Begin with your child practising on grass at nearby parks, ideally with some rolling hills, and have fun. From there, move to a nearby school or church parking lot to practise turns around cones set about four metres apart. You can even throw down some 2x4s so they can work on hitting bumps while turning and pedalling. Come wander. NEXT STEPS Now it’s time for you both to hit the trails. Ottawa has them all over, so depending on which part of the city you live you’ll want to choose something flat, easy and wide. As your children are new to mountain biking, let them lead and encourage them to take rests when you think it’s needed. Always, always praise them, and never push them beyond their abilities. You’re the instructor, so teach them the basics. Get them to stand on level pedals off the seat when riding through a difficult patch. They’re to keep the head-up; eyes looking where they’re going; keep pedalling, and remind them their knees and elbows make a natural suspension system. TIPS • In the beginning, teach children to apply both brakes evenly when stopping. Too much rear brake pressure causes skids; easier wipe outs, and wreaks havoc on the trails. • Later they’ll learn to use the front brakes more often (about 70 per cent of the time), to keep their butt over the back tire; pedals at the 9 and 3 o’clock position, and two fingers ready to brake always. • “Stretch a skipping rope across a path and have your children stop at the rope,” says Dominique Larocque, owner of LaRoccaXC Mountain Bike School. “This drill is great for practising 70 per cent front-brake stopping in the ready position.” • Once your child has gained experience on novice dirt tracks they can advance to more difficult and rewarding trails found in the region. • Mountain biking may not be for everyone, but if the kids are up for this fun and challenging activity, they’re sure to grow to love it. . . if just for the lingo. • Don’t be a Fred or a Barney, fix your wild pigs, hammer hard, don’t bonk, and Ride On! ~ Originally published in Dave’s Outdoor column in the Ottawa Citizen. Healing in the forest: a guide to forest bathing LET’S TAKE A WALK IN THE WOODS. With no specific destination in mind, we will wander, observe and immerse ourselves in nature. Allow our senses to guide us. When was the last time you walked into the woods with no plans? No final destination? Without a species to ID, hill to climb, or lookout to conquer? This is exactly the experience offered by a forest bathing session. WHAT IS FOREST BATHING? Forest bathing, forest therapy, or Shinrin-yoku, was developed in Japan in the 1980s. There is a large amount of scientific evidence surrounding the health benefits of spending time in nature. Because of this, forest bathing became an integral part of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. The idea is that when humans spend time in a natural setting, especially under the canopy of a forest, they experience rejuvenating benefits to the mind, body and spirit. This is not a novel concept. Traditionally people sought the restorative benefits of the forest as part of their everyday life. However, with the increase of industry and modern civilization, we moved away from the forest and into the hustle and bustle of the city. We lost touch with nature. Trees release oils into the air, called phytoncides, and inhaling these natural essences can actually help to boost your immune system. Spending time in nature and experiencing reduced stress levels allows you to think more clearly and creatively. It can also increase your mood, focus, and energy. HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN FOREST THERAPY It’s simple! To start, find a forest near you. It could be a forested area in your neighbourhood, a local conservation area, or a nearby provincial park. Follow a trail into the forest. Once you are completely surrounded by nature stop, close your eyes, and engage your senses. Notice the smell of the earth, the sound of the birds, and the air moving across your skin. If navigating your way through a forest bathing experience on your own seems a little overwhelming, there are many organizations that offer guided experiences. Check out the Association of Forest and Nature Therapy to find a program or guided opportunity near you. ~ See more blogs here: THE HEALING BENEFITS It is well known that spending time in nature is good for your health, but what kind of benefits do we actually see? People who spend time in the forest experience decreased cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which can help relieve high blood pressure, heart conditions, skin conditions, and asthma. High stress levels can compromise your immune system. By reducing these levels your body’s natural defense system is able to work its magic. WWW.OTTAWAOUTDOORS.CA | 07