Working out in the gym during the heat of the summer months may be more comfortable than being outside, especially considering all the heat we had earlier this summer.
However, not everyone enjoys being inside and now that fall is around the corner and the weather will be cooler outside, workouts are a more viable and pleasurable option. Outdoor exercise routines can very well be more challenging than taking yourself through a series of machines, free weight exercises or running on a treadmill.
But what do you do without equipment and where can you work out? Washington, D.C. has more parks and grassy knolls than most cities in the United States. Whether you are in the heart of the city or in the suburbs, there is no shortage of grass and green to take your workouts.
Running outside does not have to be your only exercise option. Rock Creek Park is award winning and many areas have outdoor circuits with instruction that allow you to perform a variety of exercises that target all of your major muscles. There are also rolling hills and off-path trails throughout Rock Creek that allow you to vary your terrain, not to mention breath-taking scenery.
I am partial to Meridian Hill Park at 16th and Florida Avenue, N.W. The park is an outdoor fitness haven and stunningly beautiful with statues, water fountains throughout and a giant lily pond at the base. The top of the park houses an enormous courtyard type “track” with vast grassy fields in the center.
You don’t have to worry about bringing along any equipment. Instead, you can use your own body weight and you can work all your major muscles in doing so. If you want to add additional resistance without lugging too much around with you, then invest in lightweight resist-a-bands that allow you to simulate weight training and offer several degrees of resistance. They are available here and they come with diagrammatic instructions.
I generally start my boot camp program with a warm-up consisting of light jogging throughout the park, up and down stairs and hills and throughout the maze of paths the park has to offer.
I will often continue the warm-up with what I call “stair suicides.” Most would argue that this drill is not in the least a warm-up, but it definitely revs up the body. The gist of the drill is to jog, walk or double step up one flight of stairs at a time and then down one flight. Continue by adding another flight going up two flights and down two flights and then three, etc.
Then we navigate through more paths and hills followed by a variety of drills, calisthenics and body weighted exercises. Think back to your high school gym days and do what you did then – jumping jacks, butt kicks, nausea inducing squat thrusts, simulated jump rope, skipping, side shuffles, running backwards and more stairs and hills.
Add in pushups, dips and pull-ups on the park benches followed by other lower body exercises such as lunging forward and backward, squats, Bulgarian Split Squats (yes, they are as awful as they sound, but will give you buns of steel), squat walks and sumo-wrestlers.
For more upper body work I simulate weight training moves using the body’s natural resistance and you will be amazed at how 40 overhead presses with no weight can burn like hell. It’s usually the men who whine during this phase and we move from one exercise to the next with no rest.
I will integrate intervals into classes so that the heart rate is always elevated and calorie burning and conditioning are at their peak. I leave little time for rest and within an hour we have worked every major muscle including the heart and lungs and everyone leaves pleasantly exhausted.
If you have an imagination you can create an effective outdoor workout and you may not want to go back into a gym anytime soon.
The Mind Your Own Body Boot Camp at Meridian Hill Park, N.W., begins again on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010. Please send me an e-mail for further information.