Posted on March 06, 2019 by Josh Puttock
As humans, we’re designed to be outside, but it’s very easy to forget it’s there sometimes, especially when it comes to our workouts! So mixing up your indoor workout with some outdoors activities can not only help keep things interesting, but also provide you with all the benefits that exercising in fresh air brings.
Of course at this time of year, the changeable weather can have quite an impact on outdoor gym workout options. But there are still ways to get outside even when the weather is against you, and we’ve put together some reasons why creating a hybrid workout can be beneficial for your overall motivation.
Rainy days = Mental training
While nothing puts out the flame of good intentions quicker than the prospect of a torrential run, there are some benefits to getting out there and getting it done.
Treat bad weather days as mental tests. By heading out into the weather, not only are you challenging your body but also your mind. Mental training is just as important as a physical workout. It will allow you to approach any challenge with an open mind regardless of weather conditions. It also means that, come summer, you will welcome warmer days with open arms and enjoy them all the more.
So, whatever the weather and next time you plan on doing a cardio set, leave the treadmill alone, grab your shoes, a buddy and some waterproof kit, and head out into the elements for a run instead. You’ll return to the gym feeling refreshed and (if the weather is bad) suitably challenged and appropriately pleased.
Biological and mental wellbeing
We haven’t always had access to the latest rowing machines and exercise programmes via our smart phones – and we don’t always need them either. What can use of the outside space do for our general wellbeing, and how can fusing indoor and outdoor workouts improve our incentive to exercise?
There are many studies explaining why the natural world is beneficial to human happiness and biological wellbeing. Even short exercise bursts in the open air have been proven to calm the mind and focus our attention. A study published in 2010 evaluated the effect of forest bathing (taking time out to chill in the woods) on immune function. For a group of Japanese adults, a three-day trip to the forest increased the number of white blood cells in their blood, and these levels stayed elevated for more than 30 days after their adventure in the woods. White blood cells are vital for combatting attacks on the immune system: keeping their numbers up improves the overall effectiveness of our defence mechanisms for a longer period.
Above are the physical effects; imagine, then, what the natural world can do for our mental outlook and exercise drive. Simply put, allowing ourselves a few sessions a week where we find ways to create “hybrid workouts” (a mixture of indoor and outdoor workout plans) will stop mental exhaustion through too much inside gym time.
Leaving the gym for an hour and getting into the outdoors can quickly have positive effects on the way you feel, leading to feelings of content and pride post workout, as well as getting more oxygen to the brain. You get all the workout benefits of an indoor workout with the added benefit of keeping the mind healthy.
Opening new doors
You can literally and figuratively access new spaces once you step outside and by doing so, you open up your workout regime to new possibilities. Looking at familiar things from a different angle can often bring completely new and innovative results, so check out how these outdoor alternatives can help keep things fresh:
Swimming indoors vs outdoor swimming – Outdoor, or wild, swimming is cold, especially in the UK. But there is also an amazing community for it, with groups all over the country (http://www.wildswimming.co.uk/). Swimming outdoors will do wonders for your mental resilience and immune system while allowing you freedom from the confines of your pool.
Treadmill vs trail running – Run how humans were designed to run. Pacing through the countryside or park, over as many different surfaces as possible will boost foot strength, balance and keep your attention span from wandering.
Yoga – As an activity, yoga is designed to connect the body and mind, so why not connect both to the earth too? Outdoor-specific classes are now widely available across the UK, but if you prefer to do it alone, seek out a scenic meditation spot, and stretch to your heart’s content (if it’s windy just wrap up warm).
As a guide to incorporating the examples above into your schedule, how about doing one week indoor and the next outdoor? You could spend a few days at the pool during week one, then source your nearest wild swimming club and join them the following week.
Whether in the gym or further afield, real effort should be made to get fresh air. If you don’t have easy access to outdoor space, do some research and find out how easy it is for you to get to one. Head outside and you’ll seen an increase in workout productiveness: something that you can take with you when you head back into the gym. Combining indoor and outdoor workouts will give you the best of both worlds and hopefully, you will soon see and feel the benefits of both.