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Elevate Your Outdoor Workout 

Compared with gym workouts, exercising outside can boost your health and mental well-being, make workouts more enjoyable, and reduce your perceived effort so you can push yourself harder. But if you’re doing the same thing each day, it’s time to re-evaluate your routine.

For cyclists …

• Join a club. Riding with more advanced cyclists can push you to go harder and longer. Plus, you’ll make friends and challenge yourself with new routes. USA Cycling can help you find a club.

• Go farther. Increasing your mileage will help your endurance, but boost mileage by no more than 10% per week to avoid injury.

For runners …

• Add interval training. Push yourself at a high intensity for a few minutes, then ease up with an equal-length recovery at a low-to-moderate intensity. For example, jog for 10 minutes, run at a high intensity for 2 to 5 minutes, then return to a lower intensity jog for the same amount of time. That’s one interval. Repeat 4 to 6 times.

• Run for the hills. Adding steeper terrain to your training will increase your strength, speed, and power. Hills engage muscles you don’t use when navigating flat surfaces.

For swimmers …

• Take a lesson. Proper stroke technique is key for improving form, efficiency, and performance. A session with a swim coach can improve your skills.

• Master a different stroke. Acquiring a new stroke will strengthen different muscles and challenge your mind.

For hikers …

• Get low. Eccentric muscle contractions are the downward or lowering phase of exercises such as squats and lunges—and they occur as you hike downhill. Add a few of these moves to your workouts each week. To do a squat emphasizing the eccentric action:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width and your toes turned slightly outward.

  2. Inhale as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees as you slowly lower your hips. Engage your core and try to keep your back flat. Continue lowering your hips until your thighs are nearly parallel with the floor.

  3. Exhale as you straighten your hips and knees and return to standing.

• Pick up the pace. To incorporate speed work, pick an object in the distance and increase your pace as you make your way to it quickly and nimbly. Repeat 3 to fo 4 times during hikes 2 to 3 times per week.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2018
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