Ditch the gym and head outdoors to get that beach body

Posted May 13, 2013, at 3:18 p.m.

You want an athletic beach body badly enough to work for it. That doesn’t mean you have to do the work in a metal and mirrored gym. You can get even more effective conditioning using the natural world outside.

The ordinary features of the outdoors can help build muscle while getting rid of body fat. Repeatedly sprinting up a small but steep hill will work your heart — and your butt — better than a boring treadmill.

If your local terrain includes a dry creek bed, consider yourself lucky. You can use rocks along the creek bottom to improve your agility and foot precision. This will help you move like the wind through traffic in any team sport, or over and around obstacles when you’re mountain biking or skating.

Best of all, a natural workout is a major calorie burner. You can keep going until your body is tired, without worrying about reps or sets. You can also use weight assistance that would be out of place in a gym.

To use free-weight assistance, put a light dumbbell or weight plate in a backpack. Keep it from shifting around by stuffing in a towel or two. Carrying additional weight will help you burn twice as many calories during a natural training session than you would without the weight. Start light, with just five or 10 pounds at the beginning. The additional weight will change your center of mass, so you will have to instinctively learn new balance points as you work out while packing weight.

Gradually increase the amount of weight you carry, but always adjust it to your activity level. If you’re doing a sedate training session, you can go up to, but never, ever over, 20 percent of your body weight. If your natural workout is more active, keep the carried weight below 15 percent of your body weight. Always make sure the weight is secured so it won’t move around.

Use a low-hanging tree branch to do pull ups. If you don’t have the strength to do a full pull up, start with negatives. This is the lowering, rather than lifting part of an exercise, called the eccentric part of the movement. To simplify, eccentric movement lengthens the muscle fibers and builds strength faster than the concentric, or lifting phase of an exercise. However, because the muscles are being stretched, any negative movement must be done slowly.

To do a negative on a tree branch, jump up, grab the branch and hold yourself in the up position, then slowly lower yourself until your arms are straight or your feet touch the ground. After several weeks of negative sessions, you’ll be strong enough and muscular enough to do a regular complete pull up.

Use the weight in your pack to do deadlifts. With the weight a few feet in front of your toes, bend over at the hips, keeping your back in a straight line, and pick up the weight. Stand up straight, then bend over (again, from the hips, with a straight back) and put the weight down.

Deadlifts develop the glutes, giving that nicely rounded booty that looks so good in jeans or a bathing suit. As you become accustomed to wilderness (and urban) workouts, you’ll get more creative about finding ways to work your muscles and raise your heart rate.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly the fat melts away when you start doing natural workouts. All those muscles you’re building will begin to show as the layer of fat covering them disappears. By mid-summer, you’ll be looking fit, and more than ready to hit the beach.

Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly. Visit Adventure Sports Weekly at adventuresportsweekly.com.

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