Take Your Workout to the Park this Summer

In a place where half the year or more can be considered winter, we Minnesotans love to get out and make the most of those warm, sunny days while we can. It’s no secret that memberships and attendance at fitness centers drop precipitously from April to October, but what are all of those people doing for exercise if they’re skipping the gym?

Many people drop their gym membership in the summer simply because they are too busy. But while yard work, gardening and other forms of summer fun can boost overall activity levels, they don’t really constitute a workout. This can make summer nearly as dangerous to your fitness goals as the holidays. Fortunately, it’s easy to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine while getting in a great workout. Here are some exercises you can do in nearly any outdoor space.

No Equipment Required – You can do a challenging workout with no equipment at all by stringing together a series of bodyweight-only, bootcamp-style exercises. Start by briskly walking a lap around the park perimeter to warm up. Next, alternate 30 seconds of cardio-based exercises, like jumping jacks, mountain climbers and high-knees with 30 seconds of strength-based exercises, such as pushups, lunges and planks. Add in rest periods as needed, and go at a pace that feels comfortable for you. A sample circuit might look something like this:

Jumping Jacks
Pushups
High-Knees
Lunges
Rest
Mountain Climbers
Forward Arm Circles
Backward Arm Circles
Plank
Bodyweight Squats
Rest

Add Your Own Equipment – By bringing along just a few simple pieces of your own equipment, you can get in a bigger variety of exercises. Bring a jumprope, a towel or exercise mat and one or two resistance bands to get a total body workout.

With the jumprope, you can (obviously) skip rope, but you can also lay the rope on the ground and use it as a visual “obstacle” to step or hop over. Use the towel or mat to make floor exercises more comfortable (and to keep your clothes from getting grass or mud stains). Sit-ups, crunches, bird dogs and Supermans are just a few ideas. With the resistance bands, you can add a lot of upper body exercises. Bicep curls, standing rows (using a tree or piece of playground equipment as an anchor), triceps kickbacks and lat pull-downs (using a high anchor point) will supplement those pushups nicely.

Use the Park’s Equipment – If your park has benches, stairs or playground equipment, then you can get creative and add more exercises to your workout. Benches or stairs can be used for step-ups or partially supported pushups. Monkey bars can be used to do pull-ups, the flexed arm hang or hanging leg raises. Just be sure you check out the condition of the equipment before you start in on a set. Watch out for rusted or loose bars and wobbly benches. If something seems questionable, skip it and do another set of pushups or lunges instead.

Don’t Forget About the Fun Stuff – You can get a good workout doing something else outdoors – playing! Bring a frisbee or a ball and glove and have some fun with your friends or family. For no-equipment group play, go old-school with a game of tag or my favorite, barefoot races across the grass. Even tossing a ball for your pooch can get your muscles moving and your blood pumping.

Next time you’re headed to the park, remember that there’s more to do than just lie on the picnic blanket. Why not use a few of these ideas to make your next trip to the park an active one.

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