A No Equipment Necessary Park Workout
I love being outside in the spring. With the warmer temperatures, additional hours of daylight, and the many enveloping shades of green, the outdoors beckon me to spend time with them. And after a season full of indoor celebrations and bare branches, I'm more than excited to take nature up on it's invitation.
So during this beautiful season, I run and hike a little more, and lift weights a little less. I'm often asked, "What's the most effective form of exercise?" And while there are scientifically proven methods that are more efficient than others, one thing science doesn't take into account is individual preference. So my answer is always the same: the most effective workout you can do is the one you'll do consistently. You actually need to enjoy it, and be able to do it on a regular basis. Consistency leads to results, and we are far more likely to stay consistent with something we enjoy doing.
When it comes to working out, we often become preoccupied with the desired end result. This can derail us from looking at the bigger picture of exercise. Our bodies are designed to move, and exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. In fact, if it could be bottled up and offered in pill form, it would be the most prescribed and beneficial medication in the world.
Jonathan Shaw put it best in his Harvard Magazine article, The Deadliest Sin:
"In the bottle before you is a pill, a marvel of modern medicine that will regulate gene transcription throughout your body, helping prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and 12 kinds of cancer — plus gallstones and diverticulitis. Expect the pill to improve your strength and balance as well as your blood lipid profile. Your bones will become stronger. You'll grow new capillaries in your heart, your skeletal muscles, and your brain, improving blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Your attention span will increase. If you have arthritis, your symptoms will improve. The pill will help you regulate your appetite and you'll probably find you prefer healthier foods. You'll feel better, younger even, and you will test younger according to a variety of physiologic measures. Your blood volume will increase, and you'll burn fats better. Even your immune system will be stimulated. There is just one catch.
There's no such pill. The prescription is exercise."
How can you begin to make exercise a habit so you can reap all the amazing benefits? Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- What kind of physical activities do I enjoy?
- Do I like being in a group setting with friends, or would I rather be by myself?
- Do I prefer to be indoors or outdoors?
- If I'm looking for a studio, what kind of vibe is most enticing: warm, welcoming, high energy, intense, or calming?
- What has worked well for me in the past?
- What resources do I have access to: fitness studios, parks, YMCA, hiking trails, yoga studios, bike paths, workout videos, etc?
Luckily, there is a wide variety of fitness styles. So stay open-minded and try several options until you find one (or multiple) that jibes with your preferences, schedule, and goals.
If you're like me, and would rather be outside when the weather permits, below are 8 of my favorite equipment-free moves to do when the weather is too nice to stay indoors:
- Place one foot on a bench or stable surface. Tighten your abs and keep your shoulders back as you press your heel into the bench and raise yourself all the way to a standing position. Lower yourself back down to the ground in a slow and controlled manner. Complete a set on one side before switching.
- Perform 8-12 on each leg.
02. Inverted Push-ups + Leg Swings
- Prop your feet on a rock or bench so that they are elevated slightly. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, keep your abs contracted, and lower down until your elbows reach a 90 degree angle. Press back up to the starting position, lift one knee and sweep your leg under to the opposite side. Switch sides with each rep.
- Perform 8-12 reps.
03. Squat Jumps
- Stand with feet slightly wider than hip distance apart and keep your abs tight and shoulders back. Lower down into a squat position, keeping your knees behind your toes. Explode up as high as you can and land on a stable, elevated surface or softly back onto the ground.
- Perform 8-12 repetitions.
04. Close Grip Push-Up + Cross Under
- Place your hands on an elevated surface directly under your shoulders. Keep one leg elevated and your abs tight as you lower your chest down in between your hands. Press back up and bring your elevated knee under and across to touch your opposite elbow.
- Perform 8-12 repetitions.
05. Single Leg Squats
- Prop one foot behind you on a stable surface. Keeping your abs tight and shoulders back, slowly lower down into a squat position with your front knee behind your front toe. Press weight into your heel as you stand back up to the starting position.
- Perform 8-12 repetitions on each side.
06. Side Plank Knee to Chest
- In a side plank position, either on your elbow or your hand, lift your top leg and slowly bring it into your chest for a crunch. Make sure your hips stay elevated and your shoulder stays in line with your elbow/wrist.
- Perform 8-20 repetitions on each side.
07. Tricep Dips
- Place your hands on a stable surface directly under your shoulders. Keep your body as close to the surface as possible, and lower down into the dip. Make sure your elbows go straight back, and only lower down as far as your range of motion comfortably allows, then press back up to the starting position. For added difficulty, alternate lifting one leg.
- Perform 8-12 repetitions.
- Tricep dips can be a very dangerous exercise. I'd recommend skipping this exercise if you're not sure how to properly perform it, or if you have experienced shoulder problems the past.
- Start by lying on your back on a stable surface. Engage your abs and sit all the way up, lifting your legs at the same time. For a modification, bend your knees and place your hands on the ground beside your hips.
- Perform 8-20 repetitions.
What is your favorite form of exercise?
*All photos by Kelsey Cherry.