Springtime is officially here; Hallelujah! Days are getting longer and sunnier, seasonal depression is coming to an end, there’s a new and lively energy amongst us again! I cannot stress this enough…GO OUTSIDE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!
Even though I can workout anytime at one of the two gyms that I currently train for, I always choose to utilize one of the many beautiful parks or beaches that are within NYC, whenever weather and time permits me to do so. I’ll write an article about how to workout on a beach before the Summer starts. It’s so lovely to exercise under the Sun with lovely trees everywhere; nature is an amazing mood and energy boost! It always drives me nuts seeing people waste hours running on a treadmill when it’s good weather outside! Some of the many proven benefits of getting pure sunlight are: supporting a better circadian rhythm (sleep cycle), uplifting one’s mood via naturally increasing Serotonin levels, bettering one’s mental health, increasing energy, strengthening one’s immune system, lessening inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome.
No matter how fancy schmancy a gym is, and I’ve trained for the fanciest and schmanciest gyms in NY; open surroundings, warm breezes, therapeutic sunlight, and jocose laughter from people enjoying their time outdoors, always feels better than being bubbled-up inside of a sunless gym. If you factor in the natural elemental benefits of being in a park alongside the benefits of working out in a park—you get quite the productive one-two punch of cognitive and physiological benefits!
So, how can we workout in a park, even if we have (seemingly) absolutely no workout equipment available to us?
Except for playing sports in the park, or walking/jogging/running on the track, which is quite obvious, one can also partake in a myriad of strength and conditioning exercises. I train three of my personal training clients in the park when the weather gets nice; we each bring a yoga mat and we’re good to go (but you can use a nice comfy patch of grass instead of a mat)! After doing some stretches and core exercises such as planks, dead-bugs, bird-dogs and crunches, we move along to practicing some jumping and circuit drills on the grass. After the jumps and agility exercises, I usually have my client utilize one of the park benches for a series of exercises. I usually begin my client with some bench push-ups; this is done by keeping your feet on the ground and leaning over to grab the top of the bench, getting your body to be in an almost 45 degree parallel with the bench. Tip: the closer it is that you keep the hands together on the bench = the more it is that you’re targeting the triceps!
Then it’s all about form: keep your feet flat and slowly lower your chest to where your hands are, staying a second or two in that lowered position before pushing yourself up again. I recommend doing at least 30 of these push-ups. If these are too easy for you, feel free to lower yourself down; the more it is that you get your head lower to the ground = the harder it is that the push-ups get; for you pros, you can put your feet on the bench and hands on the ground and do some super tough decline push-ups! The push-up is a standard in the gym for a reason—it works! Push-ups help strengthen the whole arm, chest, back, and even the core when properly executed. After doing the push-ups, I usually have my client do some dips—grabbing the bench with arms extended backwards, looking straight, putting their heels in front with the knees almost locked, then slowly lowering themselves up and down for 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. You can utilize the benches as measuring point for air squats or jumping squats; simply lower yourself down as if you’re about to sit down on the bench, then as soon as your backside taps the bench—you jump up or stand straight—then lower yourself down again in the same manner for as many reps as you’re able to.
The park will usually have some kind of monkey bars; monkey bars are amazing for doing chin/pull-ups. If you cannot do a full chin/pull-up—don’t fret—try it anyway! Even if you just hang there and make an effort picking yourself up—you’re still engaging your lats and arms past your comfort zone—keep going a little bit more each time!
For the more athletic person, the monkey bars offer a whole series of shoulder and back strengthening exercises, such as swinging from one to another (hence their name), doing crossfit style workouts on them, and even some MMA-training exercises.
Walking in the park on a warm Sunny Spring day is good; working out in the park on a warm Sunny Spring day is Heavenly! Perhaps my most important advice to my readers is…HAVE FUN! Some of the best advice ever given to me was, “switch the ‘I have to’ mentality to ‘I GET to!’ and watch how smooth and successful your training gets!”
Wishing everyone a wonderful Spring and Summer ahead!
Banner Image: Park Partner Yoga. Image Credit – Ruslan Zh