Outdoor Workouts Without Equipment

Maximize your outdoor workouts with these simple, effective body-weight exercises that improve strength, speed, power and flexibility.

By Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS
Apr 26, 2019

It’s that time of year when springtime reinvigorates clients and participants, coaxing them to come out of hibernation and play. Why not leave the fluorescent lights behind and take class outside? Parks, fields, even parking lots are great places to lead outdoor workouts. There are options for everyone—and you don’t have to lug around a bunch of equipment, either. Maximize your time and space by incorporating simple, effective body-weight exercises that improve strength, speed, power and flexibility.

Take the Initiative

For those who live in consistently warm and relatively dry communities, taking classes outside is nearly a year-round option. In other parts of the country, late spring, summer and early fall are ideal for scheduling outdoor fitness classes. Work with your program director to find community-based outdoor locations, including local parks and recreation areas. A bonus: You will expose facility members to outdoor fun and fitness options for the entire family.

Check out your parks and recreation website or look for open spaces that offer a place for safe movement. Scout and explore the area before you take your class on location. Check for paved or gravel pathways, stairs, benches, playground equipment, courts, fields, curbs, walls, and fences. Ensure you have the legal right to be on that site. Some communities require a permit to hold fitness classes in parks and public spaces, so check with your local municipality and be sure you understand the rules and guidelines. Additionally, make certain that your liability insurance is up to date and that it covers workouts and exercise classes outside of the fitness studio location.

No-Equipment Outdoor Workout Guidelines

No equipment outdoor workout
Take your fitness classes outside for a no-equipment workout.

Although this workout requires no equipment, having a few items on hand will make it easier for participants to understand the expectations and follow along with minimal confusion. These tools will also help you, the coach, to stay focused, on task and in control of the group.

Colored cones are useful for marking off a work area. Inexpensive and portable, they can indicate movement boundaries. A stopwatch allows for accurate drill timing, and a whistle is handy for signaling exercise switches, start and stop expectations for cardio drills, and class duration.

Movement Terms

To help attendees grasp what’s expected of them, use consistent terminology for drills and exercises.

BASIC DRILLS

  • Movements are easy to follow.
  • Each participant performs them at his or her own pace within the time frame.
  • The exercises can be partner-based, team-based or performed individually.

PACER-PARTNER CHALLENGES

  • One person is the “pacer” and the other the “partner.”
  • The pacer sets the timing for the movement block.
  • The partner keeps going until the pacer has completed the assigned activity, and then they switch places.
  • Both partner and pacer keep moving through the assigned drills. The pacer takes the lead (sets the pace) on the switches until time is called.

GROUP CHALLENGES

  • Everyone is tasked with the same activity.
  • The challenges are timed.
  • The bouts are typically short bursts of high-intensity activities.

No-Equipment Outdoor Workout Sampler

Refer to the following examples to create safe, effective and consistent fitness experiences in the outdoor environment. This format is easy to replicate and can be adjusted based on participants’ needs and the space available.

WARMUP (5–10 MINUTES)

Form lines and perform these drills in 30- to 60-second intervals:

  • high knees, walking
  • high knees, jogging
  • front crawl
  • lateral shuffle (R and L)
  • quadruped bird dog
  • forearm plank

ROUND ONE: BASIC DRILL (5 MINUTES)

  • Power walk, jog or run on walking trail or path (use cones to mark start and end points or to create a “track” if there isn’t one).
  • Perform squat jack 10x and lateral skater 20x.
  • Goal: 2 rounds. Continue to work, repeating all drills until time is called.

ROUND TWO: PACER–PARTNER CHALLENGE (5 MINUTES)

Pacer

  • Do forearm side-plank leg lift 10x each side.
  • Perform body-weight bridge 20x.

Partner

  • Do burpees (vertical jump and pushup are optional) (pacer sets time).
  • Goal: 2 rounds.

The pacer completes all reps and then switches with the partner when complete. Pacer and partner continue to switch until time is called.

ROUND THREE: PACER–PARTNER CHALLENGE (10 MINUTES)

Pacer

  • Do walking lunges to cone, then back again.

Partner

  • Perform jumping jack 20x, situp 10x and pushup 5x.
  • Goal: 2 rounds.
  • The pacer completes the entire distance and then switches with the partner when complete. Pacer and partner continue to switch until time is called.

ROUND FOUR: GROUP CHALLENGE (3 MINUTES)

Do plank jack 50x and frogger (deep squat jump with fingertips touching ground between jumps) 50x. Anyone who finishes before time is called is rewarded with extra rest and encouraged to cheer on the others as they complete the challenge.

For cooldown, best practices and coaching tips, see “No-Equipment Outdoor Workouts” in the online IDEA Library or in the April 2019 print edition of Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.

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Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS

"Irene McCormick, MS, is the 2018 IDEA Instructor of the Year and the senior director of fitness education for Orangetheory Fitness® in Boca Raton, Florida. Former adjunct faculty at Drake University, Irene is a master course instructor for TRX®, a lead conference educator for WaterRower®, a Savvier Fitness master trainer, a Ryka® brand ambassador and an award-winning conference educator. She has also written two books, and is a subject matter expert for ACE, NASM, Human Kinetics and Orangetheory."

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