Are you thinking of taking more of your workouts outdoors?
Awesome! Definitely do so.
And then, get to it.
There is so much more than running and walking that you can do outside. You can also bring your kettlebells outside, climb a pole at the kid's playground or even using a tree branch as a pull up bar.
But there might be something that is holding you back from doing all those awesome things outside. You may be worried, what if I look weird when I do things like this?
I will give you some reasons why I think you should stop worrying about anything like this. You may not be able to get rid of the feeling of awkwardness right away, but I hope my advice helps you to start taking small steps towards doing your own thing and not caring what somebody else may think of it.
Nature Was First
What would people think if I, all of the sudden, grabbed ahold of a branch of a tree to do a pull up or did a set of explosive jumps to a park bench?
Is that what you are concerned about?
When you are worried about something like this, you won't be able to add much needed spontaneity into your outdoor activities. And then, you miss out a lot.
In the gym, no problems like this exist. Because gym is made for working out. It's a place created for people so that they can go there to move themselves. At the gym, there are a ton of pull up bars and boxes that you can do for the exact same exercises that you could easily do outside, like pull ups and box jumps.
Sure, having gyms around is a great thing, because you may not always have access to nature. (But maybe that's because you haven't looked closely enough?)
When you think of it, nature and all it has to offer was there way before barbells, chin up bars or dumbbells were invented. Even though I do workout with my portable equipment such as kettlebells or medicine balls (most of the time, outside), there is also so much to do with using nature's and outdoors equipment too.
So why would working out outside be any more weird than working out at the gym?
It's not. It's actually way cooler, if you ask me.
What If I Look Weird?
So, what if somebody will actually see you outside doing a log workout?
First of all, it's probably someone you don't even know, so why to worry?
But if it is someone you do know?
Then, don't hide behind the tree but take it as a chance to tell what it is and why you are doing this. Maybe they want to try it out too?
For most cases, nobody will even care about what you are doing. The barriers are in your own head and you are pretty much the only one who lets the thought of looking weird distract yourself.
There are some exceptions though. Sometimes people do get interested. They may ask you questions or say comments about what you do. But from my experience, those comments and questions have been all positive and friendly.
Here are some examples of what I've been told when I'm doing something strange, like flipping a rock or doing burpees with a log:
- Is this CrossFit?
- How did you get that strong?
- Is this a new type of workout?
- That looks awesome, but I could never do that! (which is not true – You could!)
- Can I join you, this looks fun?!
- I want you on my team!
See? Only positive, fun questions.
So, do what you want to do. Once you stop caring about others opinion and looking weird, you will feel more awesome, get proud of yourself and enjoy your workouts much more. Plus, you get positive and inspiring compliments.
The “Weird” Things I Do
To encourage you to think outside of the box and to incorporate some spontaneous outdoors activities into your workouts, I want to tell you about couple of those weird things that I'm doing.
1. I Do Weighted Walks
Weighted walks have lately become one of my favorite type of activities. Walking is a great exercise itself, but carrying additional pounds on your shoulders or on your back makes it even harder, making the workout even better.
I don't know if someone thinks that I'm crazy or not when I'm walking around my neighborhood with a pink flashy sandbag on my shoulder, playing like I'm carrying a log.
If they do, that's okay. They are probably looking at me from the comfort of their living room while watching TV. I think there are much better ways to use my time, and for me, it's carrying my “log” and listening to a podcast, getting a nice workout in at the same time.
Another way of doing weighted walks is something less weird. You can use a weighted vest or fill your backpack with something heavy. I've used kettlebells and dumbbell plates, but you can put there anything you like, from books to pounds of rice. Nobody sees what you have in your bag, if that's what you are still concerned about.
2. I'm Using Playgrounds As My Gym
It's okay to act like a child, so get to the playground! Monkey bars are perfect for practicing pull ups. Two parallel bars can be used for triceps dips. Take advantage of the swings to give yourself some serious core work.
Sure, I probably won't go take away the room from kids if the playground is packed. But most of the time there is room for all of us.
Do the parents mind? Not that I've noticed. Most people are really nice and if anything, get curious about what you're doing.
Do kids care? Oh yes. You may get a little audience that wants to do the same things as you are doing. I'm very sure they'd love to see their parents do those things as well, so what they see may be a great example for them.
3. I Do (Some of) My Workouts Barefoot
If the conditions are good, I love to workout barefoot. However, I choose where to do it, because not all places are too safe for that. But I do take my shoes off often when I'm running at the park on a lawn or if I have a rare opportunity to run at the beach.
That's something I did last weekend in San Simeon while we were road tripping. I love to run every time when I'm in a new place – that's a tradition that I have been having for years. Our hotel was less than half a mile from the beach and as soon as I got near the water in the morning, I took my shoes off and did the rest of my workout, some sprints, push ups and squats, barefoot.
I actually ran back to our hotel barefoot too. And yes, I did see people noticing it as I was getting closer to the hotel area. I saw some surprised, funny faces!
Jogging, sprinting and jumping in the sand or any other natural surface makes us to use those muscles of our feet that are otherwise comfortably covered with and protected by our running shoes. Surprise your body and remind to it that it actually has a whole bunch of muscles to take care of.
See, going barefoot is not weird but it's fun and useful.
4. I Workout When the Weather Is Not Perfect
A lot of people would see a light rain as a great reason to skip the exercise. They look out from their window and see you running and think, What a crazy person.
But rain or a little bit cold won't kill you. Sometimes you may spend hours putting off the workout just because the weather is not good enough.
I grew up with pretty bad weather that you could never rely on, so often I just had to go now or not go at all. I chose the first option. After all, it will get difficult to reach your goals if you skip your workouts most days of the week, because the weather was too cold / too hot / it was windy / it was raining a bit.
Sure, going out in a pouring rain or extreme heat or cold are different things. But be realistic and think if getting a little wet really is such a big problem.
When you get yourself together and go out to do your workout, you feel awesome later. You will feel even stronger than before and will become, as Mark Rippetoe puts it, even harder to kill.
In your neighborhood, you may become known as this weird man or woman who runs even in the rain. How cool is that?
There is absolutely no reason to think that the unconventional exercises that you are doing in outdoors and in nature gym are weird by any means.
By getting rid of the feelings of awkwardness or weirdness, by giving your body a chance to move more naturally in more natural conditions, you will learn to enjoy moving so much more. Your will feel great, because you experience the freedom that comes with being closer to nature.
But there is so much more than that. Working out in nature, doing what you want the way you want is extremely freeing for your mind too.