Improve Health and Performance with Outdoor Training
Seemingly endless are the benefits of training outdoors versus grinding it out inside the confines of a typical gym environment. So much so that we have, in recent years, seen a proliferation of “bootcamp” style training protocols formalize the outdoor training experience. Whether training with others or alone, working-out amongst nature has never been easier or more accessible.
Why the attraction to outdoor training? As an example, running on the beach or hiking up a mountain (besides providing more variety and enjoyment compared to sitting on a stationary bike or running on a treadmill to nowhere in a cramped and sweaty gym environment) may more vigorously challenge the body while improving mental wellbeing and increasing training adherence. Buoyed by greater results and a more enjoyable training experience, committed outdoor trainees keep coming back for more of the same.
Outdoor training can take many different forms and enhance fitness across multiple dimensions. Want to further tax those quads? Try hill hiking with a weighted vest, followed by several sets of deep squats upon reaching the summit. How about building up those stubborn calves while peeling off the pounds to reveal your hard-fought muscularity? Few activities work as well as fast walking or running, on soft sand.
With summer fast approaching, outdoor training might just be the ideal solution to shaping up fast. The purpose of this article is to convey the benefits of outdoor training and provide the best options for training in natural environments. Here, you will learn how to safely and effectively train outdoors for impressive results, whatever the training goal. Also provided are several outdoor circuits that I have personally found to work especially well for achieving a shredded, muscular and better-performing physique.
Outdoor Training Benefits
The first benefit comes courtesy of simply getting outdoors and away from the sterile confines of the typical overcrowded indoor training space. Irrespective of exercise itself, being outside confers multiple physical and mental health benefits. Breathing the fresh air and enjoying the conditions (whatever the weather) within a clean (non-polluted), natural environment is revitalizing, energizing, positively engaging and has been proven to greatly improve physical fitness outcomes above and beyond what might be expected when working out in more constricted environs.8, 13
Improve Immunity and Energize
Being outside allows us to breathe in phytoncides (airborne chemicals produced by plants) which increase white blood cell production, thereby boosting immune function to help fight off infection and disease (and improve health generally), something that’s rarely, if ever, achieved training inside.7
Stopping and smelling the flowers is not just a pleasurable way to relax and unwind, but can also provide aromatherapy benefits. By inhaling various natural scents (roses, freshly cut grass, and pine, for example) we may become calmer and more relaxed.7
In addition, being outdoors has been shown to be one of the more enjoyable ways to become energized, with a mere 20-minutes of ‘exposure’ producing as much energy as a cup of coffee.31
Boost Training Success
Add in training and the health benefits of being outdoors can be multiplied. In addition to the above, outdoor environments provide sunlight, a natural analgesic which mitigates pain and improves feelings of wellbeing and contentment.1, 29 Training in such conditions may thus improve one’s capacity to work harder and for longer (while enjoying the experience more).15
Being outdoors can also improve focus, boost immunity, lower the stress hormone cortisol, decrease inflammation, and reduce blood pressure and heart rate, thereby greatly improving the quality of one’s training and multiplying its associated health benefits.6, 10, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21
Outdoor training is known to challenge the body in unique ways. Different kinds of terrain coupled with ever-changing conditions (weather and training spaces) force the body to adapt to a greater range of stressors, producing more in the way of fitness gains. For example, running outdoors encourages greater ankle flexion and uses more energy compared to running on the treadmill. In addition, cyclists may also burn more calories when riding outdoors, despite similar environmental conditions and levels of exertion to that of their indoor counterparts.30
More effort is likely to be applied to working out when we feel better mentally. Here, a positive mood enables us to more fully enjoy the training experience while providing ongoing motivation to continue when the going gets hard.
Being outdoors changes the physical expression of stress in the body by driving down both blood pressure and cortisol production.11, 23, 25 Even viewing a natural environment from inside has been shown to mitigate stress.5, 26, 28
Besides increasing mental energy, outdoor environments also decrease anxiety and depression, both of which may prevent full positive engagement when training.2, 3, 4 Here, direct sunlight plays a part in boosting mental energy due to its role in producing vitamin D, a key regulator of the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter serotonin.9, 12, 27
Vitamin D – of which 90% comes from casual exposure to natural sunlight – also regulates calcium balance and is therefore important for maintaining healthy bones – a further important fitness training prerequisite.
In ‘light’ of the above, exercise and exposure to outdoor environments may ensure that the combined benefits of each may more broadly improve health and wellbeing than when engaging in one over the other.
On its own, exercise improves sleep quality by triggering an increase and subsequent drop in body temperature, decreasing arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and balancing the circadian rhythms so crucial to regulating the sleep-wake cycle.22
Being outdoors has also been shown to ‘reset’ the body’s clock to be more in tune with nature’s dark-light cycle, something the excessive exposure to modern inside environments (with artificial light) is known to prohibit. A sound prescription for better sleep (and the multiple benefits quality sleep confers) can therefore be achieved by combining exercise with exposure to the outdoors.
Save Time and Money
Most people live close to a multitude of outdoor spaces, many of which are ideal for structured exercise. With plenty of parking, no waiting for equipment and their close proximity, outdoor training spaces can be a more efficient way to get fit. As a bonus, there are no gym fees and additional expenses (such as parking costs, etc) to make daily exercise less enjoyable and more burdensome.
Maximizing the Outdoor Training Experience
While in many ways a more effective, efficient and health-boosting fitness option, outdoor training can come with a host of potential barriers if not carefully managed. These are mainly to do with weather conditions and relatively easy to circumvent with proper planning.
Heat and Humidity
While training in hot conditions can be a great way to improve performance and fitness (by increasing blood plasma volume, improving cardiovascular functioning, reducing blood lactate levels, increasing muscular force and encouraging sweating and its multiple corresponding health benefits), one must always take precautions so as to not suffer the consequences of heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heatstroke, electrolyte loss and fatigue.19
Along with wearing light, loose-fitting clothing, a hat, sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher), drinking plenty of water (600mls two hours before exercise and around 250mls every 15 minutes or so) and getting out of the heat if weakness, extreme fatigue and/or dizziness occurs, it’s good practice to consume a reputable sports drink (with a generous inclusion of key electrolytes) prior to and during exercise.
Unfortunately, most sports drinks are little more than simple sugar mixed with water. Along with being sickly sweet in taste, such products do not provide the requisite balance of electrolytes and high-performance carbs to optimize performance and prevent fatigue. CARBION+ is the diametric opposite of such a formula.
Delicious and highly-palatable, with no metallic or overly sweet taste, CARBION+ provides a perfect blend of easily digestible carbohydrates to ensure zero bloating and optimal H20 replenishment (its taste alone encourages us to hydrate more).
In addition, CARBION+ provides an ideal pharmaceutical-grade combination of the four key electrolytes’ sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium to bolster performance and help prevent the muscular weakness which often occurs when training/competing in the heat.
Going the Distance
Due to the greater propensity for outdoor trainees to work harder and longer while challenging the body to a greater degree, it’s imperative that one gradually acclimate to the unique training conditions of various outdoor environments. This means starting small and increasing both the intensity and duration of training over many weeks and months (the degree to which will depend on the individual trainee).
That outdoor training has been shown to encourage a higher physical output does not mean that the body can cope with the added duration and intensity without the right level of nutritional support.
The following supplements will give you the power to perform, whatever the environment.
Supplement Stack to Optimize Outdoor Training
-Before hitting the hills, take a dose of the most potent per-workout currently available. Containing a full spectrum array of the most energizing ingredients ever formulated, this product stimulates the senses and keeps fatigue at bay for the full duration of any training session – no matter how intense. Also available in a non-stim version (called IMPACT PUMP), IMPACT IGNITER features compounds designed to volumize muscle (prompting killer pumps), enhance brain power, focus and cognition (via today’s most powerful nootropics) and, with 400mg of three different types of caffeine, greatly optimize mental arousal and improve almost every measure of athletic performance.
-Performing outdoors for extended periods requires solid nutritional support in the form of a complete selection of vitamins, minerals and other assorted cofactors of importance to keeping one’s cellular machinery firing regardless of how difficult one’s training becomes.
VITASTACK provides this level of support, and more. Packed with anabolic compounds to enhance muscular contractions and build larger, stronger muscles, in addition to all other nutrients needed for health and vitality (from omega 3s to joint support to electrolytes), VITASTACK remains the go-to nutritional foundation for elite-level performances.
Training in all conditions, across all types of terrain, requires ultra-strong joints and connective tissues and the ability to counter joint pain and restore joint mobility.
ALLFLEX is the all-in-one joint health formula, providing a potent array of only the most scientifically-validated ingredients. Included are UC-II ® Undenatured Type-II Collagen (for rapid joint repair), 3-Lastin, to counter inflammation, OptiMSM ®, to improve joint mobility, and Curcumin, to reduce free radical accumulation and to keep the joints functioning optimally.
-Staying in an anabolic (growth inducing) state while punishing the body with high levels of training volume and intensity can be one of the most difficult tasks for even the most committed and seasoned of trainees.
Packed with a desirable ratio of BCAAs to encourage muscle protein synthesis while keeping the body energized, AMINOCORE, taken before and during outdoor training, not only keeps the body anabolic (especially when combined with CARBION+), but is also great tasting, thus maximizing hydration.
As well as providing key electrolytes in the most delicious workout drink ever created, CARBION+ also shuttles to the cells, in phase-delivery fashion, a powerful blend of high-performance carbohydrates to keep training energy high.
While most sports drinks provide either simple sugars or long chain carbs (like waxy maize), neither of these are suitable for the serious athlete/gym trainee (simple sugars are too rapidly digested thus leading to a crashing sensation while long chain carbs are poorly absorbed and not converted to the requisite training energy).
CARBION+, on the other hand, provides a specially engineered carbohydrate called Cyclo-D, a long-chain carb that’s ultra-soluble and better assimilated than all other carb sources. Also included is four different chain lengths of maltodextrin to provide a steady supply of energy when it is needed most.
Outdoor Training Spaces (And the Unique Benefits of Each)
Providing a real challenge to the cardiovascular system and requiring serious muscular endurance, hiking (or for the truly hardcore, climbing) mountainous/hilly terrain will shape us up faster than endless hours on the treadmill while providing each of the aforementioned benefits to improve health and performance in equal measure.
- Develops complete leg strength, from quads to calves (especially when wearing a weighted vest)
- Improves cardiovascular health while melting off excess bodyfat
- Adds variety to training (when alternating different courses from session to session)
- Improves balance, coordination and agility
- Can be done alone or with others
A form of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), hill sprints remain one of the most physiologically demanding of fitness modalities. For improved cardiovascular functioning, fat loss and athletic performance (notably greater speed and explosiveness), hill sprints provide both aerobic and anaerobic benefits while enhancing muscle retention (a problem when prioritizing steady state forms of cardio).
- Enhance muscle retention and lose fat
- A great form of HIIT
- Improve speed and explosiveness
Sand and Surf
Hitting the beach is another uniquely beneficial way to get in shape, fast. An unstable surface which constantly shifts under the feet (thereby targeting the smaller stabilizer muscles of the legs), sand provides resistance and challenges the muscles to become faster and more explosive.14 Both fast walking and running on it confers multiple fitness benefits, such as improved balance, coordination and injury prevention (for example, sand running is not as impactful on the joints compared with road running).
Swimming against the tide also provides resistance, targeting, primarily, all of the muscles of the upper body. Also, owing to its mineral/nutrient-rich water, sea swimming can also enhance immunity, blood circulation, skin and overall health (here, various mineral salts, amino acids and vitamins are absorbed directly into the body).24
- Low impact
- Provides resistance
- Improves speed, balance, coordination, and explosiveness
- Improves cardiovascular functioning
- Builds larger and stronger calves
- Provides resistance
- Improves total body fitness
- An ultra-low impact way to improve cardiovascular functioning
- May enhance immunity, blood circulation, skin and overall health via the absorption of various mineral salts, amino acids and vitamins into the body
For those who also like to socialize while training, outdoor gyms can provide an enjoyable means to shaping up while meeting new people. As well as providing a regular gym training environment, outdoor gyms come with the added benefit of fresh air and all of the aforementioned outdoor training benefits. In addition, most outdoor training facilities accommodate a variety of age ranges, making exercise accessible for the whole family (like a fitness-focused playground).
- Train with others (encourages sociability)
- Work out with the family in an accessible training environment
- An enjoyable way to get in shape
- Challenges all fitness components (including strength, hypertrophy, athletic performance, cardiovascular functioning, and fat loss)
Cycling (At the Track or on the Road)
Outdoor cycling is a great way to improve overall health, wellbeing and fitness while specifically increasing joint mobility and engaging in a comparatively safe, low impact activity. In addition, training intensity can be adjusted to suit all requirements and the legs (the quads and calves, in particular) receive significant stimulation.
- Safe and impact-free
- Increases fat loss and builds muscle in the quads and calves
- Can be performed on all different types of terrain (for varied intensity and to challenge to body in different ways)
Three 12 -Week Outdoor Circuit Training Routines for Total Body Fitness
- Structure one or more (preferably all three) of the following circuits into your existing routine.
- If necessary, remove 1-2 sessions from your existing routine to accommodate the added workload
- Be sure to start small and work you way up to the full circuit. If necessary, start with one circuit per workout and increase to the full four circuits (per routine).
- Rest one minute between circuits.
- Train to failure on resistance movements.
- Take one serving of IMPACT IGNITER, CARBION+ and AMINOCORE 30 minutes prior to the first circuit and one serving of AMINOCORE immediately after the second circuit (for each routine)
Circuit Routine 1
- Hill sprint (approximately 100 meters per sprint)
- Crunches: 1 set of 25
- Burpees: 1 set of 25
- Medicine Ball raises: 1 set of 25
- Medicine Ball curl-press: 1 set of 25
Repeat circuit four times
Circuit Routine 2
- Sand running: 5 minutes (alternating 30-second sprints with one minute of low intensity steady state)
- Sea swimming: 5 minutes
- Push-ups in sand: as many reps as possible
Repeat circuit four times
Circuit Routine 3
- Pullups (outdoor gym): 15
- Dips (outdoor gym): 15
- Shoulder press (outdoor gym): 15
- Squat (outdoor gym): 15
- Cycling: 5 minutes high intensity
Repeat circuit four times
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