Spring has arrived, and with it has come the anticipation of weekends away, a lighter wardrobe and spending as much time in the sun as possible while avoiding sunburn. You don’t need to wait until June rolls around to make the most of longer days, however. Move your exercise routine outdoors to bask in the vitamin D, build your endurance and get ripped in time for your summer holidays.
There is much more to outdoor workouts than cycling or jogging in your free time, but it can be hard to find a workout routine that’s both enjoyable and effective. Workouts that incorporate different types of activity and muscle groups will give you the best results. Full body strength and conditioning workouts boost metabolism, so even when your workout is complete, you’ll still be burning extra calories even hours later.
If you need motivation to try something new, Active April is the perfect opportunity. Check Twitter and Facebook for #ActiveApril events to try fitness trends and places for free. While the initiative started in Australia, you can still find plenty of local spots taking part. With so many different activities covered, it would be hard to not be inspired to shake up your fitness routine.
Don’t think you have time for a workout? Read our tips on how even the busiest professionals can prioritise exercise.
For a little more inspiration, here are five outdoor workouts you can try to push yourself out of a fitness rut.
Outdoor gyms are a great way to get in a varied workout, for free. They’re suitable for people of all ages, and a workout there can be as challenging as you want it to be. Besides the obvious cost savings over a gym membership, they offer the opportunity to exercise in the fresh air and get away from the blaring TVs and gym grunters.
The range of equipment, like exercise bikes, high bars and cross trainers, will allow you to target different muscle groups and focus on your problem areas. You can combine resistance work with cardio, especially if you get creative with your workout. If the equipment is along a trail or with some distance between each obstacle, you can add in jogs or sprints to get your heart rate up.
Your local council will likely have their outdoor gyms listed online, and some even offer free instruction sessions. If you play sports, outdoor gyms are a great way to boost your balance and agility.
Like any workout, it’s important that you learn how to use the equipment before diving in. Also, make sure to start each workout with a 5-minute warm-up of light jogging and end with 5 minutes of stretching.
If you find it hard to motivate yourself into a workout that tests your limits, joining a bootcamp could be the right answer. Fitness bootcamps have been growing in popularity for several years, especially for those who appreciate an effective guided workout that leaves them wiped out.
Guided bootcamp sessions focus on high-intensity circuits for a total body workout. They incorporate a combination of different strength, cardio and body-weight exercises, working out a wide range of muscle groups. They offer constant intensity, helping to build your overall fitness without getting bored.
Bootcamps used to be outdoor-only exercise classes, but many have added indoor sessions to motivate those who don’t appreciate running sprints in the rain. The indoor bootcamp classes also often use equipment that you might not get in an outdoor session, though instructors of outdoor bootcamp routines can include running into the workout, if that’s important to you.
The group dynamics of a bootcamp and high energy instructors mean you’ll have a guided workout, the motivation of a team and the chance to push yourself further than you’d normally go for a great workout.
Of course, you might hate having someone dictate exercises to you and having to work out in a group. Building your own workout is always an option, but only if you really know what you’re doing.
Interval running, or high intensity interval training (HIIT)
If you’re already active and are confident you can motivate yourself, high intensity interval training could be right for you. Create a HIIT workout around interval running and burn more fat than you would in a regular jogging session. Interval running is great for increasing stamina, speed and heart health. Plus, it’s ideal for people with a busy schedule, as even a workout as short as 15 minutes will produce results.
Build a high-intensity workout into your routine, and you’ll get the benefits in the fraction of the time of a typical run. It’ll get your heart pumping into an anaerobic zone for more power, strength and muscular endurance.
It’s as simple as pushing yourself to the limit, and pulling back to a slower pace. High intensity interval training means exercising near maximum effort through quick, intense bursts, balanced with short recovery periods at half the intensity.
HIIT workouts stimulate production of the human growth hormone, which is responsible for increased calorie burning and slowing down the ageing process. Another win? You’ll get those benefits for 24 hours after you finish your workout thanks to your boosted resting metabolic rate.
Because of the intensity, personal trainers recommend that you don’t do HIIT workouts more than three times a week. Those new to high intensity workouts should start slowly and incorporate steady cardio into your routine, too.
Jumping rope may not be the kind of exercise you associate with fat-burning athleticism, but it’s time to let go of the assumption that it’s exclusively for children in the playground.
This affordable, calorie-busting exercise will get you outdoors and working hard in no time. Jumping rope is a particularly effective training routine for those who play sports, as it helps boost coordination, strengthens feet and ankles (leading to fewer injuries) and improves stamina. It’s no fluke that top athletes work jump roping into their training regimens.
You can also incorporate skipping rope into your HIIT training by doing short, quick sets. Plus, considering the only equipment you need is a jump rope and a flat surface, it’s a portable workout.
When choosing a rope, aim for a heavier plastic one. Avoid cheap cotton or fibrous ropes, as, especially for beginners, they’re much more difficult to use. Length is also important. To be sure it’s right for you, stand on the middle of the rope and hold an end in each hand. The handles should be comfortable to hold at waist height.
To get the best results for your heart and lung health, you should aim to skip rope three to five times a week, for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Rowing or Sailing
If you’re looking to learn new skills and challenges while working out, consider taking to the water. Sailing and rowing are excellent not only for boosting your athleticism and enjoying the outdoors, but they’re also fun sporting activities.
Getting stuck in a rut, without any motivation to tackle a traditional workout, is a pretty common occurrence, especially for those who aren’t naturally inclined to sprinting up hills. Going out just to train might sound boring, or like a chore. If that sounds like you, the brainpower required to sail or row could be exactly what you need.
An added benefit is that activities with both physical and mental demands have been shown to make you smarter! They have higher impacts on cognitive functioning than exercises with only physical requirements. Both activities also provide low-impact cardio. Expect a great legs, shoulder and core workout from rowing, and look forward to more upper-body strength, agility, coordination and flexibility from learning to sail.
You can often find sailing and rowing organisations that offer lessons and provide boats and other necessary equipment, so there’s a low barrier to entry, and no need to invest in lots of expensive gear.