I love gyms. I love the variety of equipment, the communal workout atmosphere, the predictable and familiar environment. Gyms are also guaranteed to get you hot and sweaty when it’s 4 degrees and raining on a dark January night.
But lately, I’ve been taking my clients – and myself – outside to exercise.
Even a 5-minute walk outside can improve your mood and self-esteem
Some of the great things about outdoor workouts are obvious: being in the sun on a nice day; breathing the fresh air. But research suggests people who exercise outside have more energy and positive feelings, feel more revitalized, and have less depression, anger and stress. We tend to exercise longer and harder when we’re outside as well.
Head for a park, a trail in the forest, the beach. Even a small green space with a park bench will do. Step ups, push ups and tricep dips can all be done with a stable chair, bench or step. Playgrounds offer lots of fun ways to get fit while feeling like a kid again! Ask your trainer to take part or all of your workout outside, or join an outdoor boot camp class.
Each spring as the weather gets warmer, I look forward to training my clients in the park near Spartacus Gym. Partner exercises are especially fun as they infuse a sense of play into what can sometimes be a pretty gruelling workout.
Here are some outdoor exercises you can do with a weighted ball, but a single hand weight would work too.
Squat to Press
A simple, functional full-body exercise that’s great for strengthening your shoulders and legs.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, holding a weighted ball in front of your chest.
- Bring your hips back and bend your knees, sitting back as if there’s an invisible chair behind you.
- Then as you push through your feet to rise back to standing, lift the ball overhead.
- Lower the ball to chest height and repeat. Keep your core engaged and your spine neutral.
- Make it harder by bouncing the ball at the bottom of your squat.
Medicine Ball Push-up Pass
This push-up variation will really target your upper body and core.
- Assume a plank position with a partner, facing one another.
- Partner A does a push up, first with their left hand and then their right hand on the weighted ball
- Then Partner A passes the ball diagonally to Partner B’s left hand
- Partner B repeats the exercise before passing the ball diagonally back to Partner A.
- Make it easier by keeping your knees on the ground.
Medicine Ball Roll-up Pass
The added weight of the ball will challenge even the most hardcore Pilates enthusiasts.
- Both partners lie on their backs with knees bent and toes touching.
- Partner A holds the medicine ball at their chest; Partner B presses their palms together at their chest.
- On an inhale, both lift their heads and shoulders off the mat into an upper abdominal curl.
- As they exhale, they slowly roll their spines up, extending the arms forward until Partner B can touch the ball.
- Inhale as A passes the ball to B, and exhale to slowly lower to the floor, one vertebra at a time. Repeat.
- Keep abdominals engaged, and avoid jerking or momentum.
- Make it easier by each placing one foot on top of your partner’s.
Don’t have time for a workout? Even a 5-minute walk outside can improve your mood and self-esteem. Try it on your next lunch hour and perhaps the rest of the day will be a little brighter!