With Spring upon us, and warmer weather on the way, it’s the perfect time to take your workout outside! Why not shake up your routine and take advantage of the benefits that outdoor exercise has to offer?
There are numerous studies that suggest that exercising outdoors can have a positive effect on both mental and physical wellbeing, perhaps even more so than indoor exercise. So, whether you live in the city or on the coast, there can be more to an outdoor training session than you might think. You don’t need a gym full of equipment for a good workout, here are some ideas for you to get a full body routine going.
Stairs, steps and hills:
These are great for HIIT (high intensity interval training). Start your workout with some short sprints (5 to 8) up a set of stairs or a hill, 10 to 15 seconds per sprint with a minute recovery in between. Obviously this is much more challenging than simply running on an even surface and is sure to get your heart rate soaring!
You can also use steps of varying heights to perform step-ups and box jumps. If you’re a beginner then start with step-ups. Find a step (a higher step for more advanced) and stand facing it. Step up with one foot and lean forwards slightly, keeping your back straight (and without pushing off with your lower foot) push through the foot on top of the step to bring you up to standing. Slowly lower back with the same foot in a controlled manner, don’t just let your foot drop down. Do 12 to 20 reps on one leg and then the other and perform up to 3 sets.
For the more advanced, you can try out some box jumps. Standing in front of the step, jump up bringing your knees up to clear the step and land in a squat position on top of the step. Step down and repeat for up to 15 reps. Make sure to increase the step height as you advance to keep you progressing.
Bars and tree branches:
These are great for pull-ups and back rows. Kids play areas will provide plenty of bars and if you’re in a wooded area then there are sure to be plenty of trees around! As a beginner, find a bar or branch between hip ad chest height. Hold the bar just wider than shoulder width apart and let yourself hang with your chest under the bar and your body in a bridge position, feet flat on the floor, knees bent at 90˚, hips lifted (your body should be straight from head to knees). Pull your shoulders back and down and bend your elbows to bring your chest towards the bar. Extend your arms to lower back to the start position and repeat for 12 to 20 reps. This can be quite a challenge for an absolute beginner so just do as many reps as you can for several sets. To make this harder, straighten your legs to increase the resistance.
Aim to build up to doing full pull-ups. Find a high bar or branch for this and take a grip just wider than your shoulders, palms can be facing towards or away from you (facing you is easier for most). Hang with your arms fully extended and feet can be crossed with knees bent slightly. Draw the shoulder blades back and down and pull your chest towards the bar by pulling your elbows back and down. Aim to get your chin over the bar and don’t let the lower back round by bringing the hips forward. Slowly lower to full extension and repeat. This is an extremely challenging exercise but well worth mastering. Even if you can only do one partial rep, it’s a start! If you’re already proficient at pull-ups then add some weight with a backpack or use a partner to add resistance. Equally you can use a partner to assist you in getting up to the bar.
Benches and seats:
I like to use benches for varying degrees of push up levels and tricep dips. If you’re an absolute beginner then start with your hands placed on the back of the bench, progressing to a lower level as you advance. As you advance even further you can have the feet elevated on the bench seat and then the back rest to target the shoulders more. To perform a basic push up correctly, place hands about shoulder width apart below your chest and extend the arms, your weight should be supported through your toes and arms, your body should create a straight line from head to toe, no sagging or elevated hips please! Bend your elbows and let them go back rather than flare out and bring your chest towards the surface, don’t let your hips sag or head drop down and keep your shoulder blades back and down to avoid shrugging. Extend arms to return to start position and repeat for as many reps as you can with good form. If you can’t perform push ups without the hips sagging and head dropping then choose a higher surface, master that level and then progress. You can do several sets of these and play around with different hand widths once you get the hang of it.
To target the triceps (back of the upper arm) sit on the edge of the bench and place your hands either side of you right on the edge of the seat. Slide your bum off the seat so that your arms are taking all the weight. Keeping the back straight and head up, let the elbows bend backwards and allow the back to slide down the edge of the seat until the elbows reach 90˚, straighten the arms to push you all the way back up. To advance this exercise you can straighten your legs and even elevate the feet onto another surface or a basketball to increase the challenge further.
Rocks, logs, tyres and ropes:
Depending on your location, you can often find alternatives out and about for adding weight to your routine. Rocks make great dumbbell or med ball alternatives – throw them, slam them, press them or use them to add resistance to squats and lunges. If you’re lucky enough to be on the beach after a storm there’ll be plenty of smooth driftwood (no splinters!) washed up that you can use and add some fun and creativity to a group exercise session. Discarded tyres can be used for overhead pressing or even as an alternative to a sled for resisted sprints. Discarded ropes can be used for battling rope drills or even get a group together for a good old fashioned tug o’war!
Getting out of the gym is about being creative and challenging yourself in different ways. It can also help you to bust out of plateaus and as the research suggests, help you push yourself even further. So make the most of the warmer weather and get yourself outdoors for some playtime!