For when you just really, really can’t muster up the will to work out.
Let’s face it: Sometimes the gym is the last place you want to go. It’s true even for those of us who actually enjoy the sweating, burning muscles and heavy breathing.
There are a lot of reasons you may not want to hit the gym on any given day. Maybe you don’t feel like interacting with people. Maybe you haven’t been feeling motivated in your usual workout setting or you’ve run out of ideas (shameless plug for Smarter Sweat programming here). Maybe you simply don’t feel like it, but know you’ll feel better if you just do something to get your body moving.
The fun thing about exercise, though, is that it doesn’t have to feel like exercise. There are countless ways to get active and challenge your body without dragging yourself to the gym when you’d rather not. Here are five killer workout ideas that can get you out of your typical gym environment (and possibly out of your comfort zone).
1. Go for a hike
This is number-one on my list because it’s my go-to when I’m feeling foggy, unmotivated or just “flat.” Hiking — especially if it includes a steep incline, several switchbacks or low-level bouldering — is an intense workout for both body and mind.
While your legs, core and often arms are putting in work to physically get you to summit, your mind is working equally as hard taking in the views, making sure you don’t stumble, and pondering whatever might be on your mind.
The beauty of hiking is that it gives your brain time to breathe and flush out ideas. I often strike great ideas when out and about in the mountains, especially when I’m hiking solo.
Hiking always leaves me feeling refreshed and exhausted, which is exactly the combination I’m seeking when I embark on a hike.
2. Go kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding or swimming
If you’re lucky and live near a body of water that’s safe to swim in, water sports are truly intense workouts disguised as fun outdoor activities. Kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and swimming all promote full-body strength and conditioning.
I kid you not: I’ve never been as tired as I was after paddling a mile out into the Atlantic Ocean. I think I’ll stick to closed-water paddles from now on.
Water sports are perfect for summer days when it’s warm and you don’t want to miss out on any daylight. You can do these activities alone for some serene water time, but they’re fun to do with friends and can serve as social time in addition to training time (and who isn’t looking for more ways to optimize their time?).
3. Find a fitness park
These are usually all over cities and towns. Fitness parks are an awesome way to work out outside of your normal setting. You’ve more than likely seen one before, and maybe you’ve already used one! Before I knew what a fitness park was, I’d always walk or drive past them and wonder why that random equipment was placed there.
It’s far from random, though: Some may have more substance than others, but any open park where you can perform all types of activities is great for fitness that doesn’t feel like “fitness.” Some fitness parks have actual gym equipment like pull-up bars and even offer outdoor bootcamp-like classes, but others are more recreational and offer things like trails and volleyball nets.
Regardless of what equipment is available, fitness parks are a great way to get you heart rate up and challenge your creativity when it comes to fitness programming.
4. Ride a bike or go roller-skating
Swapping shoes for skates or other wheels is a surefire way to challenge muscles you don’t normally use. The best part about biking and skating is that you can make these activities as hard or as easy as you want. If you’re looking for a more intense stimulus, find an area with incline. You can also change the intensity by experimenting with intervals.
Most cities offer more than one bike rental option, and it’s not expensive to take one out for an hour or two. Google is your friend!
5. Go rock climbing
Most cities have an indoor rock climbing gym; if there’s not one in yours, try the next town over. If you’re into extreme sports and live near mountains, actual outdoor rock climbing is an option, too.
Either way, rock climbing is an adrenaline-inducing, super sweaty, non-workout workout. Rock climbing utilizes essentially every muscle in your body, particularly the tiny stabilizer muscles that a lot of us miss when we’re lifting weights. After a good rock climbing session, you’ll find yourself invigorated and just as sweaty as if you’d just spent an hour at the gym.
Smarter Sweat takeaways
Think outside the box!
Let your imagination run for a better and more fulfilling exercise routine. Going to the gym every single day can start to feel repetitive and become boring if you’re not chasing a specific goal or genuinely love hitting the gym.
Even if you love lifting weights or using the StairMaster, going after other activities can improve your fitness by exposing you to new, challenging activities. Activities like the ones above can make you forget that you're exercising because they're so fun and completely engaging for your mind and body.
Just remember: Exercise does not mean “run on a treadmill for hours and be miserable.” Exercise is anything that elevates your heart rate and takes your body outside of its normal comfort zone. Even though it feels counterintuitive (especially for true gym junkies), you might be doing yourself a favor by swapping the gym for something else every once in a while, or even as often as once or twice a week.
By Amanda Capritto
Amanda is the cofounder of Smarter Sweat. She's a certified personal trainer, health coach, and functional fitness coach. She also owns another business, where she writes about all things fitness, nutrition, travel and lifestyle.
About Smarter Sweat
Smarter Sweat is a fitness company built from the ground up by fitness experts Amanda Capritto and Ashley Phantz. Amanda and Ashley are both dead-set on cutting through the clutter of the fitness industry and providing raw, real, utterly honest information about fitness and wellness.