Busy schedules, vacations and travel for work are the three most frequent excuses I get from my clients about why they can't make it to the gym. Unfortunately for them, I always have suggestions about how we can all break free from the walls of the gym and get a workout in just about anywhere. Since it's summertime, the best place to get fit is out in the sun. Even if you do have access to a fitness facility, taking it outside can help provide a change of pace and scenery and serve as a wonderful boredom buster. With an added dose of Vitamin D (don't forget to wear sunscreen!) you won't feel like you are wasting a beautiful summer day in the gym, plus you can encourage family and friends to join you. Here are some suggestions for out-of-the-gym fitness moves:
1. Turn a swingset into a TRX System. Find the nearest playground, and use the swings to work your core the way you would the straps of a TRX. Put your feet on the swing and get into plank position. Bend your knees and pull the swing toward you and then release to your original plank. If there are two swings next to each other, try placing one foot on each swing to increase the difficulty of this move. You can also turn around and place your hands on the swing, pushing it in and out for another core exercise.
2. Monkey around. If the playground also happens to include monkey bars, you're in luck! You can do pullups on them, or just try to reach the other side, like you did when you were a kid. This is a great strengthener for your shoulders and back. If there are no monkey bars around, see if you can find a sturdy tree branch to complete a few rounds of pullups on.
3. See a park bench as your new workout bench. Just like the version at the gym, you can use a park bench to complete tricep dips: Place your hands on the edge of the bench and face outward, your hands behind you. With your legs forming a 90-degree angle, lower yourself until you almost touch the ground and then raise yourself back up again. You can also use a park bench to practice your vertical jump. Stand facing the bench, a few inches away. Jump up to land with both feet on top of the bench (make sure no one else is sitting on it, or else you might give them a scare!). These jumps could also be executed on a tree stump or bleacher stairs if all the park benches you see are occupied.
4. Create a cardio challenge. Even though there are no treadmills or stairmills in the great outdoors, you can use stadium stairs, hotel stairs or hilly paths to simulate the same experience. If you find an area with softer dirty or sand, this kind of terrain can be similar to experimenting with incline levels on a treadmill. Try some sprints on various hills and types of ground for a diverse workout.
5. Hop in the pool. If you are lucky enough to be near a pool, swimming laps is an extremely efficient way to burn calories. It is also beneficial to those suffering from asthma, as the water vapors on the surface of the water lubricate your airways, allowing you to potentially complete a longer or more intense cardio session than you might be able to finish on dry land. If you aren't a great swimmer, hold on to the edge of the pool (or a kickboard) and get a great leg workout in by kicking your legs. Instead of the dumbbell lateral raises or front raises you would do in a gym setting, use empty water bottles and push them underwater to create a similar resistance.
6. DIY dumbbells. Since most people don't travel with dumbbells, turn everyday items into your weights. Do walking lunges with a gallon of water or a heavy beach bag. Fill a bucket with sand or water and do squats on the beach. Use a cooler with ice in it to complete a quick set of deadlifts.
7. See the grass as your yoga mat. What better way to practice the art of yoga than out in nature? Strike a few poses anywhere you choose. Grass is a wonderful substitute for a mat to do yoga, pilates, crunches, stretching or some bodyweight exercises. If you don't feel like thinking up your own routine, bring FitDeck along. These packs of cards come in multiple flavors (bodyweight exercises, yoga, stretching) that would be good for this endeavor. You just shuffle the deck, and "deal" yourself a workout that can be completed out in the sun!
Breaking out of the norm and learning to see the world as your gym is an extremely beneficial practice. Not only do you get to challenge yourself in new ways outside the gym walls, but you train your eyes and your mind to see fitness everywhere you look. That means the next time you don't think you can get that workout in, you'll probably think twice about all the opportunities surrounding you in nature that suggest otherwise. Just make sure to drink plenty of water (we often sweat more while working out in the hot sun, which means we need to hydrate more frequently) and cool down/stretch when you've finished playing outside.
For more by Keri Lynn Ford, click here.
For more on fitness and exercise, click here.