Flagstaff named one of “9 Fittest Towns in the West”
by Sara Weber
Aspects of Flagstaff such as the high altitude, ample biking grounds and hiking destinations have contributed to its recent naming as one of the “9 Fittest Towns in the West” by Sunset Magazine. Famous for housing international athletes in all seasons, Flagstaff even sent a few residents to the 2012 Summer Olympics. The city also hosts the summer training camp for the Arizona Cardinals each year. The home of the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Lumberjacks lays claim to a city filled with multiple opportunities for locals to stay fit, regardless of exercise preferences.
One of many popular sports in Flagstaff is swimming. In the most recent summer Olympics, there were 17 competing countries, including Tunisia and Norway, who had athletes train for swimming and para-swimming in Flagstaff.
Marisa Gulliford, a swim instructor at the Wall Aquatic Center, acknowledges the advantages coinciding with training in high altitudes, as well as the obstacles.
“There is so much to do outside here,” Gulliford said. “But be prepared to be more out of breath than from wherever you’re from.”
Kory Wiley, a senior geology major, agreed NAU and the city of Flagstaff offer exercise opportunities for many different interests.
“There is a really nice rec center here [NAU] just spent a lot of money on,” Wiley said. “Plus, they have all the urban trails, and there’s skiing and hiking.”
Sunset Magazine referred to Flagstaff as “a magnet not just for Phoenix residents escaping summer heat, but also for elite swimmers and runners intent on altitude training.” The magazine included how “lush pine-forested trails add to the appeal.”
TJ Fisher, a senior secondary earth and science education major, agreed.
“The city is built around outdoor activities,” Fisher said. “There’s biking and so many other activities, like on Mt. Humphreys and Mt. Elden. People come here to get a good workout.”
Gulliford also acknowledged the freedom Flagstaff extends to its physically active residents.
“I like going to Zumba classes here on campus and I like to hike Snowbowl as well,” Gulliford said.
It should be noted, however, the high altitude of Flagstaff can result in quicker loss of breath and dehydration. Students are advised to drink lots of water and continue exercising so their bodies may acclimate to the unusual atmosphere.
“It’ll be tough, but you’ll get used to it,” Gulliford said. “Being fit up here gives you more of an advantage and works your body more; that’s why so many Olympic swimmers come up to Wall Aquatic Center to train, it works them more. The disadvantage is the difficulty to breathe and train yourself.”
“The elevation really makes the workouts strenuous,” Fisher said.
“Get out and go see things,” Wiley said. “Campus is nice but Flagstaff has a lot more to offer.”