Why and How to Take Your Exercise Routine Outside

I used to be a gym junkie. I would go to the gym six days a week, without fail, and spend an hour and a half lifting weights under the fluorescent lights. After a few years, my overworked body began to whisper, and then shout, that I needed to change things up. I began hiking more often, spending more time in the fresh air and in self-discovery. Eventually, I was spending more time with the trees than in the gym.

Years ago, I never would have dreamed of exercising outside because people might see me doing weird things. I couldn’t imagine the horror of people walking through a park and seeing me meditating on my yoga mat, practicing handstands (failing more than half the time), or swinging around a kettlebell. But now, I relish in this time outside and know that nobody really cares what I’m doing. They’re going to go right back to looking at their phone, and I’ll go right back to feeling the fresh air on my face.

I know it can be daunting, but with the warmer months moving in, now is the perfect time to soak up the rays and enjoy your freedom, too. To help others like myself, I compiled a list of ways to get moving outside. Spend as much time as you can in the sun (and in the dirt), and may you fi nd joy, presence, and self-discovery in the process.

1. A good hike.
Is there any better way to spend time outside and moving your body than when you’re fully immersed in nature, surrounded by trees? I think not. Hit up your favorite hiking spot or explore new areas. ‘AllTrails’ is my favorite app for scoping out new hikes. It shows all available trails nearby, and you may be surprised by the variety – even if you live in a city!

2. Yoga or bodyweight strength-training.
If yoga is your thing, or you enjoy bodyweight strength-training like I do, grab your mat and head outside. This could be your backyard, your porch, or a local park – anywhere you can feel the sun’s rays warm you as you move. If you need ideas, utilize YouTube or a variety of the equipment-free exercise apps that can help you build a solid sequence for the day.

3. Kettlebells.
Another one of my favorite tools, kettlebells, can help you to build a strong, powerful foundation with very little equipment. Owning just one or two kettlebells opens the door to a whole new world of strength-training. There are hundreds of exercises you can do with a kettlebell, as well as fl ow-based routines. To find one you love, do some research online or take a kettlebell class for routines you can create on your own.

4. Kick up your cardio.
I’ll admit, running and cardio isn’t my thing (unless it’s the kind of cardio that comes from climbing a mountain, then I’m all about it!). However, if this is your favorite form of movement, it’s so easy to take this outside. Choose a few bodyweight circuit exercises, go for a run, or grab a jump rope and get out there!

5. Utilize your porch or deck.
Almost everything that I’ve suggested so far can be done on your porch, too, if you don’t have easy access to greenery. Just make sure that you use a mat or some kind for padding if you’re going to be spending time on the ground.

6. Join a group class or recreational sports team.
Outdoor yoga and strength training classes will be exploding this time of year! Search for local standup paddleboard classes, hiking clubs, adult sports leagues, or running groups. The camaraderie and connection really help to build a sense of joy and fun around moving your body and getting stronger.

For more information, visit BodyBalanceTheory.com.

Elisabeth Castleman
Elisabeth is a hike and retreat leader and natural movement instructor who helps women create a sense of love, strength, and embodiment within themselves, and deepening relationships between people and the Earth. She uses movement, meditation, breathwork, and hiking to help women connect with their own wild selves and gain love and respect for the natural world. Retreat schedule, classes, and more can be found at BodyBalanceTheory.com.