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Take Your Workout Outside!

When the weather is nice, if you are travelling and can’t get to a gym, when the gym is closed, if you can’t afford a gym membership, or if you are just bored and want to mix things up a little, it’s always nice to get outside and get some exercise! Working out outside is more than just a great tool to increase fat loss by burning a significant number of calories. Depending on the exercises you include in your workout, you can build strength, endurance, power and stamina, and you can target weak areas for muscle growth and an overall increase in performance. Getting outside is a great way to mix up your training, keep things challenging and enjoy something different from the gym. Another benefit is that outdoor training is free – you certainly can’t beat that price, so there is no excuse for not exercising!

You may find that some fresh air and sunshine is just what you need to motivate yourself to train harder and with more intensity. And training outside can be a great option when you are on the road, crunched for time, and just can’t make it to the gym. You can get a good workout in anywhere in 20-60 minutes with minimal or no equipment. There are a multitude of exercises and training approaches that you can incorporate into your outdoor workouts, depending on your goals. Even short workouts using intervals can be very effective when you don’t have time to hit the gym.

Below is just a sample of some of the tools you have available to you – any time and any place!

Running/Sprinting Exercises

If you can just find some flat road/terrain for running, you can put together an interval workout incorporating all kinds of variations:
Wind Sprints: Wind sprints are performed in short bursts where you run as fast as you can between two set points. Wind sprints should be done at high intensity; you should be working out of your comfort zone for about 20-45 seconds. They can also be done just about anywhere. Try to find straight and flat areas to incorporate your sprints though; avoid rough or uneven terrain to reduce your risk of injury.
  • Chasses: A chasses is a ballet movement consisting of quick gliding steps with the same foot always leading. Your body faces to one side or the other while you are performing chasses, depending on which leg is leading.
  • Grapevine: The grapevine is performed similarly to the chasses in that you will face to either side, but your feet/legs will form a weaving pattern. If you are facing to the left, with your right leg leading, then your left leg will cross in front of your right leg, and your right leg will cross back behind your left leg. Then, your left leg will cross behind your right leg, and your right leg will cross back, in front of your left leg.
Skip! Skipping isn’t just for children anymore! It’s a great exercise to incorporate into outdoor workouts to increase your heart rate and target your calves.

Upper Body/Lower Body Exercises

  • Plyometrics: Plyometrics refers to exercises that are designed to enhance an individual’s explosive reaction through rapid and powerful muscular contractions. This includes any sort of jumping or hurdling. Plyometrics can be incorporated into any workout to help improve strength, stamina and power. Examples of lower body plyometric exercises include standing jumps like tuck jumps or split jumps, jump squats, standing long jumps, hops, and height jumps. These can be added to the end of wind sprints for more challenge.
  • Walking Lunges: Walking lunges are a great exercise that can be done anywhere. Alternate legs and walk forward while lunging. Try to go deep enough that your back knee almost touches the ground. Walking lunges are a great exercise for developing your glutes and hamstrings.
  • Walking Squats: Walking squats are a great exercise that can be done anywhere, just like walking lunges. Take big steps forward while keeping your body low and in a squatting position. These are also called duck walks for obvious reasons. They are more challenging than you would ever imagine! You can do these up/down stairs for an added challenge.
  • Mountain Climbers: Mountain climbers condition your entire body and help to develop lower body strength. Start in a basic push-up position. Rest on the balls of your feet while bringing one leg forward to your chest and back to its original position. Keep the other leg tucked during this movement, and then switch legs. Repeat and alternate while balancing some of your body weight on your hands.
  • Rope Pulls: If you exercise with a partner, and if you have a strong rope of any kind, you can pull each other up and down hills. This can be challenging for both of you, and it allows you to incorporate some upper body work while increasing your heart rate.
  • Push-ups: You can add in sets of 10 or 15 push-ups just about anywhere. Push-ups are a great exercise for upper body strength and general physical preparedness. Alternating between a standard, wide, and close grip will ensure that all parts of your shoulders, chest, and arms are engaged in the exercise.
  • Sit-ups: It is possible to train your abdominals anywhere by performing sit-ups. Chairs, benches, and even rocks can be used to elevate your feet and reduce the strain on your spine and neck. The best way to perform sit-ups is to slowly and gently lift your head, followed by your shoulder blades. Focus your eyes forward on your bent knees, while gently the abdominal muscles. Pull yourself up from the floor about half way and then back down.

Any Time and Any Place!

Outdoor workouts are not just about getting outside and running. When it comes to designing an outdoor workout, the sky is your limit – literally! Set a workout time based on your fitness/training goals and your schedule. Think about your heart rate and decide if / how to incorporate intervals. Always warm up with a light walk / jog. Be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for traffic and other people. And try mixing in all kinds of exercises to target specific areas of the upper and lower body, increase strength and stamina, and make your workouts more fun and challenging. Be sure to use proper form whenever you can because outdoor workouts can be particularly challenging – unlike using machines and limiting your range of motion in the gym, training outdoors adds challenge with different and sometimes inconsistent terrain. Be careful and train smartly to avoid injury.

Take it to the Park or Playground!

If you can get yourself to a park or playground, you can have even more fun mixing up the exercises and challenging yourself with something different. At the park, you may be able to find trails to hike (walking or jogging), while stopping to do some push-ups along the way. Some parks even have trails that include fitness stations where you can stop and perform specific exercises – take advantage of these. There also may be a fountain that you can use to perform jumps (up and down) in sets of 10-15 with a 30-second rest in-between. You can use a fountain or a park bench to do step-ups. The park may have some large logs that you can use to jump (side to side), or grapevine or lunge across. You might be able to find a strong tree branch to use for chin-ups.

If you can find a playground, you can really have some fun! Use the equipment you have in front of you as if you were in a gym. If there are monkey bars, use them to climb across them using your arms – just like when you were a kid! You can also skip bars to really challenge yourself. You can also pull yourself up through the bars if they are wide enough and perform dips to work your triceps. The end of the bar can be used for pull-ups (back and biceps) and hanging leg raises (abdominals). If there is a merry-go-round, run while pushing it in one direction, and then stop it and switch directions. You can use basketball courts for sprints, jumps, walking lunges, walking squats, squat jumps, push-ups, or any other combination of running/polymeric exercising. Find some stairs – you can run and squat up/down stairs for interval training. A picnic table can offer a platform for all kinds of plyometric and lower body exercises, and the different levels (chair/table) can be used for push-ups and dips. Some playgrounds also provide many options with equipment like balance beams, rings, slides, and ropes to climb. The options are almost limitless!

Be Sure to Stretch

Quite often, people are short with time for their workouts and don’t devote enough time to stretching. It is extremely important to remember to stretch regularly, especially if you just performed exercises like sprints and plyometrics, which can be very demanding on the body. Also, if you exercised outside and tried different things at the park or playground, some of your muscles may become sore from mixing up your training – this is a good thing, but you should be sure to stretch! Stretching can help to increase range of motion and reduce/prevent injuries. It can also help the muscles to grow. Stretching after a workout, when the muscle is warm is a good idea, but stretching should be done carefully and correctly for the greatest benefits.

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