The great outdoors offers plenty of opportunities to soak up the sun's rays while you sweat your way to a fitter physique. Just ask fitness model and WBFF competitor Jen Jewell, who's no stranger to incorporating outdoor workouts into her routine.
"It's no secret that I love to be outdoors as much as possible and take my fitness outside," she says. "Sometimes I take it to the park and do some fun obstacles or challenges to bust out of a workout rut. But other times, I simply don't want to be in the gym."
Take a page from this athlete's book, and switch up your normal training routine whenever the weather permits!
People get all caught up in being a "runner"—or, depending on who you're talking to, not being a runner. But lost in all the feuding is the fact that running itself doesn't have to be a grueling marathon. A quick 2-3 miles or a brisk walk with intervals of jogging can do wonders for your endurance without delivering a beating to your ankles and knees. As Jewell explains, how you do it isn't as important as simply getting out there and enjoying yourself.
"If you follow me on social media, you'll know that I usually skip the cardio machines at the gym and head outside," she says. "The funny thing is that I only love running when it's outdoors." For her, the change of scenery—whether it's a trail, beach, or just the sights around her neighborhood—helps keep her engaged.
Not used to hitting the pavement? Don't worry. "Even if you don't consider yourself a runner, you can start out by interspersing walking with 10-15 seconds of jogging," Jewell says. Setting small markers for yourself, such as lampposts or fire hydrants, can also help you stay motivated and focused. It's a tip even the pros use. "I'll set little benchmarks to motivate me to push harder and ultimately increase my endurance," she says.
One marker at time. It's nothing fancy, but that's the point. Just keep going!
2: Hiking or rucking
The fast walk from point A to point B is one of the most underappreciated forms of exercise there is. It can be as fast or slow as you want, and you can seek out difficulty like hills as much as feels right for you. Along the way, it can even introduce you to parts of your town that you had no idea existed.
"I just love to hike," Jewell says. "It's crazy to think of how many hiking trails there probably are in your city that you don't even know about. Google your city and 'hiking trails' and you'll probably find a number of hidden gems to try out." And of course it goes without saying that getting out into a remote area for a hike is also a great option!
Looking for more of test? Find a few hills to walk up, and you'll engage and strengthen your lower body and lungs. Still want to kick things up a notch? Toss a weight in your backpack and try what's known as "rucking." The additional resistance will wake up a few muscle groups you may not have felt in a while!
3: Circuit training
You've got everything you need to get a great strength workout with you right now in the form of your body and whatever is in your surroundings. And it'll definitely be more fun than doing it in some lonely corner of the cardio room at the gym!
"Split squats, step-ups, push-ups, and other plyos on a bench or picnic table are all part of my 'No Excuses, Just Results' plan," Jewell says. "As long as you have a bench of some sort, you can stop and get in a solid workout anywhere."
Scale this routine back as much as necessary to meet your current ability level. You can also dial it up if something seems too easy. For example, if you can do calf raises all day, do them with just one leg.
4: Online yoga classes
There are more yoga studios around than ever, and this is a great thing. However, you definitely don't have to be in a certain room at a certain temperature to get the benefits of yoga! Even if you're not at the level where you can improvise your own routine yet, you can choose from countless online routines—including thousands of free ones on YouTube—and perform them anywhere you want with the help of your phone.
"Yoga is hands-down my favorite recent addition to my training regimen," Jewell says. "I love the fact that it can be done anytime and anyplace with no equipment." Yoga is also easy to tailor to your goals, because it can be as relaxing or strenuous as you decide. "Yoga can either be spiritual and offer meditation-like benefits, or you can use it as another workout to compliment what you are already doing."
If you think yoga is simply too easy to build strength, you've got it all wrong. Many, many strong men and women have learned the hard way just how quickly yoga can expose your weaknesses. But the great thing is that it can strengthen them, too!
5: Outdoor stretching
This is another case of "take something you'd normally do in a boring corner of the gym and do it somewhere more interesting." Don't underestimate how much of an effect this can have!
"Stretching is essential for all training regimens, but unfortunately it's usually overlooked," Jewell explains. "We do the cardio and weights, but are often in such a hurry to get home that stretching is the first thing to get glossed over."
If you're always stretching in the gym after doing the rest of your work, you're pretty likely to phone it in or cut it short. However, if you take it outside with the specific intention of doing some stretching, you can give it the attention it deserves and see real results. "There's just something about stretching outside and breathing in fresh air before and after a workout that leave me energetic, refreshed, and recharged," Jewell adds.
Need a few ideas? The Bodybuilding.com exercise database is full of them.
- World's greatest stretch
- All fours quad stretch
- Ankle on the knee
- Dancer's stretch
- Hip stretch with twist
- Knee across the body
- Kneeling forearm stretch
- Kneeling hip flexor
- Seated floor hamstring stretch
- Standing biceps/chest/shoulder stretch
- The straddle
Hold poses long enough to wait out any tension, usually at least 30 seconds to a minute, focusing on breathing deep and not clenching or struggling. This is important work, so work systematically through your body, and pay attention to whatever feels like it needs it most.
Make this a permanent part of your routine, and you won't regret it!