For most of us spring is rapidly approaching, if not already here, and as we embrace the first warm days of the year entering the gym is the last thing we think of. Lets face it, if the choices are A.) spending an hour or more in a smelly, hot gym hoisting weights in the air while we desperately try not to be overcome by the stench of the non-deodorant wearing guy in the string-tank next to us, or B.) kicking back on the deck soaking up some sun, feeling that refreshing breeze of spring air and tipping back a cold one, we’re all choosing option B. The truth is that’s absolutely ok.
One of the key factors to making progress in any workout program is change. Through changing your workout you force your body to adapt to a new set of stimuli and the result of that adaptation is muscular development. From bodybuilders to endurance athletes like runners variety truly is the spice of life… or at least to ensuring progress.
A great way to incorporate your desire to bask in the long overdue nice weather and still get your exercise in is to plan ways to workout outside. Whether its in your backyard, a neighborhood playground or a local forest preserve there are plenty of exercises you can use to give your workout a little change while allowing you the opportunity to get some fresh air and sunshine. The Fitness Focus has compiled a list of a few more common outdoor friendly exercises to help you get the most out of your spring and summer!
1. The Push-up
The good old-fashioned push-up is a fantastic way to get an upper body bump, burn off some calories and work on your back tan! To crank it up a bit though, kick your feet up onto a park bench, picnic table or even a parking block.
For those that truly want to add an extra something to their pushups, however, try one of these little gems from BigMikey’s bag of tricks:
Get a basketball or a soccer ball. Assume push-up position. Raise one foot off the floor and place the other foot on the ball. This places a remarkable amount of importance on core stability and brings the entire midsection into play. Do one set to failure, switch legs and do the next set. Repeat.
If that one doesn’t get you then, in push-up position, place both hands on the ball instead of a foot, cross one foot over the other, and slowly lower yourself until your chest is only an inch or two from the ball. Pause for a moment and then press back to the “up” position. Balance plays a big role in this exercise and aside from hitting the triceps pretty hard you’ll find your midsection working extra hard to keep you from falling over.
2. Bench/chair Dips
One of the all time best tricep builders, the bench/chair dip, is a great exercise for an outdoor workout. Using a park bench, picnic table or even a sturdy lawn chair, sit normally. Place your hands on the chair/bench, palms down and as far under you as you can. Support yourself and take a few steps away from the chair, just enough for your butt to clear the edge of the seat. Slowly lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground or as close as you can get without injury. Pause for a moment before slowly pressing yourself back to the upright position. Repeat.
Want more? To turn up the heat on this exercise, get that basketball or soccer ball and place one foot on the ball while extending the other straight out. You’ll find the intensity of the exercise increases by a factor of ten when you do it this way!
3. Static-hold Lateral Raises
The lateral raise is the key to round, full shoulders every guy wants and every woman drools over. You can do this one using any fixed object no lower than mid-thigh but no higher than waist level. Stand close, approximately 2 to 3 inches away, press the back of your hand to whatever object you’re using be it a picnic bench, basketball pole, the railing on your deck, a wall, whatever is handy, and push against it. Apply as much pressure as you can and hold. This is not a “movement” perse since there isn’t any range of motion to speak of… unless you put your hand through your wall. This is a static exercise so conventional reps don’t really apply. Push against your object for no less than 15 seconds and relax. Consider this one rep.
Ok this one might be difficult to do in your back yard if you don’t have any trees to pull on but since its such a wonderful upper body exercise it cant be ignored. Using a tree limb, monkey bars or any playground equipment, grasp any vertical bar or branch (note: if using a tree branch test it first to be sure it can support your weight), with your palms facing you. Allow yourself to hang for a moment, getting a good stretch through the lats and biceps then slowly pull yourself up. Try to touch your chin to your whatever your holding but if you cant be sure you come as close as you can. Hold the “up” position for a moment and then slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat.
5. Vertical Presses (or static holds)
Basically a handstand against a tree, fence, wall or anything upright, place your hands on the ground and kick your feet up until they touch your supporting object. Depending on your fitness level the exercise can be done in one of two ways. Either you can lower yourself toward the ground slowly, being very careful to maintain balance and not bonk your head on the ground or you can simply hold the “up” position for no less than 15 seconds. At which time you can recover, take a small break and repeat.
6. Supported Crunches
This is merely an abdominal crunch with your feet elevated by placing them on a picnic bench or chair. The trick here is to reach forward and try to touch whatever you’re using to support your feet. It’s a great way to tighten those abs while tanning that chest!
7. The jumping jack
This one shouldn’t take too much explanation. Just think back to 8th grade gym class, basic training or any football movie you’ve ever seen and you can figure out how to do a jumping jack.
Good old windsprints seem created specifically for workouts in the park or the backyard. Anywhere you can find a stretch of open ground 40 or more feet long is a good place to do windsprints. If you have a large open area mark out a set distance using anything you can readily see. The distance shouldn’t be too short but not too long either. Windsprints are a “burst strength” exercise more than an exercise in running distance. When you’re ready, run from one marker to the next as fast as you can. Stop. Rest for no more than 20 seconds and run back to the original marker as fast as you can. Repeat.
That’s right I said walk. I’m not knocking jogging or sprinting because they are both wonderful exercises in their own right. Some times, however, especially when it’s a warm day out and you just did a killer workout in the park, a simple walk is the best choice. It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors, burn some extra calories and let your body recover after a challenging workout. In addition, studies have shown that duration, rather than intensity, allows for the most effective method of fat reduction.
Some times the best way to change things up is to simply allow yourself a day off to reflect, rejoice and recuperate from the grind of day to day living. Having a great physique is wonderful but mental and spiritual health is equally important and taking advantage of a beautiful weekend to take a step back, unwind, enjoy family, friends or hobbies outside the realm of exercise can do wonders for your frame of mind.
There you have it, 10 of the best ways to keep all of you healthy while allowing you to enjoy the coming months. No excuses! Get out there and make the most of warm months because before you know it you’ll be getting all the workout you can stand shoveling your driveway for the 4th time that day.
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