Bright lights, loud music, air-conditioning, swanky membership cards, blinking lights beeping and whirling machines. Modern gyms offer a lot to attract new gym-goers and justify their membership fees, but after a day spent indoors stuck at a computer screen and commuting on a busy train or road, does the idea of being in yet another synthetic environment have you rushing to your workout?
Admittedly, the gym’s system is enticing with all the fancy equipment that screams for your attention, but what if you could hit the same goals on a budget? Take a few seconds to consider your current exercise routine; are there changes you can make to enjoy a greener, more natural experience? One that benefits you physically and with a cost-effective mindset? Reduces your carbon footprint rather than adding to it? You can achieve all of these by starting your fitness journey training outdoors. For all of the gym’s “technological” wizardry, the principal behind these machines is to get you to lift, push, pull or move your body.
I train my clients in an open, natural environment that restores focus. No matter the weather, being outside is in our DNA; reconnecting with the elements improves cognitive function and offers the chance to be more environmentally friendly. This greener routine transformed my training and the thrill of being able to provide complete total body workouts with little equipment means I can guide my clients to become self-sufficient and do the same.
The park is so versatile, but let’s talk about how you get there; the journey from your house or work can be considered as part of the warm-up. Once you’ve done your stretching, prepare a backpack with some full water bottles inside. A one litre water bottle weighs one kilogram. Stack a couple of bottles carefully in the backpack so the weight distribution is even. These will be your weights once you arrive at the park, but for the walk or jog to your destination, you’ll be doing something known as 'rucking', an endurance style of training that challenges your core and back. Once you have the distance in mind you can choose the intensity by deciding your pace and the weight you carry. If you live close to your destination you can extend the jog around the park’s paths. Try and jog to the side of any concrete as the soil is a natural shock absorber, the outdoor terrain is constantly changing which adds to the challenge, burning 5% more calories than the same distance on a treadmill, where your muscle memory would take over.
Once you’ve completed your desired distance jogging, give yourself an hour to smash this full body workout; remember it’s supposed to be uncomfortable and challenging! You will have most of your energy at the start, so begin with the hardest exercises first.
Press-ups, sit-ups, walking lunges and bench jumps are simple but effective. My top two favourite exercises for clients are hanging leg raises, which are great for developing core strength; and inverted rows - this is an amazing upper body exercise that builds stability and strength in your back, biceps and core. Many parks have started installing pull-up bars and dip-bars that you can use to really push yourself. By doing each one of these exercises you’ve already hit the majority of muscle groups.
For additional exercises, try resistance bands. These are an excellent tool for toning, easily portable and cheap too! Different band colours have higher levels of tension for building strength; with these you can do a multitude of exercises for every muscle group, bicep curls, front raises for shoulders and more. You can increase the resistance which is the same as lifting heavier weights.
To challenge yourself and increase your strength try lateral raises, dumbbell curls and tricep extensions. For well-proportioned arms you need to create a balance. The arms are composed of two main muscle groups; biceps and triceps. Focusing on just your biceps might seem appealing but triceps (the muscles which run down the backs of your arms) are comprised of three heads, and makeup two-thirds of your upper arms. Untoned triceps are a combination of body fat and low muscle; this results in loose arms.
You can also use those water bottles in your bag to do curls and practise your grip with some farmer walks. Resistance bands don’t just help you work out your upper body. You can use them when performing crab walks, squats and kickbacks and build up the firmness of your glutes.
You now have the tools and ideas, but motivation and guidance are very important, as well as learning the proper form and technique, so don’t scrimp here. At Becks A.C.E. Fitness (www.becksacefitness.com)
I offer short packages in East London that give you the foundations to learn the tools for self-sufficiency, how to maximise results and avoid injuries.
The weather itself also plays a big part in your fitness and immunity. Sunshine on your skin gives you vitamin D which supports the immune system, brain and nervous system; people exercising in the park often have more energy than those that just exercising in the gym. Don’t be put off if it’s raining either, as the water from the rain is extremely fresh; it doesn’t contain minerals and harmful particles from contact with the dust and stones. This water is alkaline helping to maintain the pH level of the skin, scalp and hair. Exercising in the rain helps to burn more calories too.
You’ll leave feeling more alive after an outdoor workout, our brains are hardwired for this interaction and have a natural biological attraction to nature. Beyond helping with depression and anxiety increased outdoor activity leads to a reduction in causes of obesity, heart disease, hypertension and colon cancer.