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Best Outdoor Workouts to Burn Fat and Build Muscle

Getting rid of excess body fat can be challenging, but training outdoors is one of the most effective (and one of our favorite) ways to achieve it. 

When you train outdoors, you have ample space to do activities like sprinting, throwing, and exploring your inner athlete. This change of scenery from the crowded gym to a natural environment can make your workout more exciting and provide you with the added bonus of being free from technology.

Outdoor training provides you with more challenging terrain to test your skills and push both your body and mind to the limit.

Below I have compiled a list of some of my favorite outdoor workouts that you can implement into your routine to help you burn fat and build muscle.

Uphill Sprints

Hill sprints are probably my favorite outdoor workouts as it offers a host of benefits for building muscle and burning fat. By sprinting up a steep incline, you’re challenging your body to work harder than it would on flat ground and it challenges you to be explosive with a short rest between sets. Below are some benefits I’ve noted when it comes to sprinting uphill

  1. Burning More Calories: Hill sprints are a high-intensity workout that can help you burn more calories in less time than low-intensity exercises. When you sprint up a hill, you’re using more energy than you would on a flat surface, which helps to increase your heart rate and thus your total amount of calories burned.
  2. Build Muscle: It is an effective way to build lower body muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. These muscles are responsible for powering your movements during sprints, and by repeatedly challenging them on a hill, you can strengthen and tone them.
  3. Improve Cardiovascular Fitness: A great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. By pushing your heart rate up and then allowing it to recover during rest periods, you’re training your body to handle more intense exercise.
  4. Challenge Your Body: Hill sprints are a challenging workout that can help you push past your limits. By regularly challenging yourself to sprint up steeper hills or complete more reps, you can improve your fitness and feel more confident in your abilities.
  5. Convenient and Affordable: Requires little to no equipment, and you can find a hill almost anywhere. This makes them a convenient and affordable way to get a great workout while enjoying the outdoors.

Different Methods of Uphill Sprints

With uphill sprints there are many variations you can choose from in order to structure an effective workout. Below I have included some of my favorite variations. 

All variations begin with a light jog (about 15 mins) to get to the hill. 

Pyramid Sprints (7 sprints)

  1. Light jog up the hill and walk back down.
  2. Moderate run up the hill and walk back down.
  3. Fast paced, run up the hill and jog back down.
  4. Sprint up the hill and jog back down.
  5. Fast paced, run up the hill and jog back down.
  6. Moderate run up the hill and walk back down.
  7. Light jog up the hill and walk back down.

You can adjust the speed, number of sprints, and number of sprint sets depending on your physical ability and then can continuously adjust them as you improve. Also note that the “rest” period happens when you are walking back down so once you get to the bottom of the hill it’s time to run back up.

High Intensity Interval Sprints (HIIT) 

This technique simply involves you sprinting/running up the hill then jogging/walking back down to the bottom to begin again. Again with these sprints you can do as many of them as you can and then stop when your workout is done.

I generally like to do 10-15 depending on how big the hill is and how inclined it is. 

Distance Sprints

This is another good workout that involves keeping the same intensity but increasing the distance and rest times. 

With this I’ll generally map out segments on the hill using markers (trees) or counting steps. 

Start by sprinting the shortest distance, then jog or walk back down the hill. Repeat this until you have sprinted the length of the whole hill.

Depending on the size of the hill, your level of fitness and the elevation of the hill you can take a short break and then repeat the distance sprints until you feel you have gotten a good workout. 

Go for a Challenging Hike 

Hiking is probably one of my favorite outdoor workouts that again can build both muscle and can also help burn fat. Again, similar to the uphill sprints, hiking is easily accessible for everyone and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get into. Here are some of the reasons hiking can be a good outdoor workout for you.

  1. Cardiovascular Health: Hiking is an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular health. By walking on varied terrain and inclines, you’re challenging your heart and lungs to work harder, which can help to improve your overall fitness and endurance.
  2. Muscle Building: Hiking is a full-body workout that engages a variety of muscles, including the legs, core, and arms. As you walk uphill, your leg muscles work to propel you forward, while your core muscles work to stabilize your body. Hiking downhill engages your muscles differently, as your legs and core work to control your movement and balance.
  3. Stress Reduction: Hiking can be a great way to reduce stress and improve mental health. Being in nature and getting exercise has been shown to boost mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
  4. Low-Impact Exercise: Hiking is a low-impact exercise that puts less stress on your joints than high-impact activities like running. This makes it an excellent option for people who have joint pain or are recovering from an injury.
  5. Scenic Views: Hiking allows you to explore scenic trails and enjoy breathtaking views. This can make your workout more enjoyable and provide a sense of accomplishment as you reach your destination.
  6. Socialization: Hiking can also be a social activity that allows you to connect with others while getting exercise. Joining a hiking group or inviting friends to join you can provide accountability and motivation. Hiking can also be a good educational activity for the whole family including kids. Many parks and conservation grounds have a lot of signage which can help your children learn about nature while staying active at the same time. 

Variations

If you don’t have many really challenging hikes in your area or would like to make your challenging hikes harder you can try some harder variations.

  1. Hike wearing a weighted backpack. Weighted backpacks can certainly add to the workout and will definitely leave your legs sore once the hike is over. It will help build more leg and core strength and will help you improve your balance and core stability. 
  2. Hike with trekking poles: Trekking poles (also known as hiking poles) allow you to use your upper body which can help you move faster and keep your heart rate elevated longer which can help you burn more fat. This also helps take some of the load off your lower body and helps engage your upper body. 
  3. Use sandbags on your arms and legs: Similar to the weighted backpack, I’ve seen many people choose to use sandbags that attach to their ankles and wrists. This again helps to weigh you down and will make a much harder and more effective workout. 

Kayaking, Canoeing or Paddle Boarding

Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are great workouts because they engage a wide variety of muscle groups that you generally don’t use every day. These three activities are also quite low impact (especially lower body impact) making it a great exercise for people with bad knees.

  1. Upper body workout: Paddling requires a lot of upper body strength, particularly in the shoulders, back, arms, and chest. As you paddle through the water, you’re pushing and pulling against the resistance of the water, which provides a great workout for these muscle groups.
  2. Core workout: To maintain balance on a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, you need to engage your core muscles. This helps to strengthen your abs, obliques, and lower back muscles, which can improve posture and stability.
  3. Cardiovascular Workout: Paddling is a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that can get your heart rate up and improve your endurance. It’s a great way to improve your overall fitness and can be a fun way to get some cardio exercise.
  4. Low Impact: Unlike some other forms of exercise, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are low-impact activities that are gentle on your joints. This makes them a good option for people who may have injuries or other conditions that make high-impact exercise difficult.
  5. Mental Health Benefits: Being out on the water and enjoying nature can be a great way to reduce stress and improve mental health. This can have a positive impact on your overall well-being and make it easier to stick with an exercise routine.

Watersports are a different kind of workout that is a bit less traditional than sprinting and hiking. Unfortunately you will need some equipment however if you are close to a body of water, there are likely a lot of good rental options near you which will help make it a bit more accessible. 

Outdoor Sports

Another one of my favorite ways to burn fat and build muscle outdoors is through outdoor sports. Sports allow you to push your body in ways you simply cannot in a conventional workout or conventional gym. 

Firstly, outdoor sports often involve full-body movements that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. For example, activities like running, cycling, swimming, or playing soccer require the use of your legs, core, and upper body to some extent.

These movements work your muscles in a more comprehensive way than simple isolated exercises like bicep curls or leg extensions, making them more effective at building overall strength and endurance.

Secondly, outdoor sports often involve high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or other forms of cardiovascular exercise that can help you burn calories and fat. 

These explosive movements can get your heart rate up and keep it there for extended periods, which can help you burn calories both during and after your workout.

Thirdly, outdoor sports can be more enjoyable and engaging than traditional gym workouts. This can motivate you to stay active for longer periods and push yourself harder, which can help you build muscle and burn fat more effectively over time.

Some of my favorite outdoor sport workouts include;

  • Spikeball
  • Volleyball
  • Basketball
  • Swimming
  • Tennis

I hope this article helps you better understand some of the benefits associated with outdoor exercise and outdoor workouts and will help you keep active by diversifying your workout routines. 

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