One of the biggest turn-offs for many people who want to take up exercise is the idea of stepping foot in the gym. Of course, you can get fit even at home, but who doesn’t love to be outside, especially on a sunny day?
Outdoor workouts add variety to your exercise routine and leave you feeling more connected with nature, your community and the world around you. And they’re ideal when you’re travelling, combining well with other ideas for Workouts on the Go.
Going for a long run or bike ride isn’t your only option. Combine a few of the following activities to create a workout lasting 45 minutes to an hour.
Use Outdoor Equipment
A lot of parks these days have workout areas, with bars, benches and other fixed equipment accompanied by notices explaining how best to use them. Familiarise yourself with the instructions and then build the exercises into your own workout routine.
Alternatively, use other outdoor equipment such as kids’ play areas (if they’re not full of littlies), park benches and picnic tables to perform exercises like chin-ups, step-ups and tricep dips.
Make Your Own Weights
Improvise with home-made weights such as sand-filled water bottles and backpacks filled with books so you can perform toning exercises. These include bicep curls and shoulder presses (with the water bottles) or lunges and squats (with the backpack).
Of course, exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and side crunches need no equipment at all – just a flat piece of ground.
You can perform these toning exercises in sets of 12 or 15, resting for 45 to 60 seconds between each set.
Outdoor Cardio Exercises
There are plenty of outdoor cardio options. A few that you can combine to form a circuit include things like high-knee running on the spot, squat jumps, burpees and mountain climbers.
These may all sound weird and mysterious if you’ve not done them before, but if you join 12WBT you’ll be given full explanations of how to do them all, including video demonstrations.
Perform each of these exercises in sets of 10, 15 or 20 repetitions before moving on to the next exercise and then the next. Once you’ve done them all, rest for 90 seconds before performing your circuit again two or three more times.
This is ideal for those who don’t enjoy running. Find a route along scenic paths, around parks or ovals or beside quiet roads. You’ll need to walk at a good, strong pace, not an amble. Imagine you’re rushing for a train!
It’s great both as a warm-up for the rest of your workout, or for 10 or 20 minutes in the middle or at the end of your session. If you want to start running, you can add short blocks (a minute or two at a time) into the walk to gain confidence.
Skipping ropes are both inexpensive to buy and easy to carry around. Most boxers skip as part of their training, so make like you’re Muhammad Ali when you’re out there with that rope! It’s a highly effective calorie burner.
Set your watch or a timer on your phone for 60 seconds and go as hard as you can. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat, for a total of five minutes.
Doing hill intervals is an excellent cardio exercise either for runners or walkers. Find a hill in your local park or on your running or walking route that will challenge you. You’ll need to run or walk up the hill as fast as you can for about two minutes, which is a long time when you’re giving it all you’ve got!
After two minutes, turn around and walk more slowly at a normal pace for about three minutes back down to the bottom.
Repeat this pattern (uphill for two minutes and downhill for three minutes) twice or three times more, giving you a total of 15 or 20 minutes.
Outdoor stairs are perfect for workouts. Use them to walk up, run up or sprint up and then walk back down (in a similar way to the hill intervals, above).
You can also use them to stretch out your calf muscles, standing with your toes on the edge of a step and hanging the back of one foot off it for 30 seconds before switching to the other foot.
For those who are comfortable with running, this is a good way to gain more bang for your buck than simply going at a steady space for 30 minutes or longer. If you’re doing this at the start of your workout session, you’ll need to warm up first with a light, steady jog for between five and ten minutes. Otherwise you can just slot the interval sprints into your session later on or at the end.
Using your watch, measure out a distance on level ground that takes you 30 seconds to sprint in one direction. Interval sprints involve sprinting to that point for 30 seconds, resting for 30 seconds and then sprinting back to where you started. Rest again for 30 seconds and repeat.
Continue in this fashion for a total of ten minutes. Add extra time as your fitness improves, up to a total of 20 minutes.
Don’t Forget to Stretch
Always round off your workouts with a good stretching session of around five minutes, making sure you stretch each muscle group for 30 seconds. This will ensure your body stays flexible and will minimise your risk of injury.
To find out more about how to lead a healthy lifestyle, see our article on 20 quick and easy fitness tips.