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Working out in nature kicks butt over lifting weights in a smelly gym. There, we’ve said it.
Not only does sweating it out surrounded by trees, dunes, blue skies and yep, even a little rain make you appreciate all nature has to offer, it will actually help you burn more fat too!
For the last eight years, the UK’s Green Exercise Research Team has studied the effects of exercising while being exposed to nature. They’ve confirmed that contact with green spaces and nature while performing your workout will amplify the effects of the exercise, improve body composition and enhance mood and self-esteem significantly more so than doing the same workout indoors.
So, with all those extra little incentives to take your workout into the great outdoors, we thought we’d give you a few ideas on how to get the most out of your very own Green Workout and make sure you’re getting optimum benefits for both your body and mind, every time you step out that door!
These training ideas will focus on creating awareness of your body, mental state and (of course) environment while working out, as well as getting the most bang for your buck when using your local park, or neighbourhood as your gym.
Check out our video for a more interactive demonstration but if you’d rather print-and-go, below is all you’ll need to feel the burn and get those endorphins flowing.
The Warm Up
When warming up, take the opportunity to really focus on activating the different muscles you’ll be using throughout your workout. A lot of people have quite inactive glute and core muscles, for example, so it’s very important to work through a series of warm-up movements that help to switch those muscles on before you start working at a more intense level.
Here are some ideas:
Hip Raises – lie on your back, knees bent and feet placed flat on the ground. Raise your hips as high as you can, squeezing your butt muscles as you do so. Lower yourself back to the ground and repeat as many times as you can in around 30 seconds, keeping your knees about a hand span apart the entire time.
Walking Lunge with Reach - step forward with your right foot and sink down into a lunge, pressing your hips forward and reaching your left arm over your head as you do so, to activate your hip flexors. Repeat with the other leg. Keep walking for around 30 seconds.
Plank Hold - start lying flat on your tummy, then raise up on to your toes and forearms to create a straight ‘plank’ shape with your body. Hold for 30-60 seconds to ‘switch on’ your core.
Opposing Leg Balanced Toe Touches - get your coordination with this move. Start by standing up tall on both feet, then lift your left leg up in a straight line behind your body, while simultaneously bending forward and reaching for your right toe with your left hand. Return to your starting position and switch to the other side.
Now you’re ready to get going and use the world as your personal trainer, so lace up those shoes, head straight out the door and see what adventure workouts you can drum up. Read on for ideas on what to do with some of our favourite outdoor equipment.
Work on your cardio with sprints and interval drills on your favourite incline. Sprint up the hill as fast as you can and make sure you time it. Whatever time you make it up to the top in, you have triple that to get back to the bottom and have a little rest. So if you get there in 20 seconds, take 60 seconds to recover.
Tighten your buns by lunge walking your way uphill, then jogging back to the bottom and repeating until your legs are shaking with workout goodness.
Target those inner and outer thighs by side striding your way up the hill, jogging back to the bottom and then side striding up again, this time leading with the opposite leg.
Fire up your quads and shape your calves by back-pedaling up that hill (jogging backwards) as fast as you can. Remember to push off your toes and lift those heels, so you don’t fall over! Walk back to the bottom and start again.
Get your heart rate through the roof by taking the stairs two at a time, as fast as you can until you reach the top. Make your way back down a little more slowly and start over. Aim for at least 10 climbs all up.
Test your coordination and balance by performing up-downs on the stairs. Run forward up the staircase for 8 steps, then reverse the movement and take 4 steps backwards, moving down the stairs. Repeat until you reach the top and feel free to switch up the numbers with each separate climb so you don’t get bored.
Lift and tone your bottom by lunging forward up the stairs. Aim to skip 2-3 stairs with each step, pressing up through the heel of your front foot and squeezing your glutes as you drive your bodyweight forward. You can also do this move laterally by facing side-on to the stairs and lunging laterally up them to target the outer glutes and inner thighs.
If you’re ready for an advanced move, try stair crawl-downs. These are trickier than they look, so make sure you build up your arm and core strength before attempting them. Start at the top of your stairs in a plank position. Now slowly crawl forward, down the staircase. The top part of your body should be 3-5 steps in front of where your feet are and you can make this move a little easier by pressing the ball of your foot into the back of the steps behind you.
BENCHES AND/OR FENCES
Create lean, long legs by doing bodyweight step-ups on a bench. Simply place one foot flat on the bench, putting all your weight on that foot. Now drive upwards, away from the ground, driving the knee of your opposite leg up towards your chest. Complete 15-20 repetitions on the same leg before moving on to the other side. Three sets on each leg should get your heart pounding and your legs burning! Complete this move laterally, standing side on to the bench, to target those inner/outer thighs a little more.
Use a bench or low fence to work on the backs of your arms, performing tricep dips. Start by sitting on your bench, hands resting directly beside your bottom and legs at a right angle to the ground. Now move your body away from the bench (only slightly) and slowly lower your butt towards the ground, as far as you can. Now use the strength in your arms to drive yourself back up again. Repeat.
Work your chest and core with a few sets of pushups, using the bench to assist you, or provide an extra challenge. If you already struggle with doing standard pushups, try placing your hands on the back of the bench, just outside your shoulders. From here, lower yourself slowly down until your chest lightly taps the wood, then push away, returning to the start position. If you’re already a seasoned pushup pro, try putting your feet up on the seat of the bench and your hands on the floor, then perform your pushups from that position.
Get some plyometric moves in by performing mountain climbers, or squat jumps on the bench. For mountain climbers, start in a high plank position, with your hands on the bench seat in front of you and your left leg tucked up near your chest. Now jump-change your feet so that your right leg is tucked into your chest and your left leg is on the ground. Keep switching legs, moving fast. To perform jump squats on the bench, start by standing on the ground with your feet about hip width apart, facing the bench. Lower yourself down into a squat and then drive up out of this position quickly, jumping up and landing with both feet on the bench seat. This is an advanced move, so only perform it if you’re confident and have great balance!
Work on your general fitness and clear your mind with a nice, long, slow jog.
Work on your speed off the mark with up-and-backs. Find two trees about 10-20 metres apart. Sprint forwards as fast as you can from the first tree to the second one, then reverse the sprint, pushing off your toes as you run backwards to the first tree again. Repeat 5-6 times, rest for 30 seconds and then go again! 4-5 sets of these will help you earn your carbs!
Boost your agility with T-Runs. Mark out an imaginary “T” shape in the park, using trees or sticks as your markers. Start at the base of your T and sprint forward as fast as you can, until you reach the middle of the T’s crossbar. Stay facing the same way as you side shuttle to the left-most point of the crossbar, then change directions, shuffling the other way until you hit the other side of the crossbar. Change directions again, side striding your way back to the middle and then back pedal all the way to your start point at the base of the T. Repeat until you never want to hear a word that begins with the letter ‘t’ again!
This one’s for the kooks out there who really want to get in touch with nature. We laughed when we were first told about this little gem but it’s now one of our favourite ways to finish a workout (post-stretch, of course). For a simple, easy, mind-freeing meditation, wrap up your session by finding a friendly tree to sit or lie under and take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly, breathe slowly and imagine pure energy and light flowing out of the tree and into your body. As you breathe out, visualise energy flowing from your body back into the tree. Repeat!
Did You Know?
- Running outdoors can burn up to 5% more calories than running at the same speed and incline on a standard treadmill.
- After exercising outdoors, 90% of people have improved levels of self-esteem
- Children younger than 12 are less likely to show signs of moodiness and depression when they live near green spaces, or regularly play in parks, on beaches, or near other nature spaces.