The great outdoors

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The great outdoors makes a fabulous gym. While the great facilities, varied classes, expert advice and bumpin’ music makes the gym a fantastic place to work out, sometimes a little variety can really spice up your fitness routine.

Doing a circuit outdoors can be a great way to mix things up a bit. I like to use an outdoor circuit as an active recovery session. It works different muscles; it makes you exercise in different ways, it makes you think about your exercise and the new setting stimulates your senses.

runner going up a glassy hill

Here is how to go about setting up and doing a circuit outdoors.

Choose your site.

I like to find a clearing, this could be in a wood, in a park or on a piece of common land. If it is bigger than 10 metre squared, then you have plenty of space.

Prepare your props.

I take a light piece of equipment such as a skipping rope, an agility ladder or resistance bands but you don’t need any of those. Stones, rocks, pieces of wood, lamp posts, steps, fences – all can be brought into service for your circuit.
Plan your circuit.

You may go for a time-based circuit or a numbers-based circuit. The choice is yours. I tend to go for numbers so that I don’t have to keep setting and re-setting my watch. An example might be a descending pyramid of reps – 25, 20, 15, 10 – on each exercise. Or you might choose to do 10 exercises, with 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off and repeat a number of times.

Set up your circuit.

Identify where each exercise ‘station’ will be. For example, tricep dips and step-ups will take place on the bench; burpees and jumping jacks can take place on the shorter patch of grass near the path; shuttles can be run between the three small trees dotted around; the low level fence is perfect for two-footed jumps.
Do a practice run as a warm-up.

Do one complete set of all your stations at a gentle pace to ensure everything is safe. The last thing you want is a bench collapsing as you leap up onto it.

An alternative is to do an on-going circuit as you run a route. You might choose to do a five-mile run but stop and do circuit-type exercises every so often. If you are running in a wood you might find a log that will serve as a weight for squats and deadlifts; running near a multi-storey car park and you have steps to bound up; along the river path from Cambridge to Waterbeach there are plenty of benches to use as exercise stations.

Wherever and however you choose to exercise outdoors, allow yourself to enjoy the surroundings and appreciate the very different impact upon your senses.