By Chris Thornham
It’s too cold to exercise outside. Or maybe it’s too hot. Or the pollen count is off the charts and your allergies are acting up … or there’s no weight room outside.
You get the point. These are just a few of the reasons you might give for holing up in the gym all week. Maybe it’s even a matter of routine – you’re used to working out in air-conditioned comfort, surrounded by your exercise buddies, TVs, and an endless supply of fresh towels.
I know how tempting it can be to stick to the gym for your workouts; I did it for nearly 10 years. I couldn’t stand the monotony of the treadmill and bikes that went nowhere, so I rarely even strayed from the weight room.
But all that changed when I started participating in triathlons. I took up trail running, cycling, and swimming and was amazed to find myself more engaged. What was once unbearable on a stationary bike became enjoyable. I even started swimming in lakes and oceans.
And while I still enjoy strength training at the gym, there are many great benefits to taking your workout outside. Now that the weather is finally – hopefully – warming, here’s a list of why you should considering taking your workout outdoors.
BENEFIT #1: Outdoor Sports Are Social
It’s not uncommon to greet people you encounter on the trail or strike up a conversation with a total stranger. I’ve made new friends and even found new business prospects while out and about. That sure beats the gym, where everyone has earbuds in the entire time.
BENEFIT #2: Get More Vitamin D
BENEFIT #3: It Increases Energy
Studies have also shown that fresh air naturally boosts energy levels in 90 percent of people, and fresh-cut grass and flower scents can make you feel happier and more relaxed.
BENEFIT #4: It’s Always Open
Best of all, the great outdoors never close. Forget about operating hours or packed-to-the-gills gyms that have every machine claimed. With a few lights and reflectors, you can exercise safely outside at any time of day.
If you’re looking to get out of the gym and explore the outdoors, there are several activities you can try at low or no cost that will give you a killer workout.
Ditch spin class and head out on a real bike instead. Most cities have designated bike paths that are accessible and safe. Learn the rules of the road if you decide to bike in traffic. Cycling is not only great for your cardiovascular health, but it will also help tone the muscles in your lower body.
If you want to give cycling a try, there’s no need to buy a $5,000 bike at the outset. Borrow one from a friend or rent one from a bike shop to make sure that cycling is something you enjoy.
Get off the treadmill and pound some real pavement. Hit the streets in your neighborhood or find a local trail.
Running outside is not only a great cardio and lower-body workout, but the variable surface of a trail also makes you use lateral muscles you wouldn’t otherwise. Plus, you’ll likely be motivated to run a little further because you have beautiful scenery to inspire you.
To break out of the boredom of treadmill running, all you need is a good pair of running shoes. That’s about as simple and inexpensive as it gets.
Hiking is a great option for people who want to slow things down a bit. Hiking enhances your cardiovascular health, strengthens the muscles in your lower body, and improves your balance — all while exposing you to some beautiful landscapes.
As an added bonus, you can bring your favorite four-legged friend and give him some great exercise and excitement.
If you’re worried about getting your strength training in, MovNat is a great option. This increasingly popular workout involves using natural human movements to increase health and fitness by lifting logs, throwing rocks, climbing trees, swimming, running, and even crawling outdoors.
Just like working out in a gym, exercising outdoors is all about building a solid workout plan. This ensures that you work out all the different muscle groups and avoid injuries caused by overtraining. If you plan to do anything extreme, it’s good to get checked out by a doctor first.
There are few limitations on outdoor activity. The hardest part is getting started. If you need some extra motivation, join a club. Challenge yourself to bike your way through your first charity ride, complete your first 5K, or hike to a particularly beautiful vantage point.
Once you start accomplishing new goals, improving your health, and meeting new friends, you’ll realize how much you enjoy the change in scenery.
About The Author
Chris Thornham is a co-founder of FLO Cycling, which engineers aerodynamic cycling wheels. The company uses computational fluid dynamics software to develop its wheels and verifies its results in a wind tunnel. Less than three years after launching, the company has sold 10,000 wheels to customers in 51 countries. Chris enjoys learning, triathlon training, skiing, hiking with his dog, and spending time with family.