Let’s be honest: When it’s 80 and sunny, the gym isn’t as appealing as it was a few short months ago.
So why not take your gym workout outdoors?
Not only is it an opportunity to physically mix things up, but it’s mentally refreshing as well. And when done right, you can still get a solid workout that is fast, convenient and only requires one piece of equipment — you.
One of my favorite outdoor workouts combines running and strength training into the same workout. Of course, running comes with many benefits on its own:
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▪ Increased cardiovascular endurance
▪ More muscle definition
▪ Increased metabolism
▪ Improved leg strength and endurance
▪ Decreased risk to cardiovascular disease
▪ Enjoyment of the great outdoors
But even if you are not a runner or are just starting out, walking and/or hiking can bring the same benefits. When you are ready to give running a try, refer to the sidebar for tips on getting started.
And by adding some body-weight strength exercises, we can kill two birds with one stone. This style of strength training requires the exerciser to control his or her body weight against gravity as opposed to “lifting” an object. Plus, body-weight training comes with many physical benefits as well, including increases in strength, range of motion and cardiovascular endurance. Best of all, many body-weight exercises can be performed free of pain for most exercisers.
Some examples of body weight exercises include:
▪ Single Leg Squats
▪ Pistol Squats
▪ Floor Bridges
▪ Back Extension
▪ Split Jumps
▪ Bear Crawls
Putting it all together
There is a big upside to combining running and strength into the same workout. One, it’s more efficient, especially if you are limited on time and can only commit 2-3 days a week for workouts. Two, it’s convenient. You can perform this style of workout at a park, on some trails or at a track — all are great options. Lastly, you get the physical benefits of both strength and cardio within the same workout. Outlined below is a workout format and strength circuit.
Here’s how you get started:
▪ Perform a 5- to 10-minute dynamic warm-up
▪ Begin the workout by running, hiking or walking vigorously, depending on your fitness level
▪ Go for a distance of ¼- to ½-mile or for a designated time of 5-10 minutes
▪ Perform a circuit of 3-4 strength exercises times 10-15 reps per exercise
▪ Continue by alternating between running and strength circuits for 4-6 rounds
▪ Go for an intensity and pace that is appropriate for your fitness level
▪ Stretch and cool-down immediately after
Prisoner Squats: Stand just outside of a hip-width stance and with your hands locked behind your head with your elbows out. Descend into a squat by bending your knees and hinging at the hips simultaneously until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Avoid leaning forward excessively with your upper body and keep equal weight distribution throughout both legs. Extend at the hips and legs to return to the starting position. For more challenge, add a jump to the movement. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
Inverted Row: Use a solid, stable bar like a guard rail or a monkey bar. The bar should be anywhere between waist to chest height. Grab the bar with your palms facing down and with your arms fully extended at chest level. Your body should be angled at approximately 0 to 60 degrees depending on your level of strength. Maintaining alignment and control, contract your abs and pull your chest toward the bar, keeping your body straight throughout the movement. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.
Ice Skater Lunge: Begin by standing just outside of a hip-width stance. Step back with your left leg and cross over behind your right leg and descend into a lunge by bending your left knee until you reach 90 degrees, keeping the majority of the weight on your front leg. Power back to the starting position by extending your left knee and hip. Repeat the movement on the opposite side and continue the exercise by alternating sides for a total of 10-15 reps per side.
Spidermans: Begin in a pushup position. Lift your left leg and open up your hip, bringing your left thigh toward your left elbow until they touch or are as close as you can to touching. Extend your left leg back into the starting position. Repeat the same movement with your right leg and continue the exercises by alternating legs. For more challenge, add a pushup between each rep. Perform 10-15 reps per side.
My favorite outdoor spots
▪ Camel’s Back Park in Boise
▪ Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park in Meridian
▪ Table Rock in Boise
▪ The trails at Eagle Sports Complex
Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or championfit.net. He writes a monthly fitness column.
While the benefits of a running program are great, there are always inherent risks. This is mostly due to the repetitive nature of the sport. In fact, 79 percent of subjects in a recent study suffered from at least one lower limb injury. With that being said, starting your journey slow and training smart is key for long-term success. Here are some tips to help get you started.
Tip 1: Start Slow This point can’t be emphasized enough. The human body needs to acclimate to running loads gradually. Begin by building a cardiovascular base by combining low-impact cardio two times per week for 30-60 minutes with 1-2 short runs per week. Your distances should be small when first starting out; one mile is plenty for beginners. Even if you can’t run the entire time, using a combination of walking/running works great (e.g. walk 2-3 minutes, jog 1-2 minutes). Once you can run a mile comfortably, start increasing your distance by ¼ to ½ mile every 1-2 weeks.
Tip 2: Find the Right Pair of Shoes for You There are many schools of thought when it comes to shoes. The old rule of thumb is wearing running shoes that provide a lot of support. However, some current research suggests that less supportive shoes actually result in less impact. Even running barefoot is gaining popularity among runners. The bottom line? Find a pair that is right for you. There are many running specialty stores in the Treasure Valley that will analyze your gait and determine which pair is right for you. Check out any of these great locations:
▪ The Pulse Running and Fitness Shop in Boise and Meridian
▪ Fleet Feet Sports in Meridian
▪ Shu’s Idaho Running Co. in Boise
Tip 3: Recruit a Friend Any new activity is always easier and more enjoyable when you get a friend involved. Beginning a running program can seem like a daunting task; having a reliable running partner is great for motivation, consistency and can help get you through the learning curve. Interested in a running group? Many of the same running specialty stores organize groups locally for all skill levels and a variety of areas within the Treasure Valley.