How to Make the Outdoors Your Gym
By Jim Burch
Adobe Stock/Dudarev Mikhail
Even the most basic gym should have all the equipment needed for a complete workout, so why does it often feel so lacking? We drag our feet through the front door, push out a couple sets of bench press, bore ourselves on the treadmill for 15 minutes and then leave. Only the most dedicated gym rats can make it through those places without going crazy. There has to be a better way.
Believe it or not, there was a time when there were no gyms and humans were all in much better shape, but over the centuries our sedentary lifestyle has caught up to us and now there’s nothing left but to do the bare minimum at the gym each week. But if you just stepped outside you would see a world just waiting to be your natural gym.
If you’re ready to step out of the globo-gym and embrace the outdoors, here are some great places to get started.
Trail running grew from niche hobby to popular sport thanks to events like Ragnar, which give trail runners a place to socialize and compete (though must run for non-competitive fun) across some of the most scenic trails in the country. But if you don’t live near the national parks of Utah or the redwood forests of Northern California, chances are there is still a trail waiting for the tread under your shoes.
Check with local parks to find good trails, and grab some of the few essentials for an exhilarating and challenging workout. A good pair of trail running shoes from Merrell, Salomon, or La Sportiva offer the support and traction needed for rugged terrain and a hydration pack from CamelBak or Osprey will provide plenty of water on the trail.
We all don’t have the luxury of climbing the steps at the Los Angeles Coliseum, but every town with a decent high school football program also has a stadium that can double as the perfect outdoor gym — and running up the stairs is just the beginning. There are a variation of different elevated push-ups you can do thanks to the different heights of the bleacher seats. And when it comes time to run the steps, add some variety to your stride by skipping a step, two-stepping (when both feat touch each step before moving on) or broad jumping steps. This provides a killer cardio session while also adding in great footwork.
Target and sport shooting is a big part of outdoor life, but it doesn’t do much for physical fitness outside of hand-eye coordination. But there is a new activity growing in popularity that tests accuracy and endurance.
The “3 Gun” competitions require you to quickly navigate a course and shoot targets with a shotgun, handgun and rifle. It’s tons of fun for anyone who loves to shoot and requires more movement than traditional target shooting. If you need to purchase guns for sport shooting, check local and online retailers for their selection of firearms.
If you think park workouts are a puny alternative to a real gym, think again. Monkey bars might be fun and games for kids, but they can deliver serious muscle building and toning for adults. The various bars and rings found in parks and playgrounds are perfect for pull-ups, dips, muscle ups and other body movements that will build grip strength, improve mobility and target muscles that you might neglect in a tradition free weight gym.
Jim Burch is a copywriter from Phoenix and avid admirer of alliteration. His goals are to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, see all 30 baseball stadiums, and eliminate the improper use of “literally,” but he figuratively can’t even.
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