It is so much easier to head off to the gym regularly in the bleak cold of winter. It gets dark out early, you don’t necessarily feel like going out when it’s cold, and it gives you something to work on—a winter project of sorts. Once the summertime hits, however, the last place I want to be is in a sweaty, humid, stinky gym! I become an expert at making excuses not to go to the gym in order to pass more time soaking up the sun and fun on the packed patios around town. So, not only am I not exercising regularly, suddenly, I am increasing my beer and nacho intake tenfold!
The only logical answer here is to take that workout outside. There are several ways you can adapt at least part of your workout to include time in the great outdoors. There are also several good reasons. Foremost among these is that many of us get into a tired-out routine during the winter and forget that diversifying our workout is an important strategy to keep your body on its toes (so to speak!).
While you can play organized sports in many of the indoor complexes and ice rinks in the wintertime, it is so much more invigorating to get out into the sun, get together some friends and throw together a pick up game. Here are some examples of various sports you can take outdoors and their benefits:
- Basketball: The beauty of basketball is that all you need is a ball and one friend and you can get something started on the court. You can play one-on-one, or you can play on a team. Either way, basketball is a terrific cardio workout. If you play a high-intensity game of basketball, you could burn up to 420 calories per hour. Aside from heart health, the ball handling will shape your arms and shoulders and the running, pivoting and foot work will tighten your butt and legs.
- Ultimate: This Frisbee team sport combines soccer, basketball and football for a cardio workout that you won’t believe. You can burn up to 300 calories in an hour of intense play running from one end of the field to another. All you need for equipment is a good pair of cleats and a Frisbee to get started. Ultimate is one of the fastest-growing sports, and you will likely be able to find a league if you are a beginner looking to learn. One caveat: make sure you warm up and stretch, especially your legs. Warm bodies are less likely to suffer pulled muscles, tendons and ligaments due to the amount of running, stopping, and starting you will be doing.
- Beach volleyball: The intensity of this sport depends on how many people you have on the court, but the workout is always more intense on sand, because your body needs to work harder to jump and stabilize on the shifting ground. You will burn up to 350 calories, and work your leg, butt and abs (especially on those killer smashes).
- Soccer: Soccer is the biggest sport in the world—outside of North America. North Americans, however, are starting to catch on that it is a great workout. One hour of recreational soccer can burn up to 520 calories in an hour. If you are playing soccer at a high skill level, you can burn up to 800 an hour running from one end of the pitch to the other.
One of the great things about heading outdoors in the summer is that you need very little equipment to head out on your own and enjoy the day. For instance, to head out for a jog or a walk, all you need is a good pair of jogging shoes. It doesn’t get much simpler than that! In fact, most individual outdoor sports require very little and therefore are easier to just get out there and do on the spur of the moment.
One thing at the outdoors provides is the challenge of new terrain. Running or walking on a treadmill, even one with variable elevation, is no match for the challenge of running on a sandy beach, in the hills, or on a rough trail. Managing that outdoor terrain makes your usual muscles work harder, giving you a more intense workout, and also engages stabilizing muscles that you may not use while running or walking on a smooth surface.
Two other individual workouts you can move outdoors are cycling and water sports. Like running, cycling outdoors challenges your body in different ways than the indoor stationary bike. You can try bike trails around the city, or in the country, that will reinvigorate your enjoyment of cycling, encouraging you to get out more often and stay out longer. Biking can be fun again—not just a means to an end.
If you live near a body of water, then you can take your swimming outdoors (and out of that chlorinated pool!). Swimming is a great full-body workout that can burn up to 360 calories in 30 minutes. If you are swimming in the ocean or a lake, tides and waves also add to the intensity of your workout.
If you are a water baby and are around water all the time, kayaking is a great exercise for strengthening your upper body, including your arms, back and core. You will need some equipment for this one, and some basic instruction, but adding a new activity to your repertoire is a great way to re-invigorate your fitness routine. If higher-speed boating is your thing, the isometric challenge of getting and staying upright while water skiing will work your entire body. Your legs, abs, back, shoulders and arms are all engaged in hoisting you up and helping you stay up. A half hour of this can burn up to 270 calories.
One great thing about spring is the feeling of renewal. As you emerge from your winter cocoon, new possibilities and challenges seem not only attainable, but also welcome. It is a great time to take advantage of a new environment to challenge your body in new ways. Keeping diversity in your workout will keep your body engaged and prevent a frustrating plateau that slows down your motivation.