As the weather improves, it’s time to add variety to your fitness routine by taking some workouts outside. It’s easy to transition from indoor to outdoor exercise, but the weather and type of exercise you choose determine what you need for a safe and effective workout. Take time to prepare for your outdoor exercise.
The heat, humidity, and increased sweating makes dehydration a greater risk during outdoor activities. Hiking, long runs, and bike rides can also take you further from a water source. Hydration needs vary from person to person, but the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers general guidelines for fluid intake . Drink 16-20 ounces at least four hours before exercise, and drink 8-12 ounces 10-15 minutes before exercise. During exercise, drink 3-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. After your workout, drink 20-24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost. A sports beverage may be necessary during exercise for durations over 60 minutes. The ACSM recommends not exceeding 1 quart of fluid per hour during exercise. Be sure to pack enough water to meet these guidelines when you set out for longer duration activities like hikes and bike rides.
Dress for exercise success.
Moisture-wicking clothing is essential for outdoor exercise whether the conditions are cool, hot, or humid. Unlike cotton that can trap heat and moisture, this exercise clothing keeps you dry and cool which helps to prevent overheating. From shirts and shorts to hats and socks, be sure you have the clothing you need to perform well during your workout.
Outdoor exercise requires sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage. Look for sweatproof varieties that are designed for outdoor exercise. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater. Be sure to cover all exposed skin, and don’t forget sunscreen for your lips and exposed scalp. Also remember those areas you might expose as you heat up, like your shoulders if you roll up shirt sleeves, or the lower legs if you remove the bottom portion of hiking pants.
Assess your footwear.
Depending on the type of exercise you choose, your footwear requirements may change when transitioning from indoor to outdoor exercise. For example, hiking or trail running requires a sturdy shoe designed for the activity, instead of a standard running or walking shoe that is meant for the road or treadmill.
Take it slow.
Outdoor activities can be more challenging than the activities you are used to in the gym. Hills, rough terrain, wind, and warmer temperatures can make even a simple walk more difficult. Don’t get discouraged if you struggle to complete the same distance or workout time once you are outside. Do what you can, and gradually increase the time and intensity each week until you reach your goals.
Walking remains one of the most accessible and effective forms of physical activity for many people. Not only does it burn calories and improve heart health, research has shown that it can improve your mood and reduce tension. Use these ideas to find easy ways to walk more.
Take a Day Hike
Add some exploration to your weekend routine and plan a day hike. Whether you have access to coastal trails, deep forests, or mountains, weekend hiking is a great way to move more without making exercise feel like a chore. Pack a few healthy snacks and water, gather your family or friends, and set out to explore your area. Research shows that lower intensity, longer duration activities like hiking can improve blood cholesterol levels, improve insulin function, and burn calories for weight loss.
Give Yourself a Mental Break
Work stress and family conflicts affect everyone. Regular mental breaks are necessary to get your mind off of the problem and to help you brainstorm effective solutions. A 10 to 15 minute walk gives you a break from your current environment, adds exercise to your day, and leaves you feeling mentally refreshed. Don’t wait for a problem to arise before you take advantage of walking. Take regular breaks throughout your day to walk away stress.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone with an Active Commute
Walking to work, or to complete errands, can be challenging due to distance or lack of a pedestrian-friendly route. Investigate ways you can make a portion of your commute active. Can you walk to a coworker's house and then carpool from there? Can you walk to complete your errands or to meetings once you are at the office? Every little bit helps your health, so don’t get overwhelmed with the feeling that you need to complete a full five-mile commute to get exercise.
Always Be Prepared
You are likely faced with many opportunities to walk throughout the day, but you may be unprepared. Arriving early, waiting for a phone call, or a casual business meeting are all opportunities to squeeze in 10 to 15 minutes. Keep your tennis shoes nearby, or even better, invest in casual dress shoes that are designed with the comfort and support necessary for walking.
Muscle tension and tightness can contribute to back pain, making core flexibility an important factor in keeping your back healthy and pain free. Stretches that gently elongate the back muscles should be a regular part of your core strengthening routine. Ease into these stretches, and hold each for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to three times.
Move onto your hands and knees on the floor. Position your knees so that they are hip-width apart and your hands so that they are about shoulder-width apart. Contract your stomach muscles as you round your back and slightly tuck your chin. Release the stretch and return to a flat back before repeating.
Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Rotate your upper body to the right, and place your right hand at the edge of the chair where the back of the chair meets the seat. Place the left hand on the edge of the seat, just under your right thigh. Sit up tall as you rotate at the torso and stretch the back muscles. Slowly return to the starting position, and repeat on the other side by rotating to the left.
Knees to Chest
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly pull your right knee into your chest. Grasp your your leg at the top of your shin and gently pull the knee in closer. Return the right leg to the starting position, and repeat the stretch with your left leg. Next, pull both knees in towards your chest at the same time. To deepen the stretch, as you pull one leg into your chest, extend the opposite leg out along the floor.
Seated Forward Bend
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet flexed. Sit up straight and raise your arms straight up in the air over your head. Gently bend forward at the waist as you reach your arms out towards your feet. Let your hands rest wherever is comfortable, such as at your knees, shins, ankles, or feet. Reach only as far as you feel a stretch with slight discomfort, not pain. To deepen the stretch, you can grasp the end of a rolled towel or yoga strap in each hand and wrap it around the balls of your feet. Gently pull the towel towards you as you bend forward into the stretch.
Your goals will be your number one priority when you set out to adopt healthier habits. As time goes on, without constant reminders, you may lose sight of why you started. To stay motivated and persevere, it’s important to keep the focus on your fitness goals.
Hang them up
Physically keeping your goals in plain sight helps you make smart choices when you are faced with tough decisions, like what to eat and whether or not to skip the gym. Write down your goals and use them to help guide your choices at the moment you need to make a decision. Stick them on the refrigerator and the snack drawer, list them on your daily calendar, hang them near your computer monitor, or set regular reminders on your smartphone.
A strong support system is important for reaching your fitness goals. Don’t keep your goals to yourself. Share them with those who you know will support you. These people can help cheer you on when you feel discouraged and join you in celebrating your successes.
Add short sessions of meditation to your day that allow you to focus on your end goal. When you visualize yourself accomplishing it, this can boost your confidence and motivation to keep you on track.
Incorporate regular rewards
Don’t let small accomplishments go unnoticed. Incorporate rewards for each small step you conquer towards your goal. These rewards serve as reminders that you are working towards something worthwhile and continuing to make progress.
Revise them when necessary
Your goals should change as you do. As you lose weight, drop clothing sizes, or run further you will need to continue to set new goals to stay motivated. It’s also important to remember that the goals you set when you first start out may not be a good fit for you as you progress. Perhaps a scheduling conflict makes it impossible to attend a fitness class, or it turns out you’d rather jog than walk. Revisit your goals often and make sure they are challenging enough to keep you motivated.
Performing well during exercise is important to get the results you want. Your performance is dependent not only on a challenging workout, but also your exercise recovery. Check out some of this affordable exercise gear that can improve your workout and your recovery so that you can give your best during every exercise session.
A foam roller is a cylinder-shaped piece of firm foam used to give you a mini-massage that lengthens and stretches the muscles. Regular foam rolling has been found to decrease muscle soreness and improve range of motion.
Leg sleeves are one of the many forms of compression clothing that have gained recent popularity. While most research has not found a direct link between compression sleeves and better exercise performance, studies have shown that they may help with exercise recovery. In some cases, leg sleeves have been found to reduce muscle soreness.
A tennis ball is a simple piece of equipment that can be used to massage and stretch small target areas. For example, you can place the ball on the floor and put your foot over it. Then, slowly move your foot around to massage the soles of the feet. In a similar way, the balls can also be used to massage specific areas of the upper back.
Performing your strength training routine with exercise bands allows you to challenge your muscles in a new way. The bands are a great alternative to add variety to your routine. They are also ideal for traveling and can be used during stretching exercises to improve flexibility.
A study by the American Council on Exercise rated crunches on the exercise ball number 3 among numerous exercises tested for effectiveness. The exercise ball can also be used to improve balance and challenge smaller muscle groups while performing moves like push-ups and shoulder presses. It can also be used during stretching -- especially for the upper and lower back, abdominals, and hamstrings.