Don’t Go to the Gym — Do This Instead!

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 5 minutes

For half the year you’re confined to four walls for your workouts. Okay, sure, gyms are climate-controlled and have all the equipment you could possibly need. But once the weather is warmer, there’s no excuse not to take your muscle-burning alfresco. After all, May is National Physical Fitness & Sports Month for a reason – it’s the perfect time to step up your fitness game and step out into the fresh air.

Not sure where to start? Between big trees, public parks and the coveted seashore, you’ll always have a comparable outdoor option. On leg day, for instance, skip the box and hit the trails. These airy alternatives are anything but light on the load. In fact, the change of scenery will not only do your body good, but will improve your mental outlook and help you push past plateaus.

Outdoor Training Exercises: Paddleboarding, Yoga & More
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Indoor exercise: Stairmill machine

Outdoor alternative: Hiking

Where: Local trail/mountain

How: Wear ankle-supporting shoes or boots, cover exposed skin in sunscreen and bug repellent and hit the trails for a few hours!

If you’re up for it, try sprint intervals (1 minute running: 1 minute walking) as you climb the mountain.

**You can take it slower on the descent, since you risk injury going too fast downhill.**

Why: You engage the same major muscles (glutes, quads and hamstrings) as you would on the stair climber and can still get your heart pumping. The biggest difference with hiking is all your hard work actually gets you somewhere – to the top of a scenic summit!


Indoor exercise: Leg press

Outdoor alternative: Jump squats + tree sits

Where: Anywhere with level ground and a tree

How: Get into a squat position and jump as high as you can, making sure to land softly and with control.

The tree sits are a great stabilizing exercise, where you lean against a tree with your knees bent 90 degrees like you’re sitting in a chair. Stretch arms out in front of you and hold.

Perform 3 sets of 10-12 jump squats, each set followed by a 30-second tree sit.

Why: The leg press is great, because you can add extra weight. But with jump squats, you’re using your body weight and gravity as resistance – plus, you can do them anywhere! By supersetting jump squats with a tree sit, you’re getting a 3-for-1 combo: strength, cardio and stability.



Indoor exercise: Bench press

Outdoor alternative: Bench push-ups

Where: Local park

How: Grab the kiddos for an hour or two of fun at the park (they won’t object). Use the ground and a bench about knee height (or any other structures around you) to perform at least 3 variations of push-ups.

Start on the ground with arms wider than shoulders; perform 10-20 push-ups.

Then move to a bench at knee height and move hands to shoulder-width, or just under your armpits; perform 10-20 push-ups.

Finish off with inverted diamond push-ups (hands come together to form a triangle/diamond). With your feet on the bench and your arms on the ground, perform 10-20 push-ups.

You could also lie on a park bench and use your little ones as a barbell. Grab them from the neck and ankles and instruct them to cross their arms over their chest. Bench press them as you would a barbell, performing at least 3 sets of 10-12 reps – or as many as they’ll let you do before screaming to get down.

Why: You won’t get nearly the same resistance you can on the bench in the gym. But varying your push-up position helps create resistance and work smaller muscles – like your triceps – as you bring your hands closer together. Then there’s the quality time with your family and fresh air, to boot!


Indoor exercise: Seated row or lat pulldowns

Outdoor alternative: Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP

Where: On a calm body of water

How: You really don’t need a lesson in SUP. If you’re not ready to stand up on the board, stay in a kneeling position and paddle around for at least an hour – just get comfortable with balancing overtop unpredictable water.

Standing up will offer greater core benefits. Just be sure to paddle on both sides as evenly as possible, so you don’t create any muscle imbalances. Once you’ve mastered balancing and moving forward with feet planted next to each other and shoulder-width apart, you can then vary your stance on the board. Change your footing, so that one leg is far back in an aggressive surfer position. You can also move both feet to the front or back, creating an even more unstable surface.

Why: A strong paddle works the latissimus dorsi, rear deltoids, lower back, obliques, biceps and triceps. This kind of compound exercise (using multiple muscles simultaneously) trains your muscles to work in sync with one another – perfect cross-training for just about any sport.


Indoor exercise: Yoga

Outdoor alternative: SUP yoga

Where: On a (very) calm body of water

How: This is obviously a more advanced activity, so start off easy with downward dog and chaturanga. You can always build up to tree pose, crow and other, more skillful balancing acts.

Spend a solid 45 minutes flowing through the poses on your board. Even if 15 of those minutes are spent sitting with your legs crossed and meditating, you’ll still get a great workout.

Why: ‘Cause why not? If you love yoga – or at least the idea of it – but hate the communal mats or overcrowded studios, taking your vinyasa flow outside is the perfect solution! Yoga is already a meditative exercise. But add the serenity of fresh air and open water, and you have a completely new experience – deeper and more relaxing than anything on land. Yes, it beats yoga on the sand, because your muscles work twice as hard to hold still on an unsteady surface.