As the weather warms, many of us dream of spending more time outdoors. The seasonal thaw draws folks out into the world to jog, hike, bike, and play in the fresh air. The most obvious benefit associated with exercising outside is the simple change in environment. Getting outside breaks up the monotony of seeing the same walls and equipment day after day. But there are deeper benefits to sweating in the sunshine. Studies have shown that time spent outside makes you happier, decreases stress, and boosts creativity.
For boxers, MMA fighters, and other martial artists, it can feel be challenging to heed the call of the wild outdoors. So much of our training relies on equipment that is fixed inside the gym. From heavy bags to sparring rings, the life of a training fighter seems to be confined to the gym or dojo.
If you want to bust down those walls, though, and feel the sun on your back while you work out, here are some great ideas to get you started.
FIRST: Let’s Be Safe
The biggest thing you need to consider when switching from any indoor to outdoor activity is, of course, the weather. Inside, you’re protected from the sun and any potentially distressing, or workout-halting, weather. Keep in mind the following tips, and you’ll be good to go when making the fresh air transition.
Get the Right Gear
Exercise apparel is generally made of technical materials that do well indoors and out, especially when it comes to mitigating sweat and regulating temperature. As long as you stick to the technical, such as dry-fit fabrics, you’ll be just fine.
Check the Weather
If you’re setting up a cross-training rig in a parking lot or doing burpees in the driveway, this one’s not a huge deal. But, if you intend to set out on a several-mile-long hike, jog, or ride, don’t take any chances weather-wise, especially if you can’t wear or carry apparel that’s appropriate for any serious weather changes, including downpours and dramatic jumps in temperature.
Mind the Sun
Heat, precipitation, and cold are obvious concerns, but the biggest threat when working out outside is the sun. Never exercise outdoors without wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a sun protection hat to keep your range of vision clear. We recommend investing in some sweat-proof sunblock so this vital layer doesn’t slip away when you’re pushing yourself extra hard in the sun.
Integrating the Outdoors into Your Routine
Now that you’ve built yourself a good indoor-outdoor wardrobe and have assured yourself that the weather will be clear and mild for your training session, it’s time to take it outside. These tips will help you integrate the outdoors into your routine without shaking things up too much and knocking you out of your rhythm.
Take Some, Not All, Cardio Outside
We all have our favorite forms of cardio, whether it is a five-mile jog or a spin class. If you tend to stick to the cardio machines in the gym, consider replacing one or two of these weekly sweat seshes with outdoor-friendly cardio throughout the week. Jogging, hiking, biking, or even doing some aerobics on the back porch will help you spice up your hard-hitting cardio routine. Don’t go canceling your gym membership, though. Heavy rains and extreme summer heat can still derail your outdoor exercise plans. And there will still be days when you just feel like sweating it out entirely in the gym.
Organize a Group
For whatever reason, people enjoy exercising outdoors way more when there’s a group. There’s something special about enjoying the fresh air and sweet views with others. Chances are, you’re not the only one at your gym that’s is staring longingly at the outside world. Talk to your coaches and other fighters to see if anyone else is interested in taking things out of doors. At a minimum, this will give you other people to work out with. But a big enough group might justify the effort of moving some of the key equipment to a convenient spot outdoors.
Workout with a View
Sure, just being outdoors makes training more enjoyable. But one of the best things about exercising outside is that we are not tied to any one location. No more staring at the same mirrors and gray walls, you can choose to exercise anywhere, so why not incorporate the things you really want to see. Run the trail that follows a local waterway, set up a bag in a stand of trees; do burpees at a scenic overlook. Point being, if you like the view where you train, you will find more enjoyment in the training.
Tailor Your Routine
If you want to take it outside you will have to think about how to accomplish your goals outside of the usual setting. Here are two things to consider when you decide to adjust your routine for the outdoors.
- Choose activities that require little to no additional gear. Running, shadow boxing, plyometrics, jumping rope–all of these can be easily relocated outside. BONUS: When you shadow box out in the sunshine, you can ACTUALLY box your shadow.
- For exercises that need equipment, find equipment that can tolerate being outside. For example, it probably doesn’t make sense to set up a leather heavy bag outside. But a water-filled heavy bag is much easier to set up and take down. Also, it is made to withstand the elements, so if you want to just leave it out there, it will be fine. BONUS: The water heavy bag will stretch your skills, as it responds a lot differently to your strikes than the traditionally filled bags.
Shaking Things Up to Improve Results
We’ve talked before about how successful fighters need to have focus, dedication, and commitment to succeed in their sport. They need to show up and train, every day, even if they don’t “feel like it”. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to enjoy your training. After a long, cold winter, and endless training looking at the same four gray walls, getting outside is a great way to renew your passion for your sport. Altering your routine to get outside will add variety to a regimen that may have gotten stale. And when your training feels fresh and new, you’ll see improved results.