By Erin Mahoney, VP of Education at International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
It’s that time! Arizona temperatures are finally cooling off a bit and that means we can begin to take our workouts outdoors and enjoy some fresh air. Exercising outside provides a host of benefits, from increased energy and mood to jump-starting your thought process and creativity.
On days when your workouts have some flexibility, change things up and go outside. You can use the gym parking lot, a local park, or any other open space that makes sense. Enjoy the sunshine and change of pace.
Reasons to Take Your Workout Outside the Gym
When the weather is nice, getting active outdoors is a mood booster. Here are some of the best reasons to train outside:
Improve Your Mental Health – Exercise is beneficial for mental health, but getting active outdoors is an even bigger boost. Being exposed to sunlight, for instance, improves mood and increases vitamin D levels. It’s not just the sun, though. Mixing it up will keep you motivated.
Avoid Burnout – It’s easy to get bored with workouts when you’re doing the same thing repeatedly. Another gym lifting session? Yet another 30 minutes on the elliptical? To reignite your interest in training, head outside. Even if you do the same basic workout, doing it in a different setting, with fresh air and sunshine, can reboot your enthusiasm and will even encourage you to work out a little longer.
Allows for More Creativity – When working out in parks and other outdoor spaces you have different surfaces and structures to work with, and that forces you to get creative. You’ll start coming up with new ideas. You may even be inspired to find new ideas for your professional career by getting those endorphins going.
More Space – If you usually train with a group, the gym can get a little cramped. You may be fighting other groups or individuals working out for space, especially during the summer months. Suggest to your trainer to take the session outside and mix it up for the entire group.
Foolproof Ways to Transition Exercise Outside
Sometimes you can simply take your indoor work out and do it outside. Other times there may be specific indoor equipment you need that will require some thoughtful adaptations for going outdoors. Or just wing it! It all depends on what you are in the mood for.
Running – There are few workouts simpler than a run. For a cardio day, instead of hitting the treadmill or elliptical, get outside and hit the pavement or dirt trail. It could be just a warm-up jog to start a training session or a more involved cardio workout. For example, you can use running outside as a HIIT workout for big cardio gains and calorie blasting.
Simple Outdoor HIIT Workouts – You can also do a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout outdoors by incorporating moves like pushups, high knees, squats and squat jumps, lunges, burpees, bear crawls, planks, and others that don’t require gym any equipment.
Find the Hills – Hill sprints are great for cardio workouts and leg strength. If you have a hill near the gym, or if you can meet at a park, invite your gym buddies to run up hills with you for a fun, challenging workout. Around the Phoenix area, there are many hiking trails to take advantage of, or you can always find an open field at a community college and/or a park with steps.
Create Obstacle Courses – Turn an outdoor training session into a playground. Create an outdoor obstacle course using playground structures, lawn games, tires, and whatever else you have. Just make it fun, so you will enjoy it while also improving agility, speed, and strength.
Always Have a Backup – You can plan for the best, most fun outdoor workout, but you can’t control everything. The weather may not cooperate, or you may have a nagging pain and don’t want to risk doing something completely out of the box. Just be sure that you have a backup plan for the weather and listen to your body and modify your workout as needed.
Stay Safe Outside – If you are headed outside for a workout, there are safety considerations and practical factors to keep in mind:
• Watch the weather and avoid getting stuck out in a thunderstorm or intense heat.
• If it’s hot outside, make sure you have water and an electrolyte option.
• Bring a hat, sunscreen, and/or bug spray and apply regularly.
• Make sure you’re out of the range of cars and traffic.
• Wear protective clothing in bright colors so that you may be easily spotted.
The simplicity of going outdoors to do a training session can have so many benefits. It can reinvigorate your passion for exercise. An hour outdoors will help with instant mood-boosts and help you break away from your regular, indoor gym routine and help unleash your training beast.