Charlotte Grainger

How to Make the Most of an Outdoor Gym, According to Experts

best outdoor fitness tips

While mainstream gyms are set to open on 25th July, some of you may feel more comfortable working out al-fresco. Fortunately enough, getting your sweat on outside could be as easy as using an outdoor gym. If you’re unsure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve enlisted the help of the experts to give their most effective tips. 

DON'T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF

“Firstly, you do not need full access to all of the gym facilities you were used to having the luxury of using, so don’t get bogged down with thoughts like, “How am I going to keep up the same level of intensity as before?” says Kyle Maslen, director of KIN

“The simple answer is you’re not. 'The most important thing is that you keep consistent with a plan that is going to keep you active, mobile and moving as much as possible with little or no equipment.” Work with what you have and adapt your routine to suit that. 

ALWAYS WARM UP AND COOL DOWN

You’re working out outside… but that doesn’t mean that you should forget the basics. “Remember to always spend 10 to 15 mins warming up and stretching before each and every workout,” says Maslen. Consider the various ways you could warm-up and down. For example, you might start and finish each workout with a series of relaxing stretches. 

outdoor exercise equipment

GRAB SOME EXTRA EQUIPMENT

Before you sprint to your local park, you might want to stock up on essentials. Having some handy extras could help you get more from your workout. “My simple tip would be to purchase some basic resistance bands and a decent pair of running shoes,” says Maslen. 

“The reason I say this is because there is so much you can do with just your body, and still be able to maintain the progress you had achieved before lockdown or even start achieving greater results if you are new to or coming back to raining.”

CREATE A SCHEDULE FOR YOURSELF

Are you guilty of putting your workouts off? Perhaps you wake up late each morning and tell yourself that tomorrow will be the day you hit the outdoor gym. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to change your ways. Start by making a schedule that fits your weekly routine. 

“The next thing is to get a diary and block out 3-5 days per week where you can train. Twenty to 45 minutes per session will do, but feel free to extend this timeframe if you have it available to you. Remember what I said about consistency: Never miss a session that you have scheduled in your diary. This is key!” says Maslen.

HIT THE PULL-UP BARS

Next up, let’s talk about the outdoor gym equipment you should use. “The outdoor pull-up bars might seem slightly intimidating at first, but know that multiple pull-ups or muscle-ups aren't necessary to make great use of this piece of kit,” says yoga teacher, Chris Magee

“Learning to hang from a bar has awesome transferable benefits in grip core and shoulder strength, as well as helping rebalance the shoulder joint for better overall shoulder health,” says Magee. “Once the hanging is there, try taking it over to some monkey bars to add a new challenge and some movement!”

It doesn’t have to end there. You can also use this equipment to  work your back, biceps and shoulders too. “Try a wide grip with hands over for more back and try a narrower grip with hands under for biceps,” explains Gede Foster, head of fitness at FIIT.

outdoor exercise advice covid

BUILD YOUR UPPER BODY

Are you looking to build your upper body strength? When you head to the outdoor gym, head over to the parallel bars. These are the waist-height bars that are next to one another. Believe it or not, this simple piece of gear can supercharge your workout. 

“Parallel bars are amazing for building a strong upper body, tricep dips for your chest and arms, horizontal rows for your back,” says Magee. “Aim to keep your body as still as possible and find a smooth steady tempo for each movement for maximum benefit as we begin. Also if you are looking for core work here, try some leg raises and L-sits!”

WORK YOUR MID-UPPER BACK

Don’t neglect your back! Luckily, there’s a simple way that you can target the muscles in your mid-upper back while using outdoor gym equipment. “There are often bars about waist height,” says Foster. “Hang your shoulder under your wrists with your body in a reverse plank position and pull your body up to the bar.” Give it a go and keep trying! 

DON'T FORGET YOUR CORE

Missing a core workout? If you’ve been struggling to work this area at home, allow the outdoor gym to fill in some of the blanks. “Hang from the pull-up bars and either pull your toes up to the bar or modify and pull your knees into your chest,” says Foster. 

Figure out what works for you and stick to it. When you first start trying to pull your toes or knees up, the truth of the matter is that it’s going to be tough. Really tough. However, so that you can progress, you have to keep going at a rate that suits you and your fitness. 

partner exercises for outdoor workouts

STEP IT UP

“Step-ups work your quads, glutes and hamstrings,” explains Foster. “Find a bench and choose one leg to lead stepping up and down.” You can add this particular exercise to your HIIT or cardio workout. Make sure that you choose a height that is right for you. 

GET STARTED AND WORKOUT OUTDOORS!

Have we inspired you to hit the park and get working out? While you may have previously found the look of an outdoor gym baffling, these expert tips will help you out. Take things slowly and figure out what your personal workout style is. Just keep moving!