When summer rolls around, I make it a point to use the outdoors as much as possible for fitness because it gives us the chance to move our bodies freely in wide open areas instead of being cooped up in crowded gyms. Places like your local park, and high school or university tracks and stadium fields, are excellent, free and fun places to get active!
I've talked about the importance of moving in freeing ways -- ways that our bodies are naturally designed to operate. Instead of constantly moving only forward (as in jogging or cycling), we should instead be moving in different directions and angles, and using gravity to challenge us with resistance. By moving in these more unconventional ways, we'll prevent injury, improving our balance and coordination, and build resiliency as we age.
These second set of exercises will not only build upon the above benefits, but will also help you strengthen your heart and build a lean, tight, body shape.
Just like before, these exercises are so much easier to perform outdoors, so the summer is a perfect time to enjoy them and learn this concept of natural, athletic-inspired movement. Remember, if you move athletically, you'll start to look like an athlete -- slim, toned, agile and flexible.
If you're new to these types of exercises, just start off slow, doing only a couple repetitions at first, and perform the exercises gently. Over time, as your body gains strength and adapts, you'll be able to ramp up your intensity, and your frequency.
Exercise #1: Park Bench Step-Ups and Box Jumps
This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the buttocks and legs and working your heart. You can use a park bench, stadium bleachers, sturdy chair, or just about any stable, flat edge. Start by placing your entire right foot onto the surface, holding your arms out to the sides, in front of you, or overhead, for balance.
Pushing off your right leg, bring your left foot up and in line with your right, and stand fully upright, opening your hips completely. Finish by bringing your left foot back to its original position, followed by your right foot. Perform this 10 to 15 times on each leg for one set. Do 2-3 sets. Pick of the pace and or/wear ankle weights for greater intensity, or try doing box jumps, hopping of the ground with both feet onto the bench and hopping back down with both feet. Perform box jumps if you are well conditioned. They are a form of plyometrics, helping you to build stamina and power in your lower body.
Exercise #2: High Skips
This exercise takes simple skips to the next level. Instead of skipping casually, this exaggerated technique uses your arms and legs to propel you higher off the ground and forward. With each skip, swing your opposite arm from the ground to above your shoulder to help bring the opposing knee up to your chest. Swing your arms deliberately and with strength, and be mindful to really lift those knees high and create ample flexion at the hips. Do these across a field or length of your choosing and back for one repetition. Walk off for one minute and repeat. Do two or three sets.
Exercise #3: Max-out Shuttle Runs
Sprints or high intensity running intervals have been shown to improve cardiovascular performance in more efficient ways than long distance running. In combination with other cardio training, they are also excellent for burning calories quickly and decreasing body fat percentage. They're also a ton of fun and allow you to play around! Set a marker on the ground about 30 feet from your starting point and another at 15 feet away.
For the exercise, begin at your starting point and run (either sprinting or at an intensity of your choice, above which you normally jog) to the far marker, touch the ground with one hand, run back to the starting point, touch the ground, run to the middle marker, touch the ground and run back to your start. Walk for two minutes to recover. Repeat two more times.
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