During the winter, weight rooms can get especially crowded. If you're waiting too long to use the equipment, why not move your training outdoors? It will not only add some variety to your sessions, it will also give you a refreshing change of scenery.
I'm going to share some of my favorite outdoor workouts with you. But first, let's take a closer look at the benefits of exercising outside:
Added Vitamin D
When training outside, you get beneficial vitamin D from the sun to support muscle strength, mass and bone density. According to the Creighton School of Medicine, Vitamin D helps the body maintain healthy levels of calcium and phosphorous to prevent osteoporosis and brittle bones and also enhances the immune system to fight off disease and infection.
Vitamin D also optimizes natural testosterone production—a key anabolic (muscle-building) hormone. According to researchers from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, Vitamin D helps maintain muscle strength. Subjects with more Vitamin D in their blood circulated much more testosterone. Resistance training releases testosterone, so when you do strength workouts outside in sunlight, you're really boosting muscle-building testosterone levels!
Promotes happiness/prevents depression
Exercising in sunshine wards off depression and improves your mood, particularly during the sun-deprived winter months. According to a study at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates, people who increased their time in the sun improved their mood and Vitamin D status and showed fewer symptoms of depression.
You're less susceptible to catching colds and the flu outside than in a crowded and stuffy weight room.
Training outside allows you to perform more exercises in multiple planes of movement without worrying about bumping into a bench, machine or another person using equipment.
Where to Train?
Bleachers are perfect for uphill sprints, Seated Dips, Lateral and Horizontal Hops and Jumps, Step-Ups, Feet-Elevated Push-Ups, Explosive Push-Ups and Bulgarian Split Squats.
School track, football field or public park
These are ideal for speed/agility drills.
Park fit trail
Check online for local area parks that feature a fit trail with upper- and lower-body exercise stations.
Use park benches for Elevated Push-Ups, Seated Dips, Step-Ups and Bulgarian Split Squats. Lean against trees and do Wall Squats or attach a resistance band around a tree or bench for Rows, Press-Outs, Side Chops and Twists.
Parks or playgrounds have bars that are useful for Pull-Ups and for anchoring a resistance band for exercises like Rows, Pull-Downs and Cable Twists.
Don't forget the most convenient locale for outside training. Perform Wall Squats against your house or tie a resistance band around a tree (or other sturdy object such as a fence post) for pulling, pushing and twisting movements. Perform Step-Ups, Jumps, Hops, Seated Dips and Push-Ups, and Bulgarian Split Squats atop outside steps or stairs.
Outside Training Tips
Wear comfortable attire
- Dress in layers. Wear a few sweatshirts and sweatpants to remove after a dynamic warm-up and a few intense exercises.
- Wear Gloves. Metal bars, bleachers, metal or wooden benches, outside steps, concrete, grass and artificial turf are all cold in the winter.
- Wear a warm hat. A baseball cap may not be enough to keep your head warm.
Check weather conditions and the terrain for safety
Exercising in extreme cold and icy conditions can be just as risky as working out in extreme high temperatures and humidity. Uncovered skin, especially on your hands and feet, gets cold first when exposed to the elements, so dress to prevent frostbite. Be sure to check for icy patches so you don't slip and injure yourself.
Keep that water bottle handy before, during and after workouts.
Do a thorough dynamic warm-up
Muscles are normally tighter in cold weather, so devote extra time to performing a dynamic upper- and lower-body warm-up (e.g., 2-3 sets of Walking Lunges and Arm Raises).
Finish with upper- and lower-body cool-down static stretches
They gradually cool down the body after high-intensity activity and improve flexibility and range of motion.
Try these outdoor workouts to stay in shape and boost your endurance, strength, speed and agility.
Winter Workout 1
Setting: School bleachers
Equipment: Water bottle, timer, exercise mat.
Guidelines: No rest between combo exercises (perform supersets). Do three sets of each combo exercise and rest 30 seconds between sets.
Up and Down Sprints/Seated Dips. Run up and down the bleachers five times in 1-2 minutes, then do as many Seated Bleacher Dips as you can in 45 seconds. Great for muscular endurance.
Jumps/Feet-Elevated Push-Ups. Jump as high as possible atop each bleacher step. Upon reaching the top step, immediately go into a push-up position with your feet elevated on the top step and do a Push-Up. Repeat Push-Ups on each descending step. Jumps build power in the hips, quadriceps and hamstrings. Feet-Elevated Push-Ups optimally strengthen and build your chest, triceps, shoulders and upper back.
Prone and Side Planks. Place the mat on the bleacher seat and perform Prone Plank for 45 seconds. Rotate to a Side Plank for 45 seconds on each side. Great core strength-builder.
Winter Workout 2
Setting: Park, playground, fit trail or yard
Equipment: Water bottle, thick (80% RM) resistance band, timer.
Guidelines: Sets/reps: 3x10; rest time: 15 seconds between sets.
Pull-Ups or Band Pull-Downs. Perform 10 Pull-Ups or intertwine a band atop an overhead bar. Hold pull-up or pull-down position for 10-20 seconds on last rep of each set for added intensity. Pull-Ups/Pull-Downs build biceps, forearm and back strength and size and increase core strength needed for pulling and gripping.
Optional: If you don't have a bar, skip Pull-Ups/Downs and instead do the Single-Leg Squat/Row Band exercise described below.
Step-Ups. Do alternating Step-Ups with each leg on a park bench, edge of a playground slide or fit trail beam. Do as many as you can in 60 seconds to enhance lower-body muscular endurance.
Explosive Push-Ups. Perform explosive Push-Ups off the bench, slide or beam—as many as you can in 30 seconds to build upper-body power.
Single-Leg Squats and Resistance Band Rows. This combo enhances balance and core stability and builds upper-body strength and muscle for both winter and spring sports.
- Wrap the band around a bench, beam or sturdy tree.
- Face bench/beam/tree from a foot away.
- Grasp band handles and pull while standing on your left leg with your right foot off the ground.
- Simultaneously squat with your left leg while pulling band toward your waist.
- Hold one second and return to start position.
- Perform 10 reps and repeat with right leg Squats and Rows with your left foot off the floor.
Winter Workout 3
Setting: Field or track
Equipment: water bottle, 3 cones, med ball (80% RM), timer.
Guidelines: Sets: 3 supersets (no rest) of each combo exercise; rest 30 seconds and hydrate between exercises.
Med Ball Push-Ups and Multi-directional Sprints. This combo enhances upper- and lower-body endurance, speed and agility.
- Arrange cones 10 yards apart in a zig-zag pattern.
- Do 10 Push-Ups with your hands atop the med ball.
- Pick up the ball and sprint to and touch each cone.
- Backpedal to start position.
- After three supersets, rest for 30 seconds and go to the next combo exercise.
Med Ball Twists and Side Lunges. Builds upper- and lower-body power and core strength.
- Space two cones laterally 5 yards apart.
- Start at Cone 1 in an athletic stance.
- Hold the ball with your arms extended at chest level.
- Lunge laterally with your right leg while simultaneously rotating your body and the ball to the right.
- Pause 1 second, then drag your left foot toward your right leg while bringing the ball back to your chest.
- Continue right Lunges/Twists to Cone 2.
- Without rest, reverse with lateral left leg Lunges/left side Ball Twists back to Cone 1.
Cone Jumps and 40-Yard Sprints. Boosts upper- and lower-body power, endurance and strength.
- Arrange cones 2 feet apart.
- Holding the med ball overhead, jump as high as possible over each cone.
- Bring the ball to chest level and sprint for 40 yards.
- Backpedal to start and repeat twice more without rest.
- Prepare for an Outdoor Training Session With Winter Workout Tips
- 5 Essentials to Stay Warm During Your Winter Workouts
- Julia Mancuso on Year-Round Strength and Fitness
Livestrong.com. "Benefits of Sunlight." August 16, 2013.
BBC News (news.bbc.co.uk). "Sunbathing Ups Men's Testosterone." (February 10, 2010).
The Huffington Post. "Sunshine & Happiness Study Links Time Outdoors to Improved Mood." (October 6, 2013).
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock