Last Updated on September 29, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
It is no secret that I spend a lot of time tucked between the walls of a gym, surrounded by thousands of pounds of cast iron weights and whirring cardio machines. They gym is a wonderful tool, and one that I’m happy to have the ability to use. But my heart is always outdoors. I’ve written time and time again about not only the benefits of working out in the great outdoors, but more so the fact that you don’t NEED a gym membership. You don’t NEED fancy equipment, or any equipment for that matter.
In honor of the social media “Throwback Thursday” trend (#TBT for those of you that speak hashtag) I bring you this video, that I had the honor to film with Merrell in San Diego, CA, back in 2012.
My squat technique has gotten better, my voiceover talent likely hasn’t, and the overall message has remained exactly the same, and this video is what inspired me to write this post today about my favorite outdoor workouts. One of my favorite cross training workouts to do is to incorporate intervals of running with resistance and plyometric exercises. This can be done absolutely anywhere and at any time. All you need is you, and a little creativity. Absolutely no equipment necessary.
Step one: Plot your course. Any trail will do, but ideally choose one that has either wide or open areas to pull off to the side to perform exercises…or simply a trail that isn’t crowded (so you won’t clog the path).
Step two: Set your watch for a specific interval. Two minutes, ten minutes, half a mile, whatever you want to do. Don’t have a watch? That’s fine…I did say this was a “no equipment necessary” workout. Decide how far you want to run between each interval and take your best guess at it. Remember, there is no right or wrong here.
Step three: GO! After a warm-up, begin running. When you reach the end of your specified interval (or simply find a great place to pull over) stop and do a set of any one of the exercises listed below. When you’ve finished the first set of exercises…start running again.
Step four: Repeat steps two & three until you reach the end of your run.
– The Exercises –
Push-ups: This body weight resistance exercise works your forearms, wrists, triceps, biceps, shoulders and chest. Though in reality, you must engage your entire body (hello core!) from your feet to your hands to properly perform a push-up. Most of us know how to do a pushup, but for a quick refresher (and an idea of what it should look like) check out this video. PLEASE NOTE: a) no butt in the air, b) no sagging torso, and c) FULL RANGE OF MOTION (chest to almost floor). Beginners, you absolutely may start on your knees if necessary, just keep the core engaged and the above points in mind.
Tricep Dips: Target the triceps with this killer exercise, using a downed tree, large rock, or even a bench (if you can find one). Vary the difficulty by changing the distance your legs For a video example, please check out this demonstration from elite runner Tina Muir.
Squats: Squats help improve balance, and strengthen your core, legs, and butt. And contrary to popular belief, squats are not bad for your knees. A proper squat engages the quadriceps, the hamstrings, and the gastrocnemius, thus strengthens bone and connective tissue around the knee joint. Now, squats are an easy one to perform incorrectly (believe me, I was in “squat therapy” for awhile until I finally got it right.) This video does a great job explaining the positioning necessary for a good squat. My best piece of advice is to always keep your head up. If your instructor/training partner/the tree in front of you cannot see your face when you squat, you are doing it wrong.
For an added challenge: squat with something heavy. Grab a rock, log, a partner, or anything you might randomly find on the trail (just be sure to not destroy the trail, and return everything to the same spot you found it). Once we found a tractor tire at the head of a local trail. So we flipped it a few times and used it for plyometric “box” jumps. Be creative!
Planks: Sure they look easy, but I promise you, they aren’t. Unlike a crunch or sit-up, planks engage your entire core: the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis that form your outer and inner abs, as well as the obliques and lower back. Further, the isometric contraction of a plank utilizes your stabilizing muscles: upper-body stabilizers include the pectoral and serratus muscles, and lower-body stabilizers include the quadriceps, sartorius and tensor fasciae latae. Looks like another full body exercise to me! Again, there a numerous variations of the plank. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are keeping your core engaged, and not allowing the hips to sag, nor your butt to stick up in the air. (Check out this video, a bit long, but gives some hilarious commentary while showing the proper plank form, along with a lot of common mistakes)
Lunges: Another exercise that engages the core as well as the lower body, lunges are great for balance as well as lower body strength. Again, numerous versions of the lunge are available: forward, backwards, sideways. I prefer the jumping lunge , a dynamic, powerful, explosive movement that will also challenge your cardiovascular strength. Again, I sound like a broken record here, but ENGAGE THAT CORE! Not only will it help you strengthen those ab muscles, but it will help keep you in proper alignment, contributing to good form.
Mountain Climbers: A full body exercise that challenges core strength, agility, proprioception, and gets challenges your cardiovascular system. It is very similar to a plank, with a high intensity running movement added. Check out this great demonstration from fitness pro Taylor Ryan. The great thing about mountain climbers is that they are highly modifiable. For beginners, start with a slow knee tap as opposed to the fast, dynamic movements.
Burpees: The exercise everyone loves to hate (or hates to love). Burpees are a killer, full body resistance and cardio exercise. If you’ve ever trained with me, chances are good you have done (many) burpees. As with any exercise, there are a number of ways to perform a burpee, and every trainer may argue why their version is best. (If you’ve never seen a burpee before, watch this video) You can do the “squat thrust”, which typically does not involve a pushup. Whatever style you choose to do, be sure to maintain a tight, engaged core at all times.
– Tips and Suggestions –
– Run as fast or as slow as you choose for that workout. Remember, there is no right or wrong here. You could do one fast running interval, followed by a slow interval, or all fast, all slow, etc.
– Bring a friend for partner exercises, or better yet, bring an entire group! In order to keep the group together, we allow the front runners to either wait at each interval stop for the entire group before beginning the exercise, OR for an added challenge, they may begin the exercise, and continue until everyone in the group has caught up and completed their set.
-Vary your exercises. The ones listed above are simply examples and suggestions. There are tons of other no equipment necessary, body weight exercises that can be incorporated into this routine. If you run with a group, make it interesting by assigning each person an interval, and letting them choose (and even demonstrate!) the exercise for that interval.
– Be sure to follow trail etiquette for the safety of yourself and others, and the preservation of the trail as a whole.
NOW GET OUTSIDE AND ENJOY!*
*unless you are in snow tundra New England, like myself. In which case, be sure to bundle up: burpees in the snow are only fun until the frostbite kicks in .
Disclaimer: Although I am an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist the workouts featured on this blog are representations of my own training regimen, and not specific recommendations or prescriptions. Please consult a physician before beginning any diet or exercise plan. If you choose to do any of the workouts featured on this website, you do so at your own risk.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.
AJ @ NutriFitMama
LOVE this workout! I will definitely be doing this as soon as I can actually go outside and not free on a trail. Thanks for posting!
You are so welcome! Thanks for stopping by!
Love this! Can’t wait until it’s nice out again so I can try it out 🙂
Great recommendations! Thank you for sharing 🙂
Visiting form the Fitness Blogging Support and Share Group on FB 🙂
Thanks for visiting!
I do this sort of thing all the time. Well, not lately, but I used to! I call it Burbathlon (because I sometimes integrate suburbs playground equipment as well as trails).
Burbathlon, I LOVE it! Playgrounds are some of the best cross training equipment out there!
Heather @ Divas Run for BLing
What a fun way to add in some strength training and avoid the monotony. Love this!
Eat Pray Run, DC
i will be doing some trail running soon and this is a great workout to incorporate while i’m out there! thanks for sharing 🙂 i love switching it up w/a trail run!
This actually sounds, dare i say, fun!! Ugh, this winter is killing me–looking forward to warmer days!
It *is* fun! You will love it!
I’m unable to do burpees because even in slo mo they make me lightheaded.
Burpees are indeed *NOT* for everyone. Sometimes people have an issue with the fast paced up and down movement, it can cause lightheadedness for sure! My suggestion would be to substitute the burpees with another fast paced, high intensity workout that doesn’t involve such fast ground to standing movements, like jumping jacks or high knees!
Femme Fitale Fit Club
Wow I am glad to see you like working out hard and rugged outdoors. I don’t see myself doin that. I put a towel under my hands when I have to do push ups on the gym floor at the gym. UGH! Yes I won’t say I am a germaphobe but I hate to think about what all has crawled around on that floor. Your workout looks tough.
Kathryn @ Dancing to Running
Doing exercises other than running while out on the trail sounds like a fun way to break up a run. I’ll have to try some of these!
Alexandra Williams (@Alexandrafunfit)
I also like outdoor workouts, though I walk instead of run. I wish we had snow here in Santa Barbara, but it’s always sunny. Sounds enviable, but I’d like to have to worry about burpee frostbite instead of fires once in a while.
Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness
Oh man! This looks SO hardcore with the outdoor aspect, but I am loving a full body workout with no equipment! Pinning!
The great thing is you can make it as hardcore…or beginner friendly…as required! Everything is totally modifiable. Thank you for pinning! 🙂
Strength and Sunshine
I will totally get outside for more workouts!….once it’s warmer! Haha! All I can handle now is running!
I understand! It’s been a brutal winter!
Yay! thanks for featuing my post! This is intense, makes me feel very lazy haha…..but I have 2 runs today, so I should push that right outta my head. If this post doesn’t inspire people to get out the door and do something, nothing will! Thanks for sharing, great ideas 🙂
I love this! Such a fun, active way to be outdoors! I sure hope my knee gets better soon so I can get out and try this!