How to Get the Best Workout Outdoors

January 16, 2015

Since moving to LA from NYC, I’ve definitely gotten more used to getting a workout outdoors. Concrete jungle or sunny California, and everywhere in between–think of your town, city or village as your own personal playground! There may not be a set of swings and a whirling slide, but there most definitely are things to climb, hang on to and conquer. Your immediate surroundings can be the foundation for fitness that you have been searching for. You decide your level and intensity.
Here, I will focus on small routines that can be accomplished with just a little effort and a keen eye. Let me tell you about some exercises that are enjoyable, fortifying and usually come with a great view.

How to Get the Best Workout Outdoors

No one said you have to remain lying down when you’re at the beach.

1. Use an outdoor workout as a form of meditation.

Both of my parents are insane exercise buffs. It has rubbed off on me a little, but it’s a challenge and a goal to measure up to them. My father has a strong philosophy that meditation can be the solution to many problems, and that exercise is a form of meditation. It takes psychological and mental preparation as well as a centered body. Follow this idea as you take your workout outdoors.

Exercising outdoors is a great way to build a relationship with nature and use that time for personal reflection or mindfulness practice. Unless you have countless hours to spend transcending your mind towards clearer pastures (if you do, congratulations!), taking your workout outdoors can be an incredible alternative. Plus, it’s free, you never have to wait for an elliptical and it will, most likely, smell better than a gym.

2. Take the stairs or climb a hill.

We all have friendships that require a little more effort than others. These are the long distance friends, the married friends, the busy friends. Maintaining a strong relationship with them takes perseverance, energy and patience. Stairs and hills are these kinds of friends. Although they can be a bit daunting, climbing a hill or conquering a flight of stairs is a great workout for your leg muscles and for your heart. Taking the path of least resistance won’t lead to a better you. Get your heart rate up so your body begins to burn fat, increase your metabolism and improve blood flow.

Routine: Incorporate stairs and hills into a jogging/running routine. Scope out a stadium with a long flight of stairs or perhaps a park with an overlook. Use these stairs for a great warm up, walking up and down for 5 minutes. To utilize the stairs for a more vigorous workout, run up and down the flight 12-15 times. When you need a rest, you can use the steps for a stretch: place a knee on the seat and the foot against the back rest for a quad stretch, then turn to face the knee and fold over the leg, stretching out the back of the leg. This is an productive workout for your legs and butt.

3. Walk, jog and run in the sand

If a beach or an extremely large sandbox is attainable, use it for your cardio. Since sand is always shifting underneath you, it requires a lot of focus, especially on your form. Cardio in the sand burns 50% more calories and targets your quads, glutes and hips. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

Routine: Begin your sand cardio with a brisk 5 minute walk. Do 3 reps of ten minute jogging intervals, with 5 minute walks in-between. After your reps, take a dip in the water. You deserve it!

4. (Park) Bench Press

Use your neighborhood park benches for more than sitting. Many exercises can be performed using a typical park bench:
Squats: Use the bench as a safety net for squats. Back straight, one arm behind your head, one arm resting lightly on the back of the bench. Bend your knees slowly, using your stomach muscles for stability and lower yourself into a seated position (without actually sitting). Do 3 sets of 15.
Pushups: Placing your hands on the seat of the bench, back straight, body angled push up position, use the seat as a base for your pushups.
Leg lifts: (Note: This requires standing on the bench. Do this only if you have good balance. Also, some parks may frown upon this) Stand on the bench and place your hands on your hips. Keeping your legs straight and your stomach muscles tight, lift one leg to the side slowly, then extend the same leg behind you. Do 15 reps, for each leg. This workout is also good for your core. Make sure nobody is behind or to the side of you.

Triceps Dips: Stand in front of the bench, bend your knees and place both palms down on the bench, fingertips facing forward and underneath your shoulders. Your seat should be hovering just off the bench, knees bent. Bend the elbows (pointing straight back) to dip as low as possible from your arms, then come back up. Do 15 reps.

5. Hiking

If you have the day off or a few hours to spend, research hiking trails in your area. Living in LA has exposed me to the wonderful world of hiking. Not only are the trails usually beautiful, but they provide diversity in your routine that can be enlightening and refreshing. Bring a friend and enjoy the outdoors!

What’s your favorite way to workout outdoors? Let me know where and what you do! 

More fitness inspiration: I Tried It – Finding Lightness with Aerial Yoga

10 Hottest Yoga Pants for Any Budget in 2015

How to Workout When You’re Busy and On the Go


Photo: earthly magic via Flickr

Samantha Matcovsky is a New York native living in Los Angeles where she works as a freelance writer, animator and tutor. She has an intense love for poetry, puppies, painting pictures of produce and alliteration. You can find her reading on her couch or follow her on Instagram @littlepumpkin to see what she’s up to.


always stay inspired!