Hey, March is here! For most of us, that means the dreary cold of winter begins to turn into gorgeous spring days. Why remain cooped up in the gym when you can take advantage of the nice weather and train outside? Sure, runners, paddlers and cyclists already spend most (if not all) of their training outdoors. But, we all know accessory training is critical for injury prevention and maintaining peak performance. And you can take those workouts outside too! The trick? Find a playground.
There are many great reasons to take your workouts outside. For one thing, it’s free! Exercising outside doesn't require a membership fee or any special equipment. Even though there’s always fun gear you can buy, a pair of running shoes is all you need.
Along with the physical benefits, outdoor workouts are also good for our mental health. Nature has a calming and refreshing effect on our minds. Studies show that being outside in nature decreases stress and improves our mood. Other studies show that people who exercise outside are more satisfied and are more likely to do it again.
Are you convinced? Great, time to mix things up. There are different ways to get your outdoor training on, and those mainly depend on your training goals. For our purposes, we’ll take a macro view of some of the possibilities.
Endurance Training - Hit the trails
Endurance athletes generally conduct most of their training outside. If you are one of these athletes, consider mixing up your workouts. So if you’re a cyclist, go for a run instead. If you’re a runner, go for a long bike ride. In both of these scenarios, go off-road if possible. Mountain biking is a bit more technical, so if the trails are out of your comfort zone, find a paved path or gravel. Non-endurance athletes should also incorporate some endurance training into their regimens. Trail running is often the most satisfying way of doing that.
HIIT and Strength - Playground
The truth is, you can do a HIIT workout literally anywhere. But, to make things a bit more fun and add in strength work, head to your local playground. Based on the available equipment, you can craft a heart-pounding, sweat inducing workout. Here are a few ideas:
- Start from a standing position, squat down and jump your feet back, landing in a push-up position with arms extended. Perform one push up, then jump your feet forward to your hands and jump up six inches above the ground to standing position. That’s one rep.
- Run as fast as you can for a given distance or length of time. Rest (as long as permitted by your own training goals). Repeat. Do these in 100m sets.
- Find a park bench or sturdy equivalent. Jump as high as you can landing on the bench softly with a mid-foot strike. Jump or step back down.
- Also referred to as alternating lunge jumps. Perform a forward lunge, at the bottom of the lunge, jump up and switch your legs in mid air. Lunge down in the alternate leg position and repeat.
Lower body work
- Exactly what they sound like. Pay special attention to form, even if you’re used to squatting heavy.
Bench step ups
- Step up on the bench with one leg while exploding the other knee up towards the sky. Step down and repeat with the other leg.
Bulgarian split squat
- Stand in front of a bench (or equivalent) facing away with a staggered stance. Rest your back foot on the bench behind you. Slowly lower your body down with knees bent, neutral spine and tight core.
- Lay down on your back with your feet flat and knees bent. Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips off the ground as high as you can. Hold for a 2-count, slowly lower and repeat.
Upper body work
- Monkey bars work great, but most playgrounds have something comparable.
- You’ll need to find a bar that’s low enough or you can use the underside of a table or even a swing set. Keeping your core tight and back straight, grab onto what you’ll be holding, lean back (you may have to adjust your feet to get the right angle) and use your arms to pull yourself up.
- You can do all kinds of push ups at the park. Wide, narrow, diamond, spider-man. Use benches and platforms to add elevated, off-set and decline varieties as well.
- The possibilities are just about as limitless as push ups.
Hanging leg raise
- Hanging from your pull-up bar, keep your core tight and legs straight, raise your feet until they’re at least parallel with the ground. Slowly lower and repeat. An easier variation is the hanging knee tuck, where you bend the knees and bring them up instead.
Ab roll out on swing
- Stand facing a swing. Place bend slightly to place your hands on the seat. Slowly lean forward keeping your body tight and extend out until your body is fully extended. Contract your core to return to the starting position.
These are just a few ideas for how to mix up your training while getting some Vitamin D. Want to make things even more fun? Grab some friends and make it competitive by creating some challenges!