16 ways to get fit outside
Article written by Michelle Berg, AFLCA Group Exercise and Resistance Trainer with mind/body and portable equipment accreditations, NASM corrective exercise specialist, and NAIT Personal Fitness Trainer program graduate. View Michelle’s full profile and qualifications on Fitdirectory.ca
Ah, summer is here and we all want to get out and enjoy the sunshine! Can you still stay fit while coasting through these lazy-hazy days of summer? You bet! And it just may be easier than you thought…
How about a trip to the playground? It’s NOT just for kids anymore.
All of that equipment is just yearning for your attention and you can do push-ups, dips and even semi-standing planks with just the railing while counting to 20 for a game of hide-n-seek with the kids.
- Monkey bars seem like a distant memory? Well give them another chance as you’ve grown up and that drop isn’t so far anymore which makes a pull-up or two not quite so daunting. Or just keep those elbows bent and hang around a while. All of this work will get your back and arm muscles active and alert.
- Get low to stay fit. Sure those playgrounds are kid-sized but that doesn’t mean that grown-ups can’t play along. You will need to squat, lunge, crawl and maybe even crab-walk your way through but all of these positions are good for you (and fun, too).
- Playgrounds are designed for running, hoping, skipping and jumping so get to it! We don’t need to be a kid to play like one.
Heading to the beach or pool?
- Try using the sand or pebbles as your resistance equipment of choice. Fill up a bucket (or 2) and lift, carry, twist and dump to your heart’s content. The result will be much more than just a lovely castle. Who needs dumbbells when nature provides such easily accessible equipment?
- Kick off those sandals and let the sand help you work on your balance and strengthen your leg muscles. Walk, run, hop, skip and jump while the ground moves beneath you to enhance your proprioception, which is your body’s ability to recognize its position. Working barefoot will also fire up ankle, calf, thigh and bum muscles in new and interesting ways (as compared to workouts on flat, stable surfaces laced into athletic shoes).
- Take a dip and enjoy the total body workout that swimming can provide. Did you know that water is 12 times heavier than air? This means that each stroke, kick and flutter is a resistance training AND cardiovascular exercise. And be sure to activate your core muscles while you swim to protect your back and improve your ability to stay buoyant. (PS: even swimming with a life-jacket, pool noodle or kick-board has body benefits so stay safe while you keep fit.)
- Enjoy the serenity and beauty of the beach with some Yoga-in-the-sand. All workouts should end with a flexibility component to stretch out and relax working muscles. Breath deep hold those stretched positions for at least 30 seconds to enjoy the full benefits.
Plan to do some camping? Picnic tables make awesome exercise equipment!
- Step-ups Using the bench-seat, start stepping up with 1 leg, then the other, then back down again. Be sure to alternate starting legs and get those arms pumping, too if you want to ramp up your heart rate. Got a manageable log or two set aside for the fire pit? Use those as dumbbells for bicep curls, tricep press backs or overhead shoulder presses while you step.
- Push-ups Stand to the side of the table, place those hands shoulder width apart while your legs remain straight behind you and stay up on those tip-toes while you perform a standard push-up. Make sure your hands stay in line with your mid0-chest during the up and down phase of the movements to maintain proper body alignment and protect your spine. Use the bench if you want to get lower and increase the work, or try lifting a leg to use more core muscles and work harder on your balance.
- Bird-dogs Stay in that push-up position and tighten your core muscles. Now lift 1 leg and the opposite arm and feel the work in your tummy, back, sides and legs. Hold this ‘pointer’ position for 5 or more seconds, slowly return to the starting position and switch leg/arm combo.
- Tri-cep dips Have a seat on the edge of the bench but face away from the table. Place your hands on the bench’s edge right next to your bum (curl fingers around bench edge for a firm, safe grip). Ease your bum off the seat so you are hovering above the ground, then bend your elbows to a maximum of 90 degrees as you lower your bum toward the ground. Return to straight but not locked arms and you’ve just completed 1 successful tri-cep dip! These are great exercises for your back and arms. And the same principle of lifting 1 leg for increased work and some added core focus works here, too.
- Squats use that bench seat to stand-up & sit down or just skim the bench as you squat down. Got a partner or kid that wants to play along? Have them throw you a ball that you can catch and return as you squat, and take turns. This lets your kids know that fitness can be fun, and it’s a lifelong journey. (PS: for an extra challenge try this toss game while performing 1 leg static lunges, too by placing 1 foot on the bench while you face away from the table.)
- Core & more Use the tabletop or bench to practice V-sits, bicycles, Russian twists and planks – anything to get those core muscles engaged. Or try some mountain climbers via the bench. Start with a stationary plank using the bench seat, then bend a knee and touch that toe up to the bench while keeping that plank position and core muscle engagement. Alternate legs for a count of 10 or more and feel your muscles working.
- Picnic Table Obstacle Course Step up, cross over the top, step down, crawl under, push-up, tricep press, V-sit, mountain climbers & repeat! Add a big sprinkle of friends, family and giggles! You’re sure to find that this 1 piece of standard campground equipment is more than enough to create a fun and heart-pumping obstacle course for any age.
- Stretch Again working muscles need to be stretched out at the end of each exercise session, and that picnic table can still be of use. Grab hold of the top edge and lean away to stretch out your chest, back and arms then reverse this position and bend forward at the waist to stretch out the middle and low back. Pop a leg on the bench and lean forward toward your toes to stretch out your legs and bum, then face away with 1 foot on the bench and add a slight lean backward to stretch out the front thigh.