Outdoor exercise routines to keep you energised in lockdown
Most of us are facing a month at home, so it’s more important than ever to get outside. Your lockdown-friendly outdoor workout awaits
Circuits training comprises a selection of exercises, typically targeting different parts of the body, which are performed for a specific number of repetitions or time. The circuit of exercises is usually then repeated.
With no clunky equipment (trees and park benches do the trick) or pricey gym fee, an outdoor circuits session can easily be integrated into your new lockdown routine. In doing so, you’ll get your daily fix of vitamin D and all the benefits of a cardio and resistance workout combined – to include elements of the ever-popular HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). All this and you can be back at your desk within the hour (or near enough).
Lockdown exercises to keep you fit and focused
Head out for a brisk walk of 2-3km, stopping at intervals of roughly 200-300m to perform one set of exercises from your chosen programme below (circuit 1 is bodyweight, circuit 2 is cardio). Continue until you have stopped six times (roughly half the walk) and completed the circuit. Then either repeat the same circuit or tackle the exercises from the second sample circuit. Or simply freestyle it, choosing the exercises at random. After all, it’s about having fun, keeping healthy and beating those lockdown blues.
Sample outdoor circuit 1: bodyweight resistance exercises
Squats: 1 set of 10 repetitions
Great workout for the thighs, glutes and core
Stand up tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend your legs, keeping your knees in line with your feet, and lower your body downwards (as if to sit in a chair), until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Then, keeping your heels on the ground, push back up to the standing position. Do this movement 10 times – this is known as 10 repetitions (reps) or one set in exercise speak.
Abdominal crunches: 1 set of 20-30 repetitions
Killer exercise for the abs
Lie on your back with feet on the ground, hip-width apart and knees bent. Clasp your hands together and hold the weight of your head in your hands. Slowly raise your upper body from the ground as far as you can comfortably go. Then return to the start position. Do 20-30 reps.
Bench press-ups, regular press-ups or box press-ups: 1 set of 10 repetitions
Love them or hate them, press-ups are a classic strengthening exercise for chest, core and arms for a reason
Stop by a bench and put your feet up on the bench, resting on the balls of your feet. Your hands should be on the ground shoulder-width apart, wrists under shoulders, body in a straight line, and abs drawn in tight. Bend your arms at the elbow to draw your upper body down towards the ground. Then straighten the arms at the elbow and push your body back to the start position. Do 10 reps.
In the absence of a bench or, for a slightly softer option, you can choose to do full press-ups on the ground, or for the beginner, box press-ups (with knees resting on the ground) will lighten the load on the shoulders and arms.
Tree squat: 30 seconds to 1 minute
Great for leg conditioning and abs strength
Squat against a tree with your back pushing against the trunk and your legs bent at a 90-degree angle. Thighs should be parallel to the ground, knees over feet, and feet hip-width apart. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Feel the burn and push through it.
Plank: 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Optional extra: one-legged plank)
One of the best low-impact, core-strength exercises
Find flat ground and get into a forearm plank position. Your weight should be on your forearms, (with your elbows beneath your shoulders), and the balls of your feet, which are a few inches apart. Keep your legs straight and don’t let your back sag. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Seasoned plankers could try a one-legged version, raising one leg from the ground for 10 seconds or so, then the other.
Shoulder rolling: 1 set of 20 repetitions in both directions
Gentle workout for the upper arms and shoulders
Stand upright. Raise your arms outstretched to your sides so they are horizontal and parallel to the floor, palms facing down. Slowly make small circles with your arms in a clockwise direction 20 times. Then repeat in an anti-clockwise direction.
Sample outdoor circuit 2: cardio
Walking lunges: 10 steps
Intense workout for the legs
Walking lunges are a forward-moving version of the normal static lunge. Instead of returning to the upright position after a lunge, you step the back leg forward into a lunge on the other side. In this way you move forward, lunge by lunge. It is important to keep the front knee in line with your foot and to keep your back upright. Lunge for 10 steps.
Mountain climber: 1 set of 20 repetitions (10 each side)
Great all-round muscle challenge and cardio blitz
Assume a full plank position with arms straight and with your weight on your hands and the balls of the feet. Wrists should be under your shoulder joints. Don’t let your back sag. Draw one knee in towards your chest, bringing the foot off the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Do 20 reps.
Jumping jacks/star jumps: 1 set of 10 reps
A fun whole-body exercise that will raise your heart rate
Stand with your feet together and arms by your sides. Jump up and land with your feet wide then come in to a squat, with your arms high above your body. Then jump back to the starting position. Do 10 reps.
Shuttle sprints: 4 x 20 m
Do this for the HIIT hit
Find two conveniently located trees about 20-30m apart and sprint as fast as you can between the two trees. Or in the absence of trees, sprint for 20-30m, then turn and sprint back to the start position. Do four 20-30m runs.
Moving plank: 1 set of 10 reps
One for the seasoned ‘planker’
Assume the full plank position with arms straight and weight on hands and feet. Move your hands and come down into a forearm plank. Your weight is now on your forearms and the balls of your feet, with your back straight. Then push back up so that you return to the full straight-arm plank position.
Bench step-ups: 5 leading with right leg, 5 with left leg
This will get the heart and lungs racing
Step up onto a bench with your right foot, then the left foot, so both feet are on the bench. Then step back down to the ground. Repeat on the other side. Do this five times leading with one leg, then five leading with the other. Do this slowly to keep your balance.
If no bench is available try high-knee marching, bringing one knee up and across your body till it touches the opposite elbow. Then repeat on the other side. Keep movement slow and controlled. Do this 30 times (15 each leg).
To vary the theme, try using light props, such as a skipping rope or resistance band or, for a little more exercise intensity, a pair of weighted wristbands or ankle bands. If the grass is damp take a very light towel or mat to throw on the ground for abdominal exercises.
Remember, it is always important to check with a doctor if you have any joint problems, or health issues that may impact your training. Don’t forget to stretch adequately before and after exercising, and if you you feel any sudden onset of pain during exercise, stop – it is never a good idea to try to work through it.