It seems like this past winter was longer than usual. Finally, though, the snow is gone and it’s safe to say we won’t be getting any more of the white stuff for about six months. So now is the perfect time to take some of your workouts outdoors and enjoy the warm weather and fresh air.
If you’re already a walker, why not integrate some exercises into your walk? You can do outdoor workouts just about anywhere – in a park, in the woods, in your own backyard or on a sidewalk.
Begin with at least a five-minute dynamic warm up such as moderately paced walking or light jogging, circling your arms, jumping jacks or any other movements that get your heart rate slightly elevated. Once you’re warmed up, you’re ready to work out.
I’ve put together some exercise suggestions that will give you a full-body workout for free, without special equipment, in a short amount of time. If you have a medical condition, are over 65 or unfit, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
For some of the exercises, you’ll need a park bench. If there’s no bench, use what’s available and suitable for each exercise, such as a tree trunk, a lamp post, the ground, a step or a ledge.
1. Push-ups: Place your hands either on the back, the arm rest or the seat of the bench (or against a tree or pole), then step away and do as many push ups as you can. The lower your hand position, the more challenging the exercise. If you can only do one repetition, that’s fine. You can build up your strength over the coming months.
2. Mountain-climbers: Get into your starting push-up position against the bench and drive one knee forward towards your chest, then the other knee as if you’re climbing a mountain. The faster you move, the more challenging the exercise. Aim for 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Step-ups: Stand facing the bench seat. Step up onto the bench then step back down. Keep going. Aim for 30 to 60 seconds. If the seat height is too difficult, find a lower ledge or step. The higher and faster you step, the more challenging the exercise. If you’re already fit, you can make the exercise even more challenging by jumping up onto the bench with both feet then stepping down.
4. Plank: Position yourself face down on the bench or ground, leaning on your forearms. Ensure your body is in a straight line. Your butt should not be sticking up in the air. Hold the position for as long as you can. The stronger your abs and back, the longer you’ll be able to hold the position. You can build up over time from a few seconds for beginners to a minute or more.
5. Side-plank: Lie on the bench or ground facing sideways and leaning on one forearm. Lift your hip off the surface so your body is elevated in a straight line. Hold the position as long as you can, then switch to your other side and repeat.
6. Sprints: Sprint as fast as you can for 10 seconds or choose a nearby landmark and run to it. Walk back to your starting point. Rest for a minute or two or, depending on your fitness level, until you catch your breath, then sprint again. You can increase the repetitions as you build up your stamina over time. If you go for a longer duration, you won’t be able to run as quickly.
7. Walking-lunges: Take a large step forward with one foot, and then lower your back knee down as far as you can towards the ground. Focus on your balance. Raise the back knee up so your back leg is straight, then step that back foot forward so your feet are next to each other. Repeat with the other foot. Continue the walking-lunges with good posture for 30 seconds or more. You should feel the front of your thighs burning.
8. Squats: Place your feet hip-width apart. Lower your rear end as if you’re sitting on a chair. Keep your head and chest up. Your knees should bend to 90 degrees. Return to standing position. Aim to repeat eight to 10 times.
If you’re not exhausted, repeat the series. End with gentle stretching to cool down. To get fit, you have to do more than read. Take this list of exercises and actually try them.