About this time of year, I start hearing people talking about how they’re going to stop going to the gym because they will be active outdoors all summer. I get it, active inside or active outside, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Well, I have to tell you. It’s not the same.
First, let me say that exercising or being active outside can have some significant emotional/psychological benefits. Even five minutes of “green exercise” can enhance your mood and feeling of well-being. So, yea for being outside! There are, however, a few cautionary notes to dropping out of your regular full body workout program.
Whether we are gardening or playing tennis, activities are never symmetrical. We always favor one arm or leg. Raking, digging, planting are one side dominant. We even get up or down on the ground favoring one leg. Tennis is essentially a one-armed sport. In golf, you always swing to one side. These asymmetries can create strength and flexibility imbalances that may cause injuries in time.
Another issue is that these activities rarely take us through the full ranges of motion that we would (or should) be getting with our gym workout. Full movement at the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, etc. doesn’t come without planning for it. Walking, running, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and biking do not promote joint mobility (or certainly not full-body joint mobility).
There are some solutions that are pretty simple. One option is to just keep doing your regular gym workout. If you don’t seem to have time and want to spend more time outside you can modify your workout to be shorter and/or go to the gym less frequently. In example, you could cut back to a 30 minute, twice a week. Another answer is to do your full body workout outdoors. There are a number of ways to make that happen. You can do bodyweight workouts, use a suspension device such as the TRX, or you could use elastic tubing that is very portable and very effective.
What you can’t do is go from a structured, full body workout program to summer “activities” and expect to maintain the benefits. You’ll come back in the fall having to start up at a much reduced level to reflect what you have lost. So, plan ahead and decide how you can continue your strength and mobility training throughout the summer.