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outdoor-gymAs the weather finally is getting nicer in most of the U.S., spring is a great time to take your workout outdoors. Although you may have to deal with some occasional showers, conditions generally are favorable for breaking free of the gym periodically.

And to mix things up from your usual runs or bike rides, consider using the outdoors as your own outdoor gym. No need to bring anything extra. A park with a playground – plus some creativity – will provide some fun, different ways to exercise.

Once you get started, you may think of other ways to use the outdoors as your own outdoor gym. And if you don’t have everything listed here, no worries. Improvise as necessary. Here we’ve identified some common “equipment” and corresponding exercises to keep you moving.

  1. Benches – Lots of options with these versatile tools.
    • Squats – Facing away from the bench, feet hip-width apart, squat down until your butt touches the surface; then stand up and raise your right knee. Repeat and lift the left knee. Alternate for one to two sets of 15-25 reps.
    • Dips – Sitting on the front end of the bench with fingers curled over the edge, slide your hips off the bench and lower and lift hips while bending elbows 90 degrees and extending straight behind you. Repeat for one to two sets of 15-25 reps.
    • Incline push-ups – Facing bench, put your hands shoulder-width apart on surface and step back to an incline plank position. Lower and lift your torso, bending your elbows, while performing push-ups. As an option, alternate a straight leg lift behind you as you lower torso. Repeat for one to two sets of 15-20 reps.
  2. Monkey Bars – You can use them the traditional way or try:
    • Ab curls – Holding one bar with an overhand grip, with arms extended, curl bent knees toward chest and hold, then lower, without letting feet touch the ground. Repeat for one to two sets of 10-15 reps.
    • Modified pull-ups – Set up in the top position of a pull-up with elbows bent and chin above the bar. Lift your feet up and bend knees; then slowly lower body until arms are fully extended. Stand up and repeat for one to two sets of 10-15 reps.
  3. Swings – Skip sitting down and do these instead:
    • Bulgarian split squats – Facing away from swing, put your right foot on top of swing (shoelaces down); step forward with left foot and lunge down and up. Repeat 15-20 reps; then switch legs.
    • Reverse crunches – Get in plank position and place both feet on top of the swing. Pull knees to chest (tuck), and extend legs straight, keeping feet in the swing. Repeat for one to two sets of 15-20 reps.
  4. Hills – Run up the hill and walk down. Or try walking lunges uphill, or walk backwards uphill. Repeat 5-10 sets.
  5. Curbs – Step up, up, down, down fast for 30 seconds with your right leg; then repeat on the left leg. Recover 30 seconds and repeat set two more times.
  6. Trees – A versatile tool in your outdoor gym
    • Wall sits – With your back against the tree, bend knees in front of you and hold a squat for 30-60 seconds. Recover 30 seconds and repeat set two more times.
    • Handstands – Starting in plank with your feet close to the base of the tree, walk your feet up the tree as your hands move closer to the trunk. Hold an inline plank or go all the way to handstand. Repeat one to two times.
  7. Outdoor stadiums – Jog up and walk down the stands carefully so you don’t stumble.