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Outdoor Training: An Insiders Guide

by Nick Baines August 24, 2020

Outdoor Fitness – Training In Nature

Coronavirus forced a lot of us to take our fitness regimes out of the gyms and into our gardens, parks and streets. When the government declared we could only go outside for exercise, the number of runners and cyclists swelled. New habits were formed, social media took a new turn, and ‘couch to 5k’ saw newcomers fall in love with running.

Away from air-conditioning units and recirculated air, outdoor training is one of the best ways to improve your fitness. And here’s our favourite ways to do just that:

Run Hill Repeats

Whether you’re looking to shorten your 5k time, or improve your stamina in sports like football, rugby or skiing, running hill repeats is a sure-fire way to get you there. First, you need to find a decent hill to climb – 100-200 metres should do it and you can always build up from there. It’s important not to find a hill that’s too big, as the goal here is to sprint up as fast as you can.

Warm up before you begin, then launch up the hill at a fast, but steady pace. Keep your body upright with a slight lean up the hill. Once at the top, it’s time for the slow walk down – a time to rest – before we do it all again. Look to start at around three repeats your first week, and add an extra one each week going forward. Running hill repeats can really give your legs a burn, so you probably only want to do these once a week, balancing it out with flatter runs and other workouts.

Create Outdoor Circuits

A lot of public parks and woodlands have circuit equipment dotted throughout. These can include everything from pull up bars and log lifts, to sit-up decks and climbing walls. These can be a great way to keep your outdoor training fun and varied. Some might be scattered along a 5k running loop, while others may be sporadically located in a much smaller setting.

However, you don’t need all this fancy outdoor equipment to do circuits, you can lean on a bench to do some dips or drop to the floor for push-ups and burpees. Whatever circuit setup you can access or create, treat your routine like a HIT workout, spending no more than two minutes on each activity, with the aim of building to three or four rounds depending on your fitness and ability levels.

Wild Swimming

Swimming is a great low impact activity that builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. Open water swimming needs to be approached with caution and knowledge of local currents and tides, while rivers require their own safety precautions. One of the big rules of wild swimming is that you should never go alone. 

Even in the city you can still find access to some great swimming spots. In London the Hampstead Heath ponds have year round swimmers, posing another health benefit of wild swimming, cold water immersion.

Cold water immersion is another subject to tackle entirely and again needs safety measures in place, but with proponents like Wim Hoff extolling the virtues of cold water on the nervous system, it’s an activity that can have profound benefits on the body.

Nick Baines
Nick Baines


With an insatiable thirst for travel, Nick Baines is a journalist based on the UK’s south coast. With more than 20 years experience in snow sports, he’s contributed features to publications all over the world.


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