When the weather’s great outdoors, I hate to go to the gym and lose out on all that fresh air and sunshine. To still get my endorphins pumping and keep some semblance of body tone, here are ten creative ways I exercise outdoors:
1) Climb stairs. Almost every morning, I speed walk about half a mile to the local elementary school, where I climb a steep set of stairs, descend, and repeat until I get my heart rate somewhat elevated. I actually never use a stairmaster at the gym, but I love the stairs at school. After I’m warmed up, I take them two at a time for a little extra benefit to my quadriceps and glutes (that’s thighs and backside in lay terms!).
2) Weight walk. Walking is great; speed walking is better; walking with light weights may be best of all for increasing your heart rate and working arm muscles at the same time as you boost cardio and keep legs in shape. I vary my walking speed from fast to faster to very fast and then slow down again to increase intensity and burn more calories without having to keep up the very fastest speed the entire way.
3) Hike. Whether you’re a nature lover or just like to explore in the woods, a brisk hike could be for you. I usually try to pick a trail that has a moderate-to-steep incline, which will increase my heart rate, help build my quads and glutes, and make me feel like I actually accomplished something. If you don’t know where to hike, join your local Sierra Club or get trail maps from your local outdoor gear store.
4) Park bench dip. I’m always looking for a way to strengthen my core stomach muscles and tighten up my triceps (the usually flabby muscles on the underside of the biceps). The park bench dip is perfect for this. Sit down on the bench, then, with your palms facing forward and gripping the bench edge, scoot off so that your legs are at a 90 degree angle. Use your triceps to lift your body up and down. Repeat 10-15 times to begin; increase over time. You should feel the results in your triceps as well as your quads.
5) Park bench push up. You can always do regular push ups on the ground if you want. But if you’d rather not get a little dirty, use the park bench you just did your dips on. Face the bench and lean over. Put your palms face down on the bench, fingers pointing to the back. Extend your body out in a sort of plank position, with your head and chest inclined over your hands and your legs straight out behind you. Balancing on your toes and hands, push up then let yourself down, working at a moderate pace. Feel the burn in your arms, chest and core.
6) Walk a tightrope. The “tightrope” you’re likely to find outdoors is probably a long curb, flat rail, or maybe even a downed tree. Extend your arms out to your sides for balance and use your core to keep you stable. Walk step-over-step from one end of the rail or tree to the other; turn, and repeat.
7) Yoga in the park. So many people are practicing yoga these days, I don’t feel the least bit out of place doing sun salutations and downward dog on the grass in the neighborhood park. It actually seems like sun salutations belong outside, don’t you think?
Vertical crunch. An orthopedist I used to see for some vertebrae issues suggested this exercise to me. It’s a great way to strengthen your core and flatten abs without putting pressure on your neck or lower back the way you do with regular sit-ups. Plus it builds balance and concentration. Standing tall, pull one leg up to your chest, grab it, release, then pull the other leg up to your chest and do the same thing. Alternate legs, counting each complete motion of both legs as one repetition. The key here is to keep your abs tight and use them to pull your legs up – if you bend over to your legs, you’ll be defeating the purpose. Want a little extra work-out? Lock your hands behind your head, then touch elbows to alternate knees when you raise your legs. Again, start with 12-15 repetitions, and build up or repeat sets as your endurance increases.
9) Garden. Gardening may be my favorite form of exercise. I’m outdoors, in Nature, feeling productive and enjoying the results of my hardwork when it’s all over. Pulling weeds, raking leaves with a hand rake, edging, trimming bushes and trees all work up a sweat.
1o) Mow lawn. Even if I’m not weeding my yard, I still have to mow the lawn. I use an electric mower but it still takes a fair amount of upper body strength to haul it from my shed to my grass. Once I get going, I try to mow somewhat quickly to increase aerobic activity. My yard has a bit of an incline to it, so I end up pushing the mower up as much as down, which is great for exercising my legs and arms.
What exercises do you do outdoors? Tennis? Biking? Frisbee? Let us know!