it on through creative methods.

For podcast guest Elizabeth Carr, that method includings pushing the homeless clients with which works to spend more time outside on.

But instead of doing it because they have no where else to go, she has them do it on purpose — while running.

Related: Episode 7: Nature, Homelessness and Health (Elizabeth Carr)

When we interviewed Carr for the podcast, she was working with the nonprofit organization Back On My Feet, which combats homlessness using “using running as the catalyst to get our members going, literally and figuratively,” she said. And while she is no longer working there, her passion still lies with fighting homelessness, which she now does as a gifts officer at a local shelter.

Why does spending time moving outside help homelessness? Here’s what Carr taught us.

1. It teaches dedication.

Back On My Feet functions a lot like a running club, Carr said, including those early morning hours many runners know well. And like a running club, it includes consistent meetings.

“We have them come out and run with us three days a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday — generally at 5:45 in the morning,” she said. “And once they’ve done three runs with us, we outfit them head to toe with brand new gear, everything they need. So we get them completely fitted with new shoes and all the tech gear they need for running. So in the winter, we have hats and jackets and pants, in the summer we have shorts.”

But Back On My Feet doesn’t just offer runs. And through coming consistently to the runs, she said, the clients show they are interested in putting in hard work, a signal that they’re ready for the next step, what Carr calls the program’s “meat:” homes and job help.

2. It teaches perseverance.

Ever tried to do a hard new thing? It takes actually wanting to. It takes showing up. It takes trying. It takes work.

That’s true about running, and it’s true about recovery from the hard stuff in life — the kind of stuff that can lead to homelessness like addiction and incarceration, Carr said.

“We work them up so that they’re running consistently with us for a month. After they’ve done that, it really proves to us that they’re putting in a super ton of hard work,” she said. “I think that our members really understand that completely changing your life is no small or simple task. And so, you know, we just remind them that it’s going to be hard.”

3. It teaches consistency.

It’s one thing to show-up and put in the hard work for a day or even a month. It’s another to do it day over day, month over month on a long term basis. That’s true for finding the benefit of spending time outside, it’s true for fitness and running and it’s true for battling homelessness.

As the organization works to help members get jobs, any needed education and housing, its members are consistently checking in and showing up through the runs, mirroring the patterns they’re trying to establish in their lives through the act of coming out for runs.

“All this time, they’re still running with us. So they’re working on consistency, building goals, goal setting, and community,” she said.

Related: How My Own Kid Schooled Me on Being Human

4. It shows that you don’t have to go it alone.

Doing hard things outside is, well, hard. But doing them with a wingman — someone to push you forward, lift your attitude when things get tough and remind you of who you are and why you’re there — is easier.

For the Back on My Feet clients and runners, it’s all about community. That’s because community doesn’t just help with tackling challenges outside, it helps with recovery.

“It’s this whole big community, right? We really take that to the nth degree by saying, this is your support structure, this is your circle,” Carr said. “But guess what: we’re all doing our own version of hard, whatever that may be. And so for somebody, it may be walking a mile straight for the first time in their life and for somebody else it might be getting through, you know, that 15 miler. You just never know what somebody’s going through, but you can relate to the same struggle.”

Building community, she said, is about showing each other that you are never alone and about never leaving each other behind.

“No person is left behind. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a walker, it doesn’t matter if you’re a speed demon. We all start and finish together. And just learning everybody’s different backgrounds and stories. We’re all there for the same purpose, which is really why most people love running clubs, right?” she said. “It’s like built-in instant friends who like doing the same things as you. But in this case, it’s also people who are experiencing the same kind of hardship. And so you look around and you go — wow, I’m not alone. Like, I’m really not alone.”

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On this day, Memorial Day, we are sharing one of the podcast episodes that touches on the role time outside has played in the life of one family who has dealt with the loss Memorial Day acknowledges and marks.

I run. It’s where I find my best therapy. But that’s not always been the case. I started running because of one person -- Lisa Hallett -- and the organization she cofounded, wear blue: run to remember (@wbr2r). Lisa and I share the unbreakable bond of not just being Army wives whose husbands were in the same unit, but of trauma and loss experienced when that unit lost so many soldiers in combat, including her husband Capt. John Hallett.

In Humans Outside, Episode 20: The Powerful Connection of Nature, Movement & Grief - @lisa.a.hallett - Lisa Hallett shares the role spending time outside has had in her healing and helping her family move through loss.

Click on the link in our bio or download the podcast from Itunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe today so you never miss an episode!

#humansoutside #humansoutside365 #outdoorlife #runtoremember #wearblue #podcast #guest #goldstar #milkid #runner #militaryfamily #memorialday #militaryspouse #akrunners #run #forestbathing #mindfulness #outside
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@erwinrwb @teamrwb 
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Catch Mike in this week's episode drilling down on how heading into nature develops strong leaders, plus tips on keeping that leadership fire burning when the going gets tough. Listen to the new episode, dropping today!

Ep 34: How Spending Time Outside Makes You a Better Leader (Mike Erwin). Click on the link in our bio or download the podcast from Itunes, @stitcherpodcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe today, so you never miss an episode!

@erwinrwb @teamrwb
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Walk or run a mile or 20 -- any distance is enough. It’s the remembering that matters, friends. Be surprised, lifted and pushed forward by how meaningful this is. I promise you won’t regret it.

We don’t have an outdoor hero this week -- just an ask that you support wear blue with your steps. The fallen heroes that we are honoring by doing so are more than enough.

You can see more pictures of me running in blue than you probably need by following Humans Outside on Instagram. And I want to see your daily outdoor time, too. Post it with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

#runnersofinstagram #outside #wearblueruntoremember #recovery #outsidefriends #getoutsideandplay #akrunners #sunshine #getoutsideandexplore #relievestress #liveboldly #run #memorialday
...

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