Though obviously not in a hurry to rain or shine, spring is coming…I promise! As those winter blues melt away, it will be time to hunker down and get in bathing-suit-body form. Skipped the January gym specials? No problem. These warmer days are the best time to take your exercise endeavors outdoors.
As a mother of a very energetic toddler, I find myself in parks and on trails a lot during the warmer months. My son and I play together on the jungle gyms, run around on the trails and just have a great time being outside in the fresh air. From my experience, I have a few ideas of how you can squeeze in a good balance of heart-healthy cardio and muscle-building weight workouts without even looking at a treadmill or lifting a single dumbbell.
Cardio al fresco
Parks and schools have a lot of wide open spaces. Many schools even feature a running track, which is a safe place you and your kids can partake in some heart-pumping fun. Race your kids around the track, lap-by-lap. Or, get creative and make each circle around a different exercise: the first loop you sprint, the second one you do the grapevine, the third you skip around and so on.
Trails are always fun, because you can really make a day of it with the whole family. Pack a backpack with water, snack bars and dried fruit for noshing on when the little ones get tired. If you’re going at it solo, alternating your pace can help pass the time burn more calories. Mix up a steady trail run by walking for five minutes, jogging for ten minutes and then sprinting for five minutes. Sprinting uphill is an amazing full-body workout. Using your core to stabilize your body and your breathing, sprint up every hill you encounter along the trail and continue the momentum downhill by jogging steadily. During the walking rest periods, pull over to a nearby bench (if there is one) and do a few triceps dips and elevated push-ups. Whatever you do, just keep that heart rate running high!
Strength training under the sun
Bodyweight exercises are great at toning and sculpting a dangerously good-looking physique. They make your body work against its own weight and gravitational pull, so the resistance is higher than that on machines. Squats, push-ups, backward running and walking lunges are some of my personal favorites.
If you stumble upon a park with a jungle gym, you’re in luck! Climbing the bars will work your biceps and triceps. Plus, if you can hang from the bars, you can perform chin-ups, pull-ups (it comes with time and practice) and leg/knee raises that work your core. Monkey bars are also great for swinging. Seriously. They aren’t just for kids. Listen up, grown-ups: as you swing, carefully pull yourself up and above the bar, grab the next rung and pull yourself up and over and continue through the end of the line. Congratulations! You have just done hack pull-ups.
Though I do belong to a gym, I find being outside so much more motivating and peaceful. I would rather do my routine in the sunshine than cooped up inside a busy gym (just don’t forget the sunscreen!). One of the key ingredients to building a better body is being happy throughout the process. That happiness keeps you motivated and determined; it pushes you to reach for more and more success. Not having a gym membership is not an excuse to not build a better body.
Amy Wilson is the @fittrainermama on Twitter who loves motivating and inspiring others to become the best they can be. She became an ACE CPT to teach others that fitness gives more than physical strength; it gives mental strength, too.