When it’s nice out, you don’t want to be spending hours sweating it up in a stuffy, odor-filled gym, lining up for a bench press that you just know some “new year new me” asshole has forgotten to wipe down.
Not only does getting an outdoor workout offer excellent fat-burning, body-strengthening, and muscle-building potential, but studies show that getting your workout outside can also help strengthen your mind and build your mental health. And what could be more powerful than that?
Getting a full-body workout outside is awesome because we tend to use our own body weight more to create natural movements and reinforce muscles.
Use explosive jumping movements to stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibers. Utilize “time under tension” to create an endurance challenge when you slow down. Create a DIY circuit of bodyweight movements using your whole body instead of gym machines to burn more calories.
Yes, a few pieces of equipment will help, but exercising outdoors gives you an excuse to ditch expensive, bulky, unnecessary kits and instead build stamina and strength in a natural setting.
… All you need is some motivation, your own body weight, and a willingness to smash your PB wherever the trail leads.
We also like to add in a jump rope warm-up… When Anthony Joshua and Kaley Cuoco alike rate a piece of equipment, it’s definitely worth paying attention!
When it comes to creating a full-body workout outdoors, the first step is finding a suitable location.
Look for patches of green, well-maintained trails, bodies of water, beaches, or even woodland to create your outdoor gym setting, and consider the below three location-focused workouts:
The single-site workout
Grab any kit you might need and head to a yard or park to complete your full workout in one spot. You’re looking for a wide, open space for this style of outdoor exercise; somewhere you can set up an obstacle course and have plenty of space to run around.
The traveling workout
Get to know your local area and keep your workout interesting as you travel while you exercise. Try running one block, then do a short exercise such as 15 push-ups, 20 squats, or 30 seconds of plank, followed by another block of running.
A fitness scavenger hunt can also be a fantastic way to get to know your neighbors while enjoying an intensive workout. Match neighborhood sights with specific exercises (for example, push-ups against any bench you pass, jumping jacks when you see a yellow car, squats when you spot dog walkers, etc.)
The high-powered explosive activity of exercises such as jumping jacks interluded with short bursts of sprinting is brilliant for burning extra fat without blasting through muscle tissue in the same way High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) works.
The destination workout
Destination workouts combine elements from single-site and traveling workout styles. For this, jog or run to your exercise spot (for example, the beach or local trail), then perform a series of bodyweight drills at your location. On your way home, practice a ‘moving meditation’ where you focus on your breathing and the things you can see/smell/taste/hear for a cool-down.
Part of the joy of taking your workout outside is to take your workout outside. This includes ditching more standard equipment in favor of natural movements.
By forcing your body to go through new adaptations, you’ll build strength in every muscle, burn more body fat, and improve your general performance. Not to mention you get a break from the monotony of gym walls and enjoy a healthy dose of vitamin D!
If your local beach or park has an adult jungle-gym (or even a kid’s one), this is a fantastic spot for exercise. Monkey bars can double as pull-up bars, and grown-up outdoor gyms offer a whole range of equipment to take advantage of.
If you don’t have (or can’t find) a more sophisticated outdoor gym setting, these tips can help you transform the mundane into an outdoor gym of champions:
- Benches: A simple bench is one of the best pieces of outdoor gym equipment you’ll ever find. Use them as a base for push-ups, elevated planks, squats, dips, and more. They’re also great for pre and post-workout stretching.
- Rocks: Stand on them, lift them, throw them, do lunges on them… Rocks (particularly large ones) are effortless natural weights that you can use. Even practicing skimming stones will work out several muscle groups, and is great fun, too!
- Hills and steps: Any form of incline can add a bit of resistance to your workout. Try running up and down as fast (and carefully) as you can. Bonus points if you find an incline on the beach as the sand will add plenty of resistance and challenge to the workout!
- Trees: You’ll be hard-pressed to beat a quality tree workout. Tree-wall sits, self-assisted pull-ups, handstands, and headstands… A sturdy tree is limitless!
- Logs: Even fallen trees have their uses as workout props. Walk along them to improve your balance and coordination. You could also experiment by deadlifting, overhead pressing, or swinging logs and fallen tree branches.
To really keep your workout fresh and exciting, try creating a natural obstacle course to combine agility, speed, and strength training. Yes, this will be easier if you live near a forest, but with a little creativity, you can create an obstacle course anywhere.
Feel the burn
Once you’ve mastered a few outdoor workouts, up the ante and bring some resistance bands into your workout for assisted pull-ups against a tree branch or to mix up your fitness scavenger hunt. We also like including a running parachute to add resistance to cardio.
But while you want to feel the burn on your body, you shouldn’t be feeling it on your skin! We’re sure we’re teaching you to suck eggs here, but please don’t forget to pile on the sunscreen and drink plenty of water whenever you work out outdoors.
Otherwise, get your walking shoes on, get outdoors, and get working! A literal whole world of fitness possibilities awaits you!