While many of us see the outdoors as the perfect place to go for a walk or run, or burn off some energy with the kids, not many people see it as the chance to workout – with most reserving that for the gym.
Dumbbells, battle ropes and plyometrics boxes can be hard to find outside, but that’s no obstacle. With a bit of intelligent thinking and improvisation you can mimic any workout you’d do in the gym, without having to use felled tree trunks for bench pressing.
Hitting the park (or even the garden)? Flat outdoor spaces are a great place to replicate those circuits you do in the gym. Burpees, bear crawls, planks, press ups, squats and any other body weight exercises can be done outside. Just make sure the ground is flat, clear and level.
The advantage of outdoor circuits, other than the sunshine, is the space – now you can add in sprints, jump lunges and skipping rope work, things that don’t usually lend themselves to busy indoor spaces.
The UK has some cracking trails – through woods and parks, along canals and rivers, over mountains, past lakes and through valleys. The great thing is many are hidden in plain sight on our doorstep. Unlike pounding the pavements, trail running is softer on the joints and gets you out into the countryside, which is a big boost for our wellbeing.
However, it’s not just knees and brains that benefit from trails. Trail running provides your body with more of a workout than just the cardio you get from road running. As trails aren’t flat you will build more strength in your legs from the elevation gain and decent. The uneven ground is also good for balance and building core strength, as you engage more muscles to keep you upright. Steps, gates and styles also provide extra workouts for the legs.
In the past few years Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) has become very popular. The mix of running with clambering over, under and around obstacles is a fun way to get a full body workout.
Pulling ropes, jumping walls, scrambling up inclines and wading through mud are all great resistance and body weight exercises. It can be expensive to constantly enter OCR races, however there are now dedicated outdoor training spaces dotted around the UK. And the good news is, you don’t need to be a professional to use one.
No OCR training centre near you? Got kids and want to OCR with them? Don’t worry – you can replicate a lot of the obstacles you’d find in a race out in the countryside. Scramble up walls, wade through big muddy puddles and bogs, jump over styles, hang off trees and run up and down a hill carrying a large stone or small rock. Get inventive and think of all the fun you’ll have with the kids (and how much you’ll tire them out).
Into the wild
Swimming is a great all over body exercise and not something you particularly want to do inside when it’s so warm. Wild swimming is becoming more and more popular in the UK and is a great free activity to fit into a staycation.
There are lots of wild swimming places, use the internet to find the nearest one to you. Whilst wild swimming can be a fun family activity, there are some very important rules to remember:
• Never jump into water you don’t know the depth of or can’t see what’s in the water
• Stay out of reservoirs, they contain a lot of hidden machinery
• Ask for advice: only swim in areas suitable for wild swimming and for the skill level of all members of your party
• Never drink alcohol or take drugs and swim (and don’t swim on a full stomach)
• Do not wild swim alone
• It’s not just the seas that have dangerous currents, they can be found in lakes and rivers too
• Enter the water slowly and get used to the temperature – below 15c cold water ‘gasp reflex’ can be triggered. It can be fatal
• Swim near the shore, not away from it
• Watch children at all times
• Where possible stick to beaches with lifeguards and always obey their directions or the flags that are flying
• Recognise the signs of drowning – people who are drowning are usually silent. Dial 112 or 999 and ask for the coastguard (seaside) or fire and rescue. Find something buoyant you can throw to help keep them above water. Don’t put yourself in danger
• Don’t trespass or swim in areas where it is prohibited – there’s usually a very good reason you’re not allowed to swim there.
An additional benefit of being outdoors is that fresh air and sunshine help boost your serotonin levels – meaning a happier, healthier, more chilled you.
Five to thirty minutes of sun exposure twice a week will also boost vitamin D levels, helping build stronger bones and a more robust immune system.
Just remember to slap on a minimum of factor 15 sunscreen if you’re outside in the summer (even in the UK!) and make that factor 30 for the kids.