Whether it is hot and humid or snowing and cold, I enjoy training outside at least once a week. We run, perform calisthenics, lift stones and logs, and climb trees and ropes. I not only enjoy the fresh air and scenery but also the creative process involved in turning the world around us into a functional gym. As a result, it is not uncommon for me to share images of our outdoor sessions. Below are a few examples that I have posted recently to my Facebook and Instagram pages.
Lifting, carrying, and throwing heavy stones is a tremendous way to develop real world strength.
Pull-ups from thick tree branches will strengthen the hands unlike any conventional gym exercise.
Few conditioning routines are as enjoyable as running hills and trails throughout the woods.
Rope climbing is yet another tremendous pulling exercise with obvious lower arm benefits.
Clearly, these are just a few of countless outdoor exercise options. I have discussed several others throughout this blog’s history. For example, the video below includes random footage taken over the past few months.
As evident throughout the pictures and video above, I make the most of whatever is around me. I truly believe that I could train effectively in any environment. Whether I am in my front yard, lost in the woods, or stranded on an island, I will find a way to exercise. I do not need any particular piece of equipment and that’s a message I have consistently delivered for many years.
Yet whenever I stress the potential of simple and intense routines, I find my inbox filled with questions about sets and reps. If I had a nickel for each time someone asked what routine I follow when I am outdoors, I would be a rich man. Unfortunately, I do not have quality answers to those questions.
One of the reasons that I enjoy outdoor training is that I am free to do whatever I wish. If I want to run, I run. If I want to stop and lift a rock, I will stop and lift a rock. I do not need to perform three sets while someone looks on and waits for a turn on the bench.
I also do not follow any particular rep range when outside. I train based on instinct. For example, no one tells me when I am hungry or thirsty. I just know. My body tells me. I follow a similar approach when I am outside. I do not need a paper routine to tell me that my legs are tired from running hills. My body will tell me and I’ll know it is time to transition to something else. Perhaps I will switch to pull-ups from a tree branch. Once my hands are fatigued from the thick branch, I will also know. I may go back and run a few more hills, or maybe I will lift and throw a heavy stone.
Whatever I am doing, I will push and apply myself with the same intensity I bring to the gym. Once I have worked for an hour or so, I wrap things up and conclude the workout. I won’t know how many sets or reps I performed of any specific exercise, but I will know that I worked hard. I won’t know the weight of the stones that I lifted, but I will know that they were heavy enough to challenge me. I won’t know the length or grade of each hill that I ran, but I will know that they were far and steep enough to fatigue me.
And as crude as such a routine may sound, it provides a much needed break from more traditional and structured work. I say this not to suggest that everyone follows my approach, but instead to highlight some of the reasons that I train outdoors. The freestyle nature of such work has proved quite beneficial for me over the years. Training outside without specific parameters allows me to stay fresh both physically and mentally.
In summary, there is nothing wrong with performing a specific routine, but there is more to training than blindly following what is written on paper. As you gain experience, you begin to know better than anyone what your body can handle. When your body provides real time feedback during a session, you will know what it means and how to proceed accordingly. If you haven’t trained outside before, I encourage to get up, get outside, and use the world around you. You’ll quickly realize that you do not need anything fancy to achieve a quality workout while enjoying the fresh air around you.
“Nature is pleased with simplicity.” – Isaac Newton