Keeping it Real: Outdoor Strength and Conditioning

There is no good time for disruptions, but sometimes it seems as if an evil fairy arranges for them to occur at the worst possible moments. It’s been a week full of disruptions (and it’s only Thursday!), so tonight the last thing I felt like doing was commuting and having to interact with other people in the gym in order to get my strength and conditioning training done.

Fortunately, I’ve been working on a program which emphasises body-weight exercises, and I’m now able to chin and pull my own body-weight (albeit not very many times.) So I really needed very little in the way of equipment – just some bars for pull-ups and dips, and a bench for back extensions and box jumps.

I live in a suburb where I am blessed with an abundance of parks and nature reserves which have not only playgrounds (which tend to be over-run with small children and their guardians!) but outdoor exercise equipment for grown people.

So, in the failing light of a clear winter’s afternoon, I was able to smash out some chin-ups, dips, pull-ups, push-ups, sumo squats, back extensions, hanging leg-raises, sit-ups and box jumps. By the time I was done, it was dark and the children had vacated the playground so I rewarded myself by going up and down the monkey bars. I felt a cheeky satisfaction in doing so. I had never really gotten the hang of the monkey bars as a child, and had envied my friends their ability to traverse them with ease. Playing on the monkey bars was not entirely irrelevant to my goals either, given that it requires grip-strength, mobility, grip placement, core strength, and unilateral movement.

I got the work done, and I felt so much calmer and happier after spending time alone in nature. Nothing in a commercial gym can rival a fresh mountain breeze and the sound of running water. Although equipment is sometimes necessary, I have always found it grounding and mentally strengthening to do these old-school, minimalist work-outs. They remind me of where I came from, what I’ve been through to get to where I am today, and they feel like an affirmation of my independence of the trappings of modernity.

I am blessed to live in a community which has taken these measures to encourage people to be active, and that I have these resources available. But even other objects – like chairs, tables and benches – can function as exercise equipment if you know how to use them, and many exercises require no equipment at all.

Although I prefer to train my clients in the gym, where I have access to a wider variety of equipment and where I don’t need to worry about unpredictable conditions, I do sometimes have clients who prefer to exercise outdoors, and tonight my experience reminded me why.

(Yesterday, while on my way to do some sprints, I discovered another benefit of exercising outdoors. I’ll leave you with some footage below!)


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