When we lived in San Diego, it was extremely common to see people working out al fresco, all the time. The weather was a dreamy 70ish degrees most of the year – we would call it “heaven-ty degrees” – so it was ideal weather to get in an outdoor sweat. We’d take the girls for walks, and regularly see glimpses of beach yoga, park calisthenics, and TRX straps hung from a large tree, medicine balls strewn about the grass. When I would take my tripod to the park to take blog photos (before I started getting some professional help on the photo front), I didn’t feel super weird about it. I could take workout pics outside because everyone and their mom (and grandma) were also outside working out.
In Tucson, it was way different. Unless you were running, if you were outside in the heat, your car must’ve broken down. It’s pretty similar in Valdosta. I see people outside running often, but that’s about it. Lately, the weather has been in that heaven-ty degrees range, which inspired me to create this little outdoor workout.
You can use a park bench for these moves, or if you’re at home, a sturdy chair works just as well. I’ve also used a large igloo some for some of these moves. You do what you need to do.
Here’s what the workout looks like! The change in height recruits different muscles than the standard strength exercises, and also encourages you to use your core even more. It’s like a bonus core workout! This is also a LEG CRUSHER, so please take breaks as required. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness changes, and modify if needed.
Park bench strength and cardio workout:
Form cues and tips:
Plank walks side to side: Make sure that your body is in one straight line from your head, all the way back through your knees or toes (depending on whether you’re modifying). If you’re on your toes, press back through your heels, and no matter what, keep your hips in line with your spine. Tilt your chin away from your chest so your neck stays long, and take some nice deep breaths. Walk your hand and foot to one side, and bring the opposite hand and foot to meet it. Complete 10 moving in each direction.
Single leg lunges: Turn to face away from the bench with one foot on the bench and the opposite foot about 4ish feet in front of it. You may have to step a bit out so that you can find a comfortable range. Sink down into your single-leg squat and watch your front knee to make sure it doesn’t extend past your toes. Keep your chest lifted. Modification: static lunges.
Triceps dips: For a more challenging version, place a flat plate on your legs. To modify, bend your knees. As you complete your dip, make sure that your elbows stay pointing straight back, keep your chest lifted, and shoulders down.
Knee to elbow and lift: Place your hands on the bench and step back to make a plank position with your body, so your hips are in line with your torso and your neck is long. Place your hands wider than your shoulders. Inhale to bring one knee towards your elbow on the same side, and exhale to extend your leg out behind you. Keep the leg lifted the entire time.
Bench burpee: Sit into your squat and bring both hands to the floor, firmly planting your entire hand. Walk or hop back to a plank position (push-up here optional), walk or hop your feet back to your hands, and jump to land on the bench. Jump back down, land with soft knees, and repeat.
Reverse lunge to step-up: Holding a pair of dumbbells, stand about a foot behind the bench. Take a big step back to come into a lunge position. Watch your alignment and make sure your front knee is stacked over your front ankle, and your chest is lifted with a tight core. Step back to starting position. Step one foot flat onto the bench (so your entire foot is planted on there) and exhale to bring your opposite foot onto the bench next to it. Come into a knee raise at the top, so you’re balancing on one leg.
Side step-up to abductor raise: Stand next to the bench so your feet are parallel to the bench. Place your inside foot on top of the bench (your entire foot) and press up to balance on that leg. Engage your outer thighs to exhale and lift your floating leg out to the side (keep your leg in line with your torso) and inhale to lower back down. Repeat.
Single-leg hip pulses: Start on your back with legs bent and feet flat on the bench. Lift one leg off the floor, and press your heel towards the ceiling. Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips, keeping your upper back pressing into the floor and hips parallel to the floor. Lower down towards the floor (don’t touch it!) and exhale to rise back up.
Please let me know if you give it a try!
Photos: Lindsay Colson