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How To Stay Fit Without Going to the Gym

June 20, 2019 5 min read 0 Comments

How To Stay Fit Without Going to the Gym

Staying fit takes hours of time in the gym — or does it? With the rise of the internet and fitness bloggers, clever ways of combining workouts and outdoor activities are endless.

If being outdoors and keeping in shape are both important to you, take some ideas from the following list of common gym alternatives to combine them and save yourself some time.

How To Stay Fit Without Going to the Gym

What outdoor workouts can do for you

Gyms may be irreplaceable for things like heavy weight training, but assuming you’re not a professional weightlifter, the great outdoors has everything you need. And if you are, just add deadlifting a car or pulling a semi trailer to the list.

For the average outdoorsmen, there are two essential fitness categories: strength and cardio. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to really understand the difference if you want to optimize your workout.

In essence, you’re targeting two different muscle groups. Strength training obviously works consciously actionable muscles like biceps and quadriceps, also called skeletal muscles (muscles that control the bones). Cardio targets the heart and circulatory system, otherwise known as the cardiovascular system, and to a lesser extent the lungs.

The other important distinction may not be quite as self-explanatory. Strength training increases muscle strength via resistance. When pushing against the gravitational force of a mass, whether artificial weights or bodyweight, our muscles contract. As they are pushed beyond their current limits, the muscle actually experiences tiny tears, which are repaired by forming new protein strands. These new strands build up and over time you achieve muscle growth.

Cardio, on the other hand, is meant to increase the body’s ability to use oxygen more efficiently. While the mechanism is ultimately the same (increasing the heart’s strength so that it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body) it is achieved not through resistance but by added stress — increasing the rhythmic rate of exercise.

Strength Exercises

Organic strength training can come in many forms, in many environments, but the bottom line is finding ways to leverage your bodyweight as a resistance force using natural surroundings.

Rock-Climbing and Bouldering

Rock-Climbing and Bouldering are perfect examples of this principle. Bouldering, for the uninitiated, is simply rock-climbing on smaller rock formations or climbing surfaces that do not require rope and harness. You do still typically need a mat, or ‘crash pad,’ for these climbs. Regardless which method, the downside here is you will need training on a climbing wall before venturing into the elements. But it can provide tremendous strength gains, providing the benefit of a whole-body workout, literally from toes to fingertips.

Bodyweight Circuit

The obvious exercise that can be performed anywhere is a Bodyweight Circuit. Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, this is a set of exercises using just the body as weight, such as squats, lunges, planks, leg raises, crunches, pushups, pull-ups — there are dozens of bodyweight workouts on the web; try a few circuits and develop a go-to set of your favorite exercises. While these exercises are easily done outside, it may take some creativity. Try finding some solid tree branches along your running route for pullups, tree stumps instead of platform boxes, or use park benches and picnic tables if in need of a flat surface.

Obstacle Course Racing

Obstacle Course Racing is another option that just takes a little bit of planning and can be a fun way to get a fresh-air workout. This can be as simple as running through a park and using benches, tables and jungle gyms as workout aids, or as complex as personally tailored backyard implements, but the big benefit to this style of exercise is that you can make it what you want.

'Battle Ropes’

You may have seen the growing trend popularly known as ‘Battle Ropes’ — two weighted ropes gripped in each hand moved quickly up and down. It’s an age-old method that has become something of a staple in crossfit gyms, and can be intimidating. But you don’t need fancy equipment to reap the benefits of this exercise, just two thick ropes and an open space.

Wood Cutting

Don’t underestimate the value of household chores as a potential fitness regimen. Whether it’s Wood Cutting or using a push mower, try turning it into a personal challenge, and you might be surprised the level of physical exertion they bring.

DIY Construction or Maker Skills

Along those same lines, home-project DIY Construction or Maker Skills like woodworking, metalsmithing, etc., can offer both a physical and mental challenge. It’s also an avenue that people find easier to explore because you have the added benefit of feeling productive independent of your workout.

Yoga and Paddlesports

The next two are a bit of a segue into cardio, as both Yoga and Paddlesports provide a balanced workout. Yoga is a broad term that can encompass dozens of variations, and more importantly a whole spectrum of skill levels. You can increase the pace of stretches or add repetitive poses to increase the cardio benefits, and many types of Yoga exercises are designed specifically for core strength.

Cardio Exercises

When incorporating cardio, you want to think about repetition. The simplest iteration of this is Walking, Hiking and Running, but again, you don’t need an indoor track. There are few cities in the U.S. right now that don’t have some form of trails or nearby access to trails. And if you’re living in one of those few Twilight Zone towns without, don’t sweat it, just blaze your own trail. Whether it’s a beach, a field, golf course, residential roadways, or following a deer track through the wilderness, a little adventurous spirit can provide the spark that ignites your cardio workout.

Stair Running or Hill Sprints

If you want to double the fun, or mix in a dose of strength training with your cardio, find your nearest stadium or sledding hill, and mix in some Stair Running or Hill Sprints. Research shows that short bursts of high-intensity exercise can be as good if not better than long-distance, and can yield greater performance increases.

Mountain Biking

To add a bit of adrenaline to your cardio, consider Mountain Biking. Though it doesn’t have the lowest entry bar of any workout, with a decent trail-ready bike costing upwards of $500, optimistically, biking can be an addicting and highly beneficial workout.


Rollerblading may strike you as a ‘90s fad that dissipated quickly after that one Disney movie, but if you don’t like the slow pace of running, and don’t want to shell out for an expensive trail biking, consider rollerblading as an alternative.

Open-Water Swimming

Some people may struggle with these high-impact options, and if that’s the case then take to the open water. Swimming is one of the best cardio workouts out there, and Open-Water Swimming can actually be more beneficial than its pool-centric cousin, due to environmental factors that can add physical stressors.

Sports Game

The most difficult thing about any cardio workout is that it takes discipline and commitment. It isn’t easy to get into the mindset of embracing long-term repetitive exercise. Spice things up with an occasional Sports Game. Whether beach volleyball, tennis, basketball, or something else entirely, having fun is an essential part of maintaining any fitness routine.

They call it 'The Great Outdoors' for a reason. With its trails, trees, waters and fields, Mother Nature has everything necessary for a rigorous workout — all it requires from us is a little ingenuity and a desire to get out there.

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