The weather is starting to warm up in many parts of the nation, and we're still in the middle of a pandemic, which means outdoor fitness classes are going to be more popular than ever this season! Bootcamps are the old standby and offer a really challenging and effective workout for beginners and more experienced exercisers alike.
But bootcamps can also be pretty intimidating. You might imagine an army training type scenario with a drill sergeant shouting at you to do 10 more push-ups. Actually, unless you're in training for the military, that's not what it's like at all — at least not in the bootcamps you want to be a part of!
So what can you expect as you head out to your first outdoor bootcamp?
Outdoor Bootcamps Offer Big Benefits
If you're like a lot of people, you likely spend a lot of your day inside. Pre-pandemic, you probably went from your office to the gym or an indoor fitness class, potentially getting only a glimpse of the sky and a little sunlight.
Bootcamps are the perfect way to break the cycle, get fresh air, and some essential vitamin D (wearing sun protection, of course!). This can improve both your physical and mental health, according to research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2015.
Outdoor exercise also allows for a sense of freedom and creativity. You're not stuck inside the gym walls, and you can add sprint drills and relays to your program which are great for improving cardio health. You can also take advantage of varied terrain and features like playground equipment, park benches and stairs.
For people who don't like to work out because it means going to a gym, this is great news. It's like playing in the park and getting fit at the same time! But even if you love the gym, fitting in an outdoor bootcamp workout a couple times a week is a great way to change things up and keep your program fresh and inventive.
Keeping Bootcamp Safe and Enjoyable
You may occasionally come across a bootcamp instructor who thinks he's an actual drill sergeant. This definitely isn't the norm, but just in case, remember to go at your own pace and don't let anyone make you do anything you're not ready for. That only leads to injury and a trip to the emergency room.
That's also a good note for your inner competitive athlete that tries to tell you you must keep up with everyone in the class, even if they are at a more advanced level. Don't do it. The key to getting fitter and stronger is to not overdo it. Going too hard too fast leads to injury, which can keep you out of the game for weeks or longer.
On the other hand, you want to make sure you're challenging yourself enough to get results. This is often easier when you exercise in a group than on your own, so that's another bootcamp bonus. Use the energy and encouragement from your bootcamp fellows to drive you to reach your potential. And make sure to give back the encouragement and energy you get from the rest of the group.
The biggest concern for outdoor exercise is weather. Make sure to drink plenty of water when it's hot outside, and try to find a shady spot, if possible. Summer can bring afternoon storms, which can catch you unawares. The middle of a field is not the place you want to be in a thunderstorm. Check the weather forecast, and if you see any sign of a storm approaching, stop the workout and seek shelter.
Creating Your Own Outdoor Bootcamp
Maybe you don't live in a place where outdoor bootcamps abound, or maybe it's more convenient with your hectic schedule to go it alone. That is just fine. You can set up your own outdoor bootcamp with little to no equipment. Some basic equipment that's good to have and easily portable:
- TRX suspension trainer
- Medicine ball
- Yoga mat
- Jump rope
- Resistance bands
Plan your routine before you get to your outdoor location. That way you're ready to go and don't have to spend a lot of time thinking about what you're going to do.
Allow about 1 hour and 15 minutes for your workout — 15 minutes to set up and 1 hour for the workout, including a warm up and cool down. Of course, if you don't have this much time — or you have more time — you can shorten and lengthen the workout as desired.
Set up your workout in a circuit, with a station for each move, so that you can easily move from one station to the next. Alternate upper body and lower body moves, and include intervals of cardio exercises throughout the workout.
Here are two sample outdoor workout ideas to get you started.
Outdoor Bootcamp Workout #1
- Yoga mat
- Medicine ball
- TRX suspension trainer — works best if you work out near a playground and can loop it over a pull-up bar
- Tabata timer
The Warm up
Jog in a circle around your workout area. If you set up in a field, take one or two laps around the field. If you're set up in a smaller area, take some extra laps. Aim for 3 to 5 minutes of jogging.
Stand at the top of your yoga mat and do five rounds of sun salutations.
Do each of the following exercises for 45 seconds, doing as many reps with good form as you can. Take a 15-second rest break between each exercise to catch your breath and move to the next station. In between rounds, rest for 90 seconds. Do three or four rounds.
Reverse lunges (alternating)
Power step-up on a bench
Side shuffle (both directions)
All of these moves can be modified, either to be made easier or to increase the challenge. For example, push-ups can be done with knees on the ground, or with your hands on the seat of a park bench. They can be made harder by elevating your feet and keeping your hands on the ground. Power step-ups can just be done as regular step-ups, or you can make them harder by holding a medicine ball overhead.
Outdoor Bootcamp Workout #2
- Jump rope
- Resistance bands
- Yoga mat
The Warm up
Jump rope for 30 to 60 seconds
1. Do walking lunges — 10 on each leg
2. Repeat the jump rope interval
3. Do 30 arm circles — 15 in each direction
4. Repeat the jump rope interval
5. Do walking knees to chest — 10 on each side
Do each exercise below for 45 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds in between exercises, and 90 seconds in between rounds. Do three to four rounds. Modify the exercises as necessary.
Triceps dips (on bench)
Walking lunges with torso rotation
Side lunges to the right
Side lunges to the left
Finish With Stretching
You'll probably be pretty pooped by the end of these workouts! It's important to cool down after your last exercise and bring your heart rate back to normal before you rush off to the rest of your day.
Stretching is crucial to preventing soreness and injury. So spread out your yoga mat and take 10 minutes to do this full-body stretch routine. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
Seated side stretch (30 seconds each side)
Seated torso rotation (30 seconds each side)
Overhead triceps stretch (30 seconds each arm)
Side-lying chest stretch (30 seconds each side)
Downward dog calf stretch (30 seconds each side)
Standing quad stretch (30 seconds each side)
Working Out Is Better With Friends
Next time you plan an outdoor bootcamp workout, invite some friends along. It can be a fun way to socialize and make exercise time fun time.
Make it a weekly meet up and a regular routine. Planning workouts with buddies increases the likelihood that you'll show up instead of skipping out on your workout because you're too tired.
You can let someone else do the planning for a change. Each week, pick a different person to plan the workout. That keeps things fun and interesting for everyone in the group.
Making it a group workout also allows you to do some fun partner exercises. For example, you can do triceps kickbacks with each person holding one end of the resistance band. You can do medicine ball rotational throws, band sprints, sit up medicine ball throws, relay races and tons more fun and interactive exercises that make working out together way less boring than working out alone.
This article was written by health and fitness expert and PIXIBU founder Jody Braverman, PN1, NASM-CPT, NASM-FNS, RYT 200.
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