Make the most of the fresh air and build your fitness with these simple workouts
Try out fartlek!
Fartlek is a Swedish word that literally means ‘speed play’. It’s a way of upping the fitness effects of your activity and it’s very simple. ‘During a walk or run, pick out a landmark in the distance (such as a lamppost, bin, sign, tree or bench) and challenge yourself to go faster until you get to that point,’ says personal trainer, Julia Buckley. Slow down to recover then pick another point to get to at speed.’
Use natural features
Who needs a pricey gym membership when you’ve got the outside world? It’s a free fitness playground with endless features that you can use. Go for a brisk 30-minute walk and find things you can use to boost your workout.
These are the ultimate cardio booster and muscle toner because walking uphill requires the muscles in your thighs and bottom to produce greater force. March to the top, march back down and repeat. Lean slightly forwards from the ankle, shorten your steps and use your arms to power you up.
This is the perfect place for step-ups – do sets with a leading leg, so 10 on your right, then 10 on your left. Aim for 40 in total. As you get stronger, try jumping up onto the step with both feet at the same time – as long as the step isn’t too high – and then step back down. Repeat the process.
Tricep dips work well on a bench. Sit on it with the heels of your hands on the seat, push your bottom off the bench and then lower it towards the ground. It’s easier with bent knees and harder with straight legs. You can also try squats. Stand with your back to the bench, squat and allow your bottom to touch the seat before rising up again.
This is the perfect balance beam, with extra wonky bits for an added challenge! Put your arms out to the side and try to balance while walking along it without looking down.
A little rucksack of simple equipment can give you a great lunchtime workout.
You can use them alone or add them into resistance exercises to work several muscle groups simultaneously. They don’t have to be heavy – for example, add a 2kg weight to each hand when doing a squat. As you rise up, raise the weights in the air above your head and lower as you go back into the squat.
These stretchy bands are cheap, and easy to use. For example, wrap the ends of one around your hands a couple of times and stand on the middle, then use it to perform bicep curls and lateral raises (arms out to the side). There are hundreds of upper and lower body exercises you can try with them, you will find lots of videos showing you what to do on YouTube.
OK, it won’t fit in a rucksack, but it’s a great portable fitness tool. A weighted hoop is easiest to use. It targets the muscles around your middle and is an effective way of toning up. Aim for at least two minutes at a time for results and don’t feel embarrassed – if you can keep the hoop going, it’ll be all admiring glances!
Skipping burns a whopping 590 calories per hour, plus it tones the lower body, boosts cardio fitness and is a great weight-bearing exercise to improve your bone health.
Go further at every walk
Set a timer for 30 minutes on a brisk walk or run. Start at a specific point and note where you get to after 30 minutes. The next time you do it, try to get further by upping your speed. This is a great way to move at what’s known as a tempo pace, which makes your heart and lungs work a bit harder.
And plug in your headphones! A 2014 study found that listening to upbeat music has a strong effect on walking speed – participants listening to motivational music walked considerably faster than those listening to non-motivational music.
Get fit with HIIT
‘Working at high intensity is a really efficient way to exercise in a short time frame,’ says Julia. ‘Because the intervals are short, you can push yourself – this burns a lot of calories and your body adapts to the new challenge by increasing strength and fitness.’ Try Julia’s routine below.
Warm up with a five-minute walk.Set a timer for intervals of 40/20 seconds – 40 seconds exercise, 20 seconds rest between exercises.
Complete the circuit four times, then stretch at the end.
Take a wide stance and push your bottom out behind you as you bend one knee and straighten the other leg, moving your weight over the bent leg. Keep your head and chest up. Straighten it to return to the start position. Repeat on the other leg.
Find a bench to place your hands on directly below your shoulders and get your body in a straight line from the neck to the back of your heels. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes as you bend your elbows, keeping upper arms close to the body and lower your chest towards your hands. Return to the start position.
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and push your hips back, stretch your arms out in front of you and lower yourself to the floor. Jump your legs behind you so you’re in a press-up position, then jump the feet back in towards your hands and power up into a jump (or just to standing) and repeat.
Squat side kick
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and push your bottom out behind you as though you’re going to sit down on a chair. Ensure that your knees don’t go out beyond your toes and try not to lean forward. Rise up to standing and, placing your weight over your right leg, lift the left knee and kick out to the left. Return to the start position, then squat and kick with your right leg. Keep repeating, alternating legs to complete the interval.
Stand tall. Put your weight on one leg and bend the knee slightly. Extend the other leg out to the side then drive the knee up towards your body. Use your abdominals to help pull the knee up. Stay tall and don’t lean towards the knee. Do this for 40 seconds then switch legs.
Focus on flexibility
‘Working on your flexibility combats tightness and also enables you to stay injury-free and perform exercises such as squats more effectively,’ says Harkirat Mahal, founder of Motivate PT . ‘After a brisk five-minute walk, find a quiet space in a park and repeat the following sequence a few times.’
To open your hips, stand with feet hip-width apart and lunge forward, diagonally, sideways and then backwards with your right leg, coming back to standing between each one. Repeat on the other leg.
This common yoga pose is excellent for stretching the calves and hamstrings. Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Exhale, tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling so you’re in an upside down ‘v’ shape. Your heels may not touch the ground, but gently ease them towards it.
This fun move opens up the hips and lower back. Stand side on to a wall. Place your hand on it for balance and swing the right leg backwards and forwards for 30 seconds, keeping your upper body still. Swap legs. You may not swing far to start with, but you’ll soon progress.
This squat is an effective move for mobilising the muscles in your bottom and stretching the inner thigh. Stand with feet wide apart, toes turned slightly out. Keeping your back straight, bend your knees to lower yourself as far as possible. Return to standing. Do as many as is comfortable.
Forward spine roll
From a standing position, let your shoulders roll forwards and allow your arms to hang. Allow the spine to flex forwards with a bend at the hip. Release the tension in the shoulders and feel a deep stretch.
Perfect your proprioception
Proprioception is your sense of how your limbs are moving in space without looking at them. Perfecting it is important as it will enable you to move with grace and balance during exercise, and it helps prevent injury in joints that are easily damaged by a lack of balance, such as the knees. Take off your shoes for the exercises – it makes them easier as you can feel the ground.
- Stand on one leg with the other knee raised to hip height. Close your eyes and hold for 30 seconds. Swap legs. To make it harder, do it on an uneven surface such as grass. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
- Stand on one leg, arms out to the side. Slowly bend at the hip to bring your upper body horizontal to the ground with your leg extended out behind you. Hold for a few seconds and return to standing. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
- Walk forwards, crossing your right leg over to your left and vice versa, without looking down. Keep the upper body facing forwards. Do 10 forwards and the same backwards.