Let’s face it. Even those of us who make exercise a part of our regular routines have seasons when life gets in the way and it becomes difficult — if not impossible — to make it to the gym. Maybe you’re traveling for business, your car is in the shop, or you just can’t find a babysitter. Whatever it is, a hiccup in your schedule doesn’t have to derail your commitment to fitness.
When you realize that the world is your personal gym, you open the door to all kinds of opportunities for getting both cardio and strength training no matter what life holds.
Outdoor workouts aren’t only something that can be done almost anywhere, they also give you an excuse to break beyond the walls of the gym and soak up some vitamin D. Plus, exercising in nature is refreshing for your psyche and will force you to use different muscles, giving your workout a much-needed boost.
If you live in a region where temperatures are extremely hot, be sure to take caution when exercising outside and consider working out in the early morning or late evening when it tends to be cooler. No matter where you live, always hydrate and fuel up well so your energy doesn’t lag.
Here are a few of our favorite outdoor workouts. Combine them as needed to meet your fitness goals, and then get creative or come up with your own.
If you live where there’s beach access (whether natural or man made), this is a fantastic alternative to the treadmill. Running on sand is a great way to challenge your body while placing minimal stress on your joints.
Distance: If you’re running for a longer duration, try to schedule your workout at low tide, when you can stay on wet, packed sand. While dry sand can be great for extra burn, it’s not ideal for longer runs, as you’ll get tired more quickly.
Circuit: Your feet will sink farther into dry sand than wet, making running on lose, dry sand a slower, more intense workout. Create a running circuit by alternating between the two. Start with just a minute in dry sand, increasing your time as your body allows.
When you don’t have the workout equipment you’re used to using, a park bench is really all you need to get in some intense, strength training moves.
Squats: Most park benches are the perfect height for gaging whether or not you’re squatting correctly. Positioning yourself close to the edge will help you make sure you’re not squatting too far forward (with your knees extending past your toes), and will help you know how low you’re going. Make sure to position your feet shoulder distance apart, with your toes pointed slightly out. Keep your head straight and slowly squat down until your glutes touch the edge of the bench. Then, power back up and repeat. If you’re already an advanced squatter, consider using other outdoor items (such as a large rock or small log) for a weighted squat.
Dips: Park bench dips are a great way to get an upper body workout when you don’t have access to weights or lifting machines. Start by sitting on the edge of the bench with your back straight and your hands palms down next to your hips, grasping the edge of the bench. Make sure your legs are extended a ways in front of you with your feet planted firmly. Then, lower yourself off the bench until your elbows have formed a 90-degree angle. Push yourself back up, and repeat.
Whether or not they call it “exercise,” kids are naturals at finding fun ways to be active outside. And many classic “kid” activities are actually great forms of exercise that will strengthen your core and tone your muscles.
Jumping jacks: Jumping jacks are ideal because they can be done from anywhere and require no special equipment. Do a short set before a workout for a fun warm up or keep it going even longer to make it part of your cardio. Not only will jumping jacks get your heart rate up, but they’ll also help keep your muscles toned. If you’re looking for an extra challenge, strap on light wrist and ankle weights.
Jump roping: Kids might jump rope for fun on the playground, but fitness experts have long known that it’s a great form of exercise. Like jumping jacks, it will get your heart rate up, while also improving coordination and toning muscles. To make sure your rope is the appropriate length, step in the middle of it, and raise the handles up toward your ears, making sure they reach below your shoulders. When jumping, keeping your elbows at your sides and focus on moving your wrists and forearms.
There are countless other ways to get in your outdoor workouts. Try jumping in the lake or swimming laps in the pool. Hop on your bike and ride through the mountains. Use a sturdy tree as a pull up bar, and get down in the grass for some good old-fashioned pushups.
Whatever you do, don’t allow life to derail your fitness success. Remain active with outdoor workouts and eat a healthy, plant-based diet to stay fit and energized for every curveball that’s thrown your way!