As we cross into the summer months, your opportunities for fitness grow tremendously. Summer gives you the chance to bring your training outdoors. You can try new activities and challenges, mix up your typical routine, and connect with friends and family, all with the sun on your face.
Bringing your workouts outside can breathe new life into your training plans. Even the most fun and carefully crafted training programs can begin to feel stale after a while. And if you’re like me, seeing the sun shining outside the gym door makes you feel like you’re squandering the blessing of summer.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an outdoor or equipment-free workout provides less of a challenge. True, you might not be able to hit your standard back squat set at the local park, and most Olympic lifting PRs do not come while training at the beach. However, training outdoors can force you to try new movements that you might not train otherwise, and the novel stimulus will bring more of a challenge than you thought possible. Some of my most surprisingly challenging workouts have come when some friends and I dreamed up some silly circuit in a local park. Grab some friends, head outside, and see what you can come up with.
Below are a few ideas to spark your outdoor training. For simplicity and accessibility, I have excluded any training equipment. You can achieve a fun and challenging workout with only your bodyweight and the tools available at your chosen locale. Incorporating a few pieces of equipment that you might own only broadens your available options.
Free Public Fitness Opportunities: Challenges for the Great Outdoors
Dream up some fun challenges to test your fitness. Include anything that sounds fun. Think of something that sounds hard, and see if you can get through it. Here are a few ideas:
- 400m walking lunge
- 100 burpee broad jumps
- Bear crawl up stadium steps (with 5 push ups every 5 steps, if you’re feeling rowdy)
- Complete a set of monkey bars as many times as possible in 5, 10, or 20 min.
- Bunny hop up a set of stadium stairs non-stop (if that’s easy, do it on one foot)
Free Public Fitness Opportunities: Track and Stadium
Almost all high schools and colleges have a stadium with bleachers and a 400m track. Access is typically free and open, especially while school’s out for summer. These offer a perfect combination for a fun and challenging outdoor workout. Here are a few ideas:
400m Repeat Relay
Alternate 400m runs with a partner, resting while they run, and vice versa. Tag each other to trade off, like you’re in a race. For an extra challenge, hold a plank for your whole rest interval.
Two Laps Forward, One Lap Back
2 rounds of:
- 800m run forward
- 400m run backward (a fun challenge and far harder than you think!)
1 Mile Indian Run
With a group of 4+ friends, run in a line. The last person in line sprints up to the front of the line, then the next person in the back sprints up. Cycle through this for four laps. Next, try eight laps for two miles.
Runs and Skips
For four laps (1 mile), run the turns and skip down the straightaways. This is a really fun with a few friends. You’ll find yourself racing in no time. To mix it up, try side skipping, alternating which leg you lead with.
Free Public Fitness Opportunities: Your Local Park
Create a circuit with equipment available at a local park. Many parks have fitness equipment such as pull up bars, dip bars, and crunch benches. Playgrounds can offer even more fun and novelty with monkey bars, balance beams, ladders, and poles to climb.
The Human Zoo
Many people use animal movements to add some fun into their warm up. However, a 10-20-minute circuit of only animal movements can offer a pretty extreme challenge. Animal movements typically mimic the functional patterns we see in many of our furry, feathered, and scaly friends. They also have the added benefit of training strong core engagement, joint stability, and mobility. Check out the video below to see examples of many different animal movements.
Bringing your workout outside not only brings some fun and sunshine into your life, but offers the opportunity to mix up your typical routine. Imposing some creative constraints forces you to try unique challenges and think outside the gym. While we might not be able to maintain a perfect dedication to our percentages and typical reps and sets, outdoor workouts can give you a completely unique training stimulus.
Best of all, they are fun. I’ve spent countless hours in a gym, but nearly all of my strongest fitness memories are from outdoor workouts dreamed up on the spot with friends. Get outside, feel the sun on your face, and see what you and your friends can dream up.