Getting in shape doesn’t mean being confined to the four walls of a gym. We definitely know that a gym membership has vast benefits, but this kind of structured workout isn’t always for everyone. Blaring music, stinky peers and crowded machines might be a pet peeve of yours. If you love being outside, it’s easy to take your traditional gym workouts and translate them to practical tasks in the great outdoors. All it takes is a little creativity (or, if that fails, reading our list). Here are our top 10 outdoor workouts:
Do this instead of: Rigorous treadmill exercises
Uphill sprints aren’t for the faint of heart -- quite literally -- but if you’re in shape enough to try them, they’re a real challenge that will give you a serious workout. Stretching before and after this sort of undertaking is a must, given the extreme strain running up a slope puts on the muscles in the lower half of your body. Sprinting is one of the best cardiovascular workouts that exists, but sprinting up a hill is even better.
Do this instead of: Chin-ups
Chin-ups at the gym are a great way to work a number of muscle groups, namely the back, shoulders and chest. Take this sort of workout outdoors, though, and you have rock climbing. In this workout, whether you’re on a real mountain or a man-made climbing wall (we suggest you start with the latter) you’ll both tone the same muscle groups as you would during a chin-up, and also strengthen your core and work the legs
Do this instead of: Inclined treadmill
A treadmill set to a steep incline or the traditional StairMaster-type of machine, gives the user a gruelling workout to the legs, glutes and abs. Take this activity outside, try the real thing and you’ll find it even more challenging. You can probably find a set of stairs somewhere in your community (all you need are 20 steps or so) to climb. Keep in mind that no pedestrians want someone charging up the steps beside them, so save this workout for the early morning when it’s less crowded (and when the temperature’s cooler).
Do this instead of: Treadmill
The treadmill might be the most popular piece of machinery at any gym, but rather than pay for a membership each month, why not enjoy the same benefit right outside your front door? Depending on your level of fitness, you can walk at a brisk pace, step it up for a jog or a flat-out run. The pounds will fall away as you shed calories at a remarkable pace.
Do this instead of: Stationary bicycle
There’s no doubt that a stationary bike is a great way to build your leg muscles, drop fat and get in shape, but you can achieve the same results outdoors. Whether you have a lightweight titanium bike or an old clunker, hop on and go. You’ll pedal away the pounds as you enjoy the fresh air and you won’t have to contend with fast-food commercials tempting you on the gym television, or with that annoying guy waiting impatiently for you to finish your workout.
Do this instead of: Pull-downs
Everyone knows that swimming offers a great workout, whether it’s in your backyard pool, at a community center or in a natural body of water. While it’ll quickly work to tone up your entire body, the biggest change you might notice is an improvement to your back muscles. Think of the traditional pull-downs you do at the gym, and how your back feels after a bunch of reps. Swimming will do the same thing without the sound of clanging iron.
Park-based Circuit Training
Do this instead of: Weight training
Many parks have basic circuit training stations that may seem simple, but can go a long way in helping you achieve peak physical fitness. At these stations, which may sometimes seem like play structures for children, you can work on pull-ups, dips, jumps, balancing drills, and more -- each of which can be a substitute for traditional weight training at the gym. It’s a great feeling to use your own body’s weight as resistance and see how much muscle you can develop over time.
Do this instead of: Stretching classes
When proper stretching techniques were developed thousands of years ago, they weren’t done with the gym in mind. There’s no better stretching routine than a yoga session, which can be a pretty peaceful thing to do in the fresh air. More and more yoga centers are offering fresh-air classes at parks, but if you’re not into the group thing, it’s easy to try some moves on your own. And because of yoga’s popularity, it’s easy to find a class suitable for your skill level.
Do this instead of: Sliding board
A sliding board at the gym works the abs, legs and stretches the hips and groin -- as does inline skating. Whether you’re into long, scenic trips or the quick changes in direction of a game of roller hockey, you’ll be bound to drop some pounds and get toned up before long. The added bonus is that as you glide along, you’ll get a nice breeze in your face, something you just don’t get at the gym. And, compared with running, there’s relatively little impact to your leg joints.
Do this instead of: Rowing machine
If you have ready access to the water, a rowing workout will leave your entire body feeling great. A traditional gym-style rowing machine offers a good workout, but, as always, there’s no substitute for the real thing. Many cities have rowing clubs that offer lessons for beginners, and this is a great way to meet like-minded fitness enthusiasts. So, whether you’re looking into rowing for the killer workout or for the social side of the sport, you can’t go wrong.