If you're guilty of rolling your eyes every time you see someone on social media documenting their daily run, you're not alone. For some people, that coveted runner's high feels like more of a myth than a scientifically-backed endorphin rush. But thankfully, there are different (and fun, we promise!) ways to get your heart rate pumping outdoors that don't involve you having to begrudgingly tell your loved ones that you're "going for a quick jog."
“The biggest benefits to working out outside are access to fresh oxygen and vitamin D,” explains Body x Mike founder and NYC-based trainer Mikey Higgins. “Fresh oxygen, depending on where you are, of course, allows the respiratory system to function much more efficiently and therefore allows the body to function at its peak capacity — aka your workouts are better and those results will come with it. Vitamin D, which we get from the sun, is the unsung hero of our overall health. It bolsters the immune system, promotes bone health, helps with inflammation and improves overall heart and muscle function. Working out outside has the potential to help you energize your workouts and improve your overall health. Get your booty outside and workout because the benefits are worth it!”
Here are our favorite ways to stay active while simultaneously getting your daily dose of much-needed vitamin D.
Keep the pace slower and go for a spruced up walk. “How do we make walking more effective? The three T’s: Tempo, timing and toning,” Higgins tells Yahoo Life. “Tempo: challenge yourself to gradually increase the speed of your walk to help increase the heart rate and jump-start that metabolism more effectively (make it fun by timing your walks — can you beat your time from last time?) Timing: walking (as opposed to jogging) needs to be done for a longer period of time to achieve those desired results (take a stroll along your favorite terrain and just enjoy it a tad bit longer). Toning: grab a pair of wrist weights or light dumbbells to incorporate upper body resistance training like bicep curls, triceps extensions, or a shoulder press (tone up the arms, back, and shoulders while your walking — it's a two-for-one no brainer).”
The key is to get creative with the space that you have – commit to a certain number of laps around the perimeter of your house or building, blast a playlist and walk to the end of your driveway or street and back repetitively until you listen once through. If you're lucky enough to be at home with a furry friend, have them join along.
Throw some stuff around in anger ... and then go pick it up. Many boot camp and HIIT circuit classes will add in medicine ball throws or slams as a way to increase strength and endurance by having athletes throw the non-bounce balls to the ground overhead, engaging the core as they pick the balls back up and repeat. “Medicine ball slams — to put it simply — involve picking up a medicine ball and slamming it at full force towards the ground or against a wall,” explains Sophia Goldstein, a coach at AARMY, a fitness program that offers cycling and boot camp training sessions. “They are amazing for building stability in the shoulders and learning how to generate power using your core. They are a tool almost all athletes use — from golfers and tennis players to football players.” Goldstein’s tip is to “think of picking the ball of the ground in the way you would execute a deadlift” to maximize results and focus on form.
If you don’t own a medicine ball, look for heavy-ish items you have lying around your home or garage that are durable – old lacrosse sticks, winter boots or footballs will all work. Use the items as a way to release pent up quarantine angst. Another variation is to squat while lifting the item overhead and throwing it as far as you can, shuffling to go pick the item up and continuing to repeat.
Learn that TikTok dance you keep seeing everywhere. Dancing is one of the most creative and fun ways to get your cardio in and the tireless hours it takes to perfect those trendy 30-second TikTok routines add up. “Physically, dance is a lot like most cardio,” says Higgins. “It's pretty high impact, you work up a sweat and it spikes the heart rate.” There's something for everyone, from viral hip-hop choreography to fitness challenges set to certain musical cues. Higgins cautions to “give your body time to get used to dance before going all-in on it” to avoid risk of injury or strain.
Bust out that old jump rope. If you haven't picked up a jump rope since gym class in middle school, you might be surprised by how out-of-breath just 5 to 10 minutes straight of jumping will leave you. Jump roping has skyrocketed in popularity in many group fitness classes and for trainers around the world, as it's a creative, low-impact way to torch calories and hit your daily cardio goals. “Jump ropes are 100% cardio,” says Goldstein. “The key is to keep your elbows close to your body and use your wrists to keep the momentum. If you have never jump roped before, you may appreciate your calves and forearms in a new way! It takes time to build the coordination — be patient. I would recommend trying to jump for as long as you can. Find some joy in the beginning stages while you build your endurance — and watch how quickly you improve.”
Hop on the saddle and go on a bike ride. There's a reason for the saying "it's just like riding a bike" – your muscle memory will kick in once you start pedaling and your body will know what to do. Bike riding can be a great way to explore your neighborhood or travel far distances, granted that you're staying 6 feet apart from other walkers and riders. If you've traditionally been more of an indoor cycler, don’t view outdoor cycling as a replacement for the exercise, but rather a different way to work up a sweat altogether. “Cycling outdoors is an amazing alternative to indoor cycling — but coming from NYC these are two very different activities,” Goldstein explains. “Indoor cycling is high-intensity interval training — working with heavy hills and speed training. Unless you have the terrain to do this safely on an outdoor bike, it’s unlikely the cardiovascular output will be the same. However, with that being said, enjoy the fresh air, take the opportunity to breathe, move your body safely and enjoy an outdoor moment!”
Try pre-creating a playlist that features songs with different BPM rates. The different paces you set through music will help pace and push you to ride through different speeds.
Rollerblading. Unless you're near the beach, it's probably been a while since you've slipped into your old blades and gone for a leisurely stroll. Engage your core as you keep balance.
Take the stairs. Though most places are still closed, many schools and public spaces still have their outdoor areas available. Run (or walk) up the steps at your closest museum, library, even bleachers at old sporting fields. If you're hesitant about straying too far from home, use your porch or stoop steps and get moving. “I am a huge fan of stoop workouts,” Goldstein says. “I would recommend making use of the steps. You can do a variety of upper body and lower body exercises: incline pushups, tricep dips, split lunges, quick feet on the lowest steps and an advanced move: a squat jump on to a higher step! Have fun — and I would not recommend running down the steps – quickly up and safely down.”
Try this no-fail stoop workout from Goldstein to get going on any set of stairs.
Dip and push on your favorite elevated surface. Find an elevated surface outside – it can be your porch, a park bench, even a large rock in the yard. Place your hands and run through sets of triceps and holds to work your arms and get your heart rate up. You can also face the reverse way and complete sets of push-ups or plank holds while engaging your core. “Each one [of these moves] has a focus on the body, but they all have one thing in common — they work the entire core as well,” explains Higgins. “Gradually master the exercise by starting in a small range of motion and at low intensity (don't expect too much ... these things take time to master). Devote a lot of time and energy to consistently do these exercises as part of your exercise routine (practice makes perfect). Challenge your self to increase your frequency or reps as you get better — the more you do the better the results.”
Go green and garden. Though gardening doesn't exactly seem like the most strenuous of physical activities, the constant squatting and moving around from area to area will help you burn calories and stay active. Challenge yourself to keep your back flat when possible -- the better your form and posture, the less injury-prone you'll be.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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