Tom, the personal trainer who founded Waite Training in Leeds has many tips to help you get started on working for your fitness goals.
Exercising outdoors is one of my personal favourite ways to train. It brings together three things that are essential to a good mood: Movement, exercise, and plenty of fresh air. I find everything about it stimulating, but some of my favourite methods could be broadly described as “modified Strongman”.
Don’t let the name put you off; these movements have a bunch of real functional carryovers into your real life. So, interested in taking your training outdoors, but not sure where to start? I got you covered with the following exercise ideas.
Sprints are incredible for anaerobic training. All you need is your running shoes, and just maybe a stopwatch feature on your watch or phone to time the intervals. Sprints can be performed on flats, as repeats (for example 5 sets of 100m, with designated rest between). You could even do them up a hill if you’re looking for some extra challenge. Keep a record of your times, because this sort of exercise lends itself well to be repeated to see your improvement over time.
The carryover to your real life will be in having an improved aerobic capacity. Meaning, you’ll be able to do more without getting out of breath. No more huffing and puffing at the top of the stairs!
You may have used a prowler before. It’s sometimes called a sled. This heavy object can be used for pushing and pulling workouts too - each works for different muscle groups.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to this piece of equipment, you’ll know it can be a whole-body workout in itself. You can run pushing it forward or drag it backwards. You can use weights to increase the load for a strength and conditioning session.
The carryover to real life is in the whole body, natural way you’ll move. You can strengthen your core, your legs and arms that will improve your posture and you will also be able to carry more stuff around.
It’s also often used in sports conditioning, like in rugby to prepare for scrums. You’ll work in an elevated heart rate zone if you push yourself to your limits with the prowler.
My preferred throwing movement is a sandbag throw. You can throw the sandbag, a slamball or a medicine ball forward off your chest. You will be using the muscles on the front of your body, such as your core, chest, arms and shoulders.
You could throw it overhead or behind you for height or distance which works your glutes and your back. Whichever way you choose to throw, it’s a whole-body movement that takes timing, and power generation. If you are a powerlifter or a weightlifter, and you need a powerful hip extension, or if you’re looking to build a perky butt, throwing movements can be a great addition to an outdoor workout.
These have carryovers to sports, as mentioned. But there are lots of instances where you might need to be able to muscle some heavyweight overhead - like getting your luggage in the overhead compartment of a plane. Another real-life application is playing with small children without pulling your back.
A loaded carry tests your strength from your traps to your toes. A movement like a farmers walk is one of the few ways to train your grip strength specifically. Grip strength is often neglected, but it has serious implications for cardiovascular health.
You can often carry a lot more than you think. Developing a firm grip can further improve that. However, getting that weight off the floor in the first instance and into a standing position is still a deadlift - so respect that position and proceed sensibly.
The practical carryover is evident to anyone that’s ever tried to bring in all the shopping from the car in one trip. It strengthens your upper body, lower body and core in a way which can leave you sore in muscles you didn’t even know were there.
Whether your goal is to improve your strength, conditioning, sports performance or body composition, this style of training will give you incredible results. Often only minimal equipment is needed, and it’s less about learning to move it technically well as it as about raw power. That makes these movements perfect for someone who is looking to work out, sweat hard, and get incredible results - without dedicating 2 hours a day to technical lifting in the gym.
A side benefit of outdoor exercise is that the fresh air will help with sleep quality, which is essential for recovery. If this is something that you’re trying to prioritise in your regime, getting some fresh air during your exercise time can be a great way to achieve it.