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Outdoor Training: Everything You Need To Know

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when we say: “outdoor training”? Do you groan, picturing yourself huffing and puffing as you attempt to go for a run? Or are you a keen runner, and smile as you picture going for a long run and maybe even knocking a couple of seconds off your PB?

We find that running is the most common activity that people think of when they think of outdoor training. But whether you love it or hate it, outdoor training doesn’t always have to mean going for a run!

In this article, we are going to provide you with everything you need to know about outdoor training….so if you’re intrigued, keep on reading!

OUTDOOR TRAINING

There’s no official dictionary definition of outdoor training, however if you combine the dictionary definitions of both outdoor and of training, you’ll reach the conclusion that outdoor training literally means training outdoors. So no matter what you’re doing, as long as you are outside, you’re partaking in outdoor training!

 

TYPES OF OUTDOOR TRAINING

There are so many different types of outdoor training. If we were to cover each one in depth, we’d be here all day and probably the rest of the week too! However, we’re going to briefly cover some of the most common ones to give you a taster of how you can get involved with taking your training outdoors!

RUNNING

Let’s start with the old classic. Lace up your trainers and get outside! If you’re an advanced runner, go for it! However if you’re new to running or are a beginner, on’t worry – there are plenty of resources to help you get started and build up your confidence!

There are loads of Couch to 5k apps that you can download for free and they come with full instruction to guide you on your journey to running a 5k. There’s also some fun variations such as the Zombies, Run! app, which is designed to help you build up your endurance as you run from zombies, collecting supplies along the way to build up your base!

Alternatively, if you would prefer face to face guidance, or more of a social aspect to running, most gyms offer running clubs usually led by an experienced runner, and these are usually anywhere from free to around £5.

 

SPORTS TRAINING

Perhaps the second most thought of option when it comes to outdoor training is sports training.

You don’t need to be a professional athlete to train for a sport. Many areas have local sports teams such as football, rugby, netball, hockey etc. There’s usually teams for all ages and abilities, so do a bit of Googling and you’ll be sure to find something suitable nearby!

OUTDOOR ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES

Outdoor adventure activities are a bit more niche and can be harder to access – depending on your location and surrounding areas, certain activities may not be available to you. However most areas of the country have plenty nearby hikes, and lakes with sports centres that offer activities such as kayaking, sailing, windsurfing etc.

Check out our guide on some of the best water sports providers in the UK for some inspiration! 

BOOTCAMPS/CIRCUIT CLASSES

Lots of personal trainers set up outdoor classes in a bootcamp or circuit style. These can cost you as little as 1 or 2 pounds, and usually no more than around £5.

Outdoor circuit training can help freshen up your usual circuit class, as it will give you a change of scenery and incorporate the surroundings into the circuit.

Bootcamps are usually high intensity, traditional and tend to be based on basic military principles, however there’s lots of variety these days and you’ll definitely have fun while getting a great workout!

THE BEACH!


Great for sprints and hill sprints, especially as the uneven base of the sand creates extra resistance!

Along seafront promenades you can sometimes find machines that replicate what you would find in a gym. You’ll find a mix of cardio and resistance machines that use your bodyweight, from cross trainers and static bikes, to the shoulder press and chest press. You can use these machines to mirror exercises from the gym while doing your outdoor training!

PARK WORKOUTS

You can use the equipment at your local park to create unique and interesting outdoor workouts – this can mix up your training and can make it fun and challenging in different ways!

Below we have included a few examples of exercises you can include in your outdoor training sessions at the park!

Monkey Bars:

Using the monkey bars how they are meant to be used can be a challenge for your muscles…can you still do them like you could as a kid?
Some other exercises you can do with monkey bars include: pull-ups, hanging leg raises, hanging sit ups, skin the cat, and typewriter where you move sideways across each bar before moving forwards.

Park Bench:


You may not have thought about the humble park bench as anything other than a place to rest your legs, perhaps while you let the kids run off some steam, or to catch your breath after taking the dog for a run. But if you think a little more creatively, a park bench can be used to perform many different exercises!

To name just a few, you can do tricep dips, incline or decline press ups, squats, box jumps (or bench jumps!), and bulgarian split squats.

Swings:

A fun way to incorporate swings into your outdoor workout is to treat them as if they were a swiss ball. For example, you could perform decline press ups, glute bridges, jack-knives, roll-outs, knee tucks and hamstring curls… just to name a few!

A Tree:


Try to find a tree with a big, thick trunk as this will mean you can perform more exercises.

You can get in a squat position with your back against the tree and perform wall sits.

For an advanced move, start on all fours with the heels a few feet away from the trunk of the tree, and then get into a plank position – either on your forearms or for an even more advanced move, try a high plank on your hands. Then slowly walk each foot up the tree, one by one, until your body is parallel to the ground.

To progress the move even further, you can perform wall walks. From a high plank position, continue to walk your feet upwards and move your hands closer towards the tree, aiming for a handstand position. Hold for a few seconds, and then slowly walk yourself back down.

~It’s important to remember that wall walks are an advanced move. Ensure you practice bailing out of the move from the top, to ensure that if you go to far and feel like you’re going to flip over, you can safely exit the move without flipping and landing on your back. There are plenty of videos online to demonstrate progressions towards wall walks, as well as the safest ways to exit the move from the top.~

If the tree has thick, sturdy branches within your reach that can support your weight, you can use them to do pull ups, chin ups, hanging leg raises etc. Also bear in mind that unlike monkey bars, the tree branches are likely to be uneven – so make sure you do the exercises facing each way so you’re even on both sides!

These are just a few examples, there are hundreds of options out there, so get down to your local park and be creative!

Of course, you don’t have to get all fancy and creative, simply going for a walk with the dog also counts as outdoor training! As long as you’re outdoors and you aren’t sat still, you’re good!

SOME INSPIRATION…

The UK has some beautiful spots dotted around its shores and spread throughout the country, plenty of which would be the perfect spot to indulge in some outdoor training!

Here are a few of our top picks:

THE LAKE DISTRICT

Particularly good for hiking, watersports such as kayaking and canoeing, and more adventurous endeavours like gorge scrambling or canyoning, the lake district offers plenty to choose from! Coniston has some great watersports and adventure activities on offer, while Windermere, Ullswater, Grasmere and Buttermere have some lovely lake walks. Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, is also located in the Lake District if you fancy a challenge!

COTSWOLDS


The Cotswolds offers stunning countryside, with rolling hills crossed by multiple footpaths, secluded river valleys, picturesque towns, and villages of honey coloured stone. It’s the perfect place to explore on foot or bike and see what gems you can find!

The Cotswolds also offers golf, watersports, archery, cycling and horse riding!

 

LOGGERHEADS

A beautiful Welsh village with a large Country Park, including sites of old lead mines and mills and even a working flour mill, Loggerheads is perfect to explore a bit of hidden history, breathe in some fresh air on a gentle walk, or use the space to get creative and put together a park workout!

DELAMERE FOREST

Delamere Forest, located in the North West of England, offers lovely woodland walks, and you can take a walk up Old Pale, a short, easy to moderate climb, where upon reaching the top you will be rewarded with views of 7 different counties, and you can even see Jodrell Bank Observatory. Also on offer at Delamere Forest: Go Ape! Including a treetop trail, ziplines, segways. Perfect for the kids, or for something a little more fun and adventurous for yourself!

TRAINING AT DIFFERENT TIMES OF YEAR

Speaking of the weather, let’s take a look at the different kinds of outdoor training for different times of the year! It can be hard to motivate yourself when its freezing cold, raining or even snowing, so here are a couple of ideas that can hopefully inspire you to get outside and get training!

So, I hear you ask, what are the benefits of training outdoors compared to in a gym? Especially in Winter, why should I brave the cold instead of going to a central-heated gym?! Well, read on, and we’ll tell you!

 

BENEFITS OF OUTDOOR TRAINING

 

There are thousands of benefits to exercise in general. And if you combine together the benefits of exercise and the benefits of being outdoors along with Mother Nature: boom.

Ultimate benefits. Killing two birds with one stone!

Working out in a gym will provide all the benefits of exercise, but you won’t feel the benefits that come with being outdoors!

LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE AND REDUCES STRESS

There has been plenty of research on exercise outdoors and studies have shown that outdoor training lowers a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. This therefore makes exercise outdoors feel less strenuous than perhaps the equivalent indoor exercise may feel, meaning you are able to push yourself harder, and therefore potentially achieve more.HELPS WITH SLEEPING
Getting fresh air can help you get to sleep, and once asleep, the quality of your sleep will be improved!

SUN!

Fresh air and sunlight can lift your spirits and boost your energy levels.

The Sun is also a great source of Vitamin D. We need Vitamin D in order to help the body absorb calcium and phosphate. These minerals are very important for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles.

~ High temperatures and sunny days can increase the risk of dehydration and sunburn, so remember to wear sun cream and stay hydrated!

LOW COST

Outdoor training is usually completely free! The only time it will ever cost for you to train outdoors is if you take part in an outdoor class, for example bootcamps, circuits, or yoga classes. Even then, these classes are rarely more than £5!

 

SAVES TIME AND HELPS THE ENVIRONMENT

If you go for a run or a walk, or just to your local park, the likelihood is you wont take your car! This benefits the environment. Furthermore, you can save time on travelling to and from the gym as you can work with your surroundings – you don’t even need to leave your back garden!

VARIETY

Outdoor training can give you a bit of variety with your workout routines. Perform your usual indoor workout, outdoors! You will have to adjust some moves – you can either swap to bodyweight exercises or find items to use as weights, as long as you’re safe!

If you’re used to lifting heavy in the gym, training outdoors can encourage you to be creative and challenge your muscles in different ways.

Training outside also gives you a fresh, new environment. Get out of the crowded, stuffy gym and into a fresh environment with natural light. There are parks, hiking paths and cycling routes, running tracks etc. The outdoor environment is a visually stimulating environment to exercise in, and also offers you more space. It can also be more of a challenge, as you have uneven terrains and resistance from wind (and more often than not, living in the UK, you also have rain to contend with!)

 

POTENTIAL TO TRY SOMETHING NEW

From something as simple as running or park workouts, to something more challenging such as trying out a new sport or hiking, to something more adventurous, for example canoeing, abseiling, or caving. There’s all kinds of options for you to try a new experience! And who knows, you may find your forte!

FUN AND CREATIVE

Outdoor training offers the chance to be creative and this can allow you to make your workouts super fun and enjoyable!

Another plus side to training outdoors is that you can train with friends who may not be a member of the gym or are members of different gyms to you. This can be fun and allow you to bounce ideas off each other!

IMPROVES YOUR MOOD

Exercise in general boosts your mood, due to the release of endorphins. Combine this with the benefits of being outdoors and you’ll have twice the amount of benefits and twice as many reasons to feel good!

Find out more here on Eliza’s outdoor training routines.

OUTDOOR TRAINING TO OVERALL WELL-BEING

 

Based on the above list, it’s clear there are positives to both your physical and mental well-being from outdoor training.

Mentally, your mood is lifted, your energy levels are boosted, and your stress levels are lowered. Physically, it provides a different challenge for your muscles and can help you develop your overall fitness.

RELATABLE AND FUNCTIONAL

Outdoor training can be extremely practical, especially if you’re training for a sport that is played outdoors, or for a marathon, triathlon, 5k, 10k, etc. Training outdoors makes your training more relatable as you’re working in similar conditions to what you’d experience when doing that run, riding that bike or playing that football match.

The different terrains that you will encounter when training outdoors make it a functional environment to train in. It can improve your balance, cardiovascular endurance, and proprioception (the awareness of the position and movements of the body).

Your activity level will also increase: the natural elements of the outdoors – for example, hills, wind, temperature – provide natural resistance and this means your body will have to work harder to combat them, meaning you will burn more calories overall during your outdoor workout.

A LITTLE BIT OF SCIENCE

Have you heard of the “Biophilia Hypothesis”?

The term “Biophilia” was originally coined in the 1960’s by Erich Fromm, a German-American philosopher and psychoanalyst, to mean “a love of life or living systems”.

However, it was Edward O. Wilson, an Evolutionary Biology professor at Harvard, who introduced the term into biological sciences, and published the Biophilia Hypothesis in the early 1980’s.

The Biophilia Hypothesis suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.

By training outdoors, you are getting out and interacting with nature, and therefore fulfilling this need! And according to the theory, this should boost your mood and leave you feeling happy and satisfied!

So, after reading all about the different types and the benefits of outdoor training, hopefully you feel a little inspired to give it a go!

OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT


Whilst you do not need any pieces of equipment to train outdoors, and you can incorporate your surroundings to use as equipment – for example, park benches, trees, playground equipment and the machines you can find on seafront promenades – there are a couple of cost effective, small and portable pieces of equipment that can add value to your workout.

YOGA/EXERCISE MAT

A yoga/exercise mat can improve the surface you’re working with and make it slightly comfier, especially if there’s only tarmac nearby! Also, the mat will place a barrier between the ground and your body, so if you’re someone that worries they could be lying in dog pee, the mat eliminates this worry!

 

RESISTANCE BANDS

The perfect portable piece of equipment! You can get resistance bands in varying strengths to suit you – usually they come in packs of 3 or 5 with each band a different strength. And the good news is, they won’t break the bank! These can be used during your warm up to activate muscle groups, or during the workout itself to increase resistance and make the exercise a little more challenging.

YOGA WHEEL OR BLOCK

These items are perfect to help improve and work on your flexibility, and are small and lightweight, making them super portable! You can use them to perform a full yoga type workout, or just incorporate them into your warm up/cool down stretches.

SKIPPING ROPE

Compact, lightweight, portable and cheap…the perfect item for an outdoor workout! There are lots of different skipping variations, from the classic skipping motion, to double unders, backwards skipping, crossing your arms, flick kicking, tuck jumping…..the possibilities are endless if you’re creative enough to discover them!

SPEED AND AGILITY LADDER

Again, lightweight and portable, a speed and agility ladder is a super fun piece of equipment that can make your outdoor training workouts varied and exciting. There are plenty of free resources out there to give you ideas and inspiration on ways to incorporate this piece of equipment into your workout – YouTube is a great place to start!

 

OUTDOOR TRAINING WORKOUT IDEAS

Here’s some inspiration for your next outdoor workout! Ensure that you warmup before each workout, and cool down and stretch afterwards.

 

HIIT WORKOUT

For this workout, you will perform 2 supersets for 3 rounds, and then perform 4 abdominal exercises to finish.

The first superset will be an upper body dominant exercise, followed by a full body, plyometric exercise. The second superset will be a lower body dominant exercise, followed by a full body, plyometric exercise.

(B) The workout:

Superset 1:
45 seconds push ups, 45 seconds burpees, 30 seconds rest, repeat x3.

Superset 2:
45 seconds reverse lunges, 45 seconds lateral ski jumps, 30 seconds rest, repeat x3.

Core Finisher:
30 seconds mountain climbers, 30 seconds russian twists, 30 seconds bicycle crunches, 30 seconds plank hold.

You can adjust the working times and rest times to suit your fitness level, and take additional rest if you need it (although try to keep rest to a minimum outside of the rest periods!)

You can also progress the moves if you are advanced level, for example swap push ups for decline push ups, or add a tuck jump at the end of each burpee.

LADDER CHALLENGE

This is a simple but effective way to get a quick workout in if you’re short on time.

First, pick an exercise or muscle group that you want to work. You’ll then need 3 or 4 variations of the exercise for this challenge, or 3 or 4 different exercises that work the same muscle group.
You then complete 10 reps of the 1st variation/exercise, 10 reps of the 2nd variation/exercise, 10 reps of the 3rd variation/exercise and then 10 reps of the 4th variation/exercise. Once you have completed this, start again but complete 9 reps, then 8, then 7… all the way down to 1 rep. Rest if you need to, and then work back up from 1 rep to 10!

Sound a little confusing? Here’s an example of one exercise, the squat, with 4 variations:

10 reps regular squats, 10 reps narrow squats, 10 reps sumo squats, 10 jump squats.
9 reps regular squats, 9 reps narrow squats, 9 reps sumo squats, 9 reps jump squats.
And so on, down to 1 rep. (And back from 1 to 10!)

Other squat variations include: pulse squats, tuck jumps and squat jacks; and for more advanced variations: pistol squats, eagle squats or figure 4 squats.

And here’s an example of 4 exercises that work the shoulders/chest:

10 reps push ups, 10 reps bodyweight shoulder press, 10 reps plank to down dog, 10 reps commandos
9 reps push ups, 9 reps bodyweight shoulder press, 9 reps plank to down dog, 9 reps commandos
And so on, down to 1 rep. (And back from 1 to 10!)

This challenge is a great way to devise little circuits for a more challenging workout, and you don’t have to stick to one muscle group or exercise. The possibilities really are endless here. You could create an ab circuit or a quick cardio circuit to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping. The ladder element of reps adds variety and switches things up from your regular circuit!

LEVEL 3 OUTDOOR TRAINING AWARD

If you want expand your knowledge and take it further, there’s even a qualification in outdoor training! The Level 3 Outdoor Training Award.

This course will equip you with all the knowledge and skills you’ll need to be able to safely train clients outdoors.

In order to undertake this course, you will need to hold at least a Level 2 qualification in Fitness Instructing or similar.

The course will, at the very least, cover the health and safety considerations for training outdoors and the risks of working in different environments, along with the different types of outdoor training sessions, the different exercises and techniques and how to program an outdoor training session.

 

AND THAT’S IT!

So there you have it. Is there anything you think we missed that you would like to see included? Let us know in the comments below!

We’d also love to hear your experiences with outdoor training. Have you tried it? Do you love it, or do you hate it?

Get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook, or via the comment section below, and remember to check out some of our other articles on the OriGym Blog.