Now that the weather is heating up, it's time to get outside—but that doesn't mean skipping your usual strength training session for a walk!
Charlotte is home to several outdoor strength training circuits, also known as parcourse or fitness trails.
These trails are often between one and two miles in length and have stations set up with outdoor-friendly gear like pull-up bars, so that you can do a workout while you walk. These stations can provide a fun way to focus on strength while getting in your steps for the day.
In Charlotte, you can find fitness park circuits in McAlpine Creek Park, First Ward Park and many more small set-ups throughout the city.
Check out Calisthenics-Parks.com to see what's closest to you. But even if you don't have a specific fitness circuit complete with pull-up bars, monkey bars and spots to do ab curls and calf raises, you can add a strength-training element to any walk, without gear.
To make the most out of these places, here are a few salient (and strength-focused) things to remember:
No, You Don't Have to Do a Pull-Up
Remember, outdoor fitness circuit setups are great for everyone, not just for CrossFit junkies with huge muscles!
You may not be able to do a set of five pull ups, but you can still get great strength benefits from simply hanging from the pull-up bars and engaging your core.
Be Okay Feeling Goofy
Admittedly, some fitness equipment is just a little silly—just take a look at the options at First Ward Park!
But you can have fun using different equipment and trying new things. Look at it as an opportunity to play on a playground designed for adults.
And if you’re unsure about going at it alone, feel free to bring along a friend with a good sense of humor for the session.
Stay Within Your Limits
Some equipment may be confusing or simply too tall or high for you to comfortably reach. If that's the case, don't force yourself to do movements that feel scary or uncomfortable.
Instead, swap them out for some walking lunges or jumping jacks so you're not skipping the exercise altogether. As any yoga instructor will tell you, there’s absolutely no shame in modifying exercises for your abilities.
Take a few notes after each time you run through a fitness circuit. List things like the number of repetitions you were able to do or seconds you were able to hang.
Just like you would see in an actual gym, it's exciting to see gradual improvement. For some people, this can help keep you motivated to continue to use the circuit, and show you that it really is working.
Bring a Friend
If you feel self-conscious doing a fitness circuit by yourself, enlist a friend to come along for the walk. It's a lot more fun to have company while you squat, stretch, and walk.
Plus, you'll have the added benefit of accountability! Research has found that a supportive exercise partner makes you much more inclined to never miss a workout.
Show Up Prepared
Remember that this will be a tougher workout than your usual walk, so make sure you’re prepared with some water, possibly a small towel if it’s a hot day, plenty of sunscreen and of course, hand sanitizer!
Turn Any Walk Into a HIIT Session
These fitness stations are a good reminder to do more than simply walk 30 minutes everyday. Yes, it's helpful when a circuit is entirely laid out for you, but you can add a series of bodyweight exercises to any walking loop and create your own trail.
Every tenth of a mile, or every 300 steps, or every two minutes—you choose your distance!—add in a high intensity interval element by stopping to do a 30 to 60 second burst of high-intensity exercise. Whether or not you have fitness stations along your walking route, you can create a DIY experience.
Designate a spot on your usual walk route where you'll stop to do a set of jumping jacks. Find a bench to use to do elevated pushups. Pick a grassy area to do a set of air squats. Look for a curb to do calf raises. Pick a section where you'll do walking lunges.
Just those few exercises will get your heart rate up and turn your walk into a great mini-strength session. No gear required!
Written by Molly Hurford for Matcha in partnership with OrthoCarolina.