Summer is around the corner, and although your indoor workout routine helped you survive the long winter, it’s now starting to feel stale and repetitive. The budding greenery and warmer temperatures have you looking for fresh outdoor exercise ideas, but when it’s time to go work out, you find yourself back at the gym and stuck in a rut.
Are you caught in the gravitational pull of your indoor gym routine? When it comes to outdoor exercise ideas, do you feel overwhelmed by all of the possibilities?
Breaking out of the gym for more sun, fresh air, and fitness fun doesn’t need to be complicated. This article will help you confront the sneaky psychological barriers that are holding you back and give you some simple and practical ideas for making outdoor exercise easy, enjoyable, and effective.
Want To Upgrade Your Workouts? Go Outside!
Science confirms what you intuitively know is true - exercising outside is a powerful way to enhance the health benefits of your workout.
In this systematic review, researchers concluded that outdoor exercise is superior when it comes to improvements in well-being. It’s no surprise that participants also experienced greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity compared to the indoor alternative.
Training under the sun is a great way to boost serum levels of Vitamin D which can help with cognition, immunity, well-being, and even testosterone while reducing the risk of cancer, diabetes, and more. Additionally, if you’re willing to get a little dirty, exposure to the natural bacteria in your soil may even support healthy immune function.
Don’t forget about the fresh air! It is believed that the phytoncides (the phytochemicals emitted by trees) have health-enhancing properties which may explain why "Forest Bathing" is becoming one of the trendiest international health-hacks.
In spite of the many benefits of training outside, gym-goers still struggle to break out of their indoor routine.
And for good reason! It’s likely that you’ve created an ironclad habit loop that revolves around going to the gym. Your routine is so automatic that you’ll subconsciously view any proposed change, especially to the ‘where’ and ‘what’, as a disturbance to be avoided.
Don’t worry, you can use Newton’s first law to your advantage. After all, objects in motion stay in motion, and the point is to keep moving while changing the scenery, right? So, keep the essential elements of your current exercise habit, namely your trigger or what BJ Fogg calls the ‘prompt’. For most of us, our schedule prompts our workouts, so keep your schedule intact, and plan on going outside during your normal indoor workout time.
Still not ready to re-wild your workout? That’s because the ‘where’ and the ‘what’ remain undefined. The solution is to plan ahead.
Set some time aside in advance to think things through. Ask yourself, "Is it about the workout or is it about getting outside?". In other words, will your environment determine your workout, or will your workout determine your environment? Consider the following examples:
- If you want to do hill sprints, you’re obviously going to need a hill. So, locate the best one in your area.
- If the most convenient outdoor training space is a city park, then you’re going to need to program your workout according to the constraints of that park (see the workout templates below for ideas).
- If you want to optimize your time spent in wild spaces, then you might need to be willing to trade your sets and reps for something less structured and more exploratory, such as hiking on a beautiful trail in the woods.
3 Simple Outdoor Workouts Anyone Can Use
Now that you have an idea of where you will be going, the final step is to design your workout! The key is to keep the workout simple; if you make it easy to do, then you’ll improve your chances of doing it. If you think you need to do that awesome 20-exercise bodyweight circuit (with that tricky looking single-leg-reach-mctwisty) that you saw on Instagram, then you’ve made it too complex, and you’ll likely end up passing the park on your way to the gym despite your best intentions.
With that in mind, here are three outdoor exercise ideas you can use to create simple, effective and fun workouts.
Outdoor Exercise Idea #1: Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio (LISS)
Benefits: Aerobic base building, better recovery (from workout to workout and between sets of higher intensity efforts during your harder workouts), cardiac efficiency, and improved stress resilience.
Keep It Simple: Walking, hiking, running, biking, rollerblading, swimming or any form of aerobic movement you can do outdoors.
An Easy LISS Workout:
- Warm up with some dynamic stretches for approximately 10 minutes.
- Take off...but take it easy! To fully benefit from LISS training, you will need to stay below your aerobic threshold. Breathing should be light and you should feel confident that you can sustain the pace for an hour or more. Although each person’s threshold is different, a general rule of thumb is 120-150 beats per minute.
- If you’re using a heart rate monitor (which is highly recommended), stay in ‘Zone 2’.
- If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can check your pulse by placing your index and middle fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe. Press lightly until you can feel your blood pulsing beneath your fingers. Count the beats you feel for 10 seconds and multiply by six to get your estimated beats per minute.
- Strive for 20-90 minutes one to four times per week.
Alternate outdoor LISS workouts with strength training or higher intensity workouts for the best of all worlds.
Want To Spice It Up?
- Add resistance! A backpack, weighted vest, or even a kiddo on your back can make your LISS cardio more challenging and interesting.
- Turn your warm up into a workout! Dynamic warm ups, yoga flows, and mobility flows are optimal LISS activities that can be extended to make your cardio more engaging. For fresh ideas, check out #yogaflow, #animalflowofficial, #mobilitytraining, #primalmovement, and #dynamicwarmup.
Outdoor Exercise Idea #2: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Benefits: Fat loss, muscle gain, athletic performance, and improved HGH for general health and longevity.
Keep It Simple: Outdoor sprint intervals or hill repeats.
An Easy HIIT Workout:
- Find an outdoor area with ample running space.
- Warm up for 10-15 minutes with some dynamic stretching, such as skips, walking lunges, or running strides.
- Start your sprints! Run a set distance or for 15-20 seconds at maximum speed. Rest for one to two minutes between sprints, performing 4-8 sets.
Watch Mark Sisson, of Mark’s Daily Apple and author of The New Primal Blueprint, explain his sprint routine here.
Want To Spice It Up?
- Do a bodyweight circuit! Something as simple as the 7 Minute Workout has been scientifically validated to show meaningful gains in muscular endurance and strength.
- Invest in a Kettlebell, sandbag, or some other portable piece of all-in-one equipment and fall in love with complexes. Note that any barbell complex can be done with a sandbag.
- Change up your work:rest ratios. As a general rule, you should go hard for 10 to 60 seconds and rest anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes or more. Progress by increasing the work time, the intensity of your effort, and decreasing the rest time.
Outdoor Exercise Idea #3: Primal Movement
Benefits: Primal movement is generally more about movement competency than fitness capacity. Its primary benefits include functionality, skill acquisition, motor learning, and time spent in flow states.
Keep It Simple: Explore new ways of moving with locomotion.
An Easy Primal Workout:
- Warm up your wrists.
- Pick one of the classic locomotion patterns like the bear crawl, monkey shuffle, or crab walk.
- Locomote forward, right, backward, and left to complete one trip. Go for distance or time.
- Rest for 15-30 seconds and then reverse directions.
- Repeat with all of the locomotion patterns that you know.
For more structure, the GMB Fitness Elements course is a fantastic introduction to locomotion.
Want To Spice It Up?
- Go to a playground or even a wild space, and allow yourself to experience the joy of unstructured play.
- Take your locomotion and movement complexity to the next level with Animal Flow.
- For a comprehensive system dedicated to helping people reclaim their natural movement abilities, check out Movnat.
Make Your Outdoor Workout Even Healthier With These Biohacks
Do it barefoot! "Earthing" or "grounding" is considered to be an effective way to reconnect with the Earth’s electrons, which can help with a wide range of physical benefits including better sleep and a reduction in pain.
Do it in the morning while fasting! You can supplement with Kion Aminos before your workout to provide your body with essentially calorie-free fuel, and/or after your workout to improve your recovery.
Do it in the cold! Don’t wait for fair weather to train outside. Cold exposure has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase brown adipose tissue activity and energy expenditure, and increase metabolism by 80 percent during cold exposure, and much more. Be sure to wear minimal clothing and to workout in temperatures below 60 degrees.
Fuel wisely! Energy bars are the perfect fuel source for longer outdoor workouts, however not all bars are created equal. The Kion Bar is a clean, nutrient-dense, and light-weight fueling option that stands up to harsh temperatures.
Outdoor workouts are a fantastic way to elevate your training and boost your health. However, transitioning away from your indoor gym routine can be challenging and intimidating.
Not sure where to start? Consider the constraints of your outdoor environment, pick a training style that fits (LISS, HIIT, or Primal), and then commit to a simple workout or any of the outdoor exercise ideas in this post. Once you’ve made it a habit, take advantage of some potent outdoor biohacks to enhance your benefits.
Your new outdoor workout routine may require that you rethink how you prepare, fuel and recover. For a high quality and stable energy source that is easy to pack and won’t melt in the heat (or your pocket), check out the Kion Bar.