Just because money’s a bit tight doesn’t mean you have to forego your exercise routine. There are plenty of exercises you can do without it costing you a penny. Just down the road from us there’s a park featuring some exercise equipment, which encourages the local community to be more active. The equipment is by The Great Outdoor Gym Company (TGOGC) and there are outdoor gyms like this TGOGC scattered across London and the UK, as well as all the mainland states in Aus (except Victoria. Tassie and The Territories lucked out too, I’m afraid). The outdoor gym in the park near us was part of a project in collaboration with Adidas in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympics. They’re a great way to get a resistance training session in without having to fork out cash for a gym visit. There’s quite a good range of exercises you can perform with this equipment and it’s fantastic for people just starting out. The actual resistance is fairly low but you can easily adjust other facets to make it worth your while if you’re a bit more advanced.
It’s also outdoors, so a great way to get some fresh air in your lungs and potentially some vitamin D (weather permitting)
I’m a big fan of circuits/HIIT. They have so much going for them. They’ll improve your cardiovascular fitness, increase your V0₂Max (the amount of oxygen you use to make energy) and can give you a full body workout at the same time. The better your cardiovascular fitness/V0₂Max, the more efficiently you’ll burn fat, even when you’re resting.
First of all, get yourself a timer. Something that’ll keep track of each interval as you go through. If you have a smartphone, there are plenty of free timing apps available. To start with, try to perform each exercise for 30sec and then rest for 30sec. As your fitness improves, increase the interval time whilst reducing the rest time, i.e. 35sec exercising then 25sec rest. This will keep your body from plateauing.
Make sure you warm up before you get into the circuit. This will get your body ready for what you’re about to put it through and lessen the risk of injury. A light jog around the park and a bit of dynamic stretching should do the trick. Otherwise, you could use the cross-trainer or exercise bike if your outdoor gym has one.
Here’s one of my favourite circuits I’ve done at my local park:
Start by lunging forward. Your knees should both be at 90º. Ensure your torso stays vertical and you’ve taken a big enough step forward so that your front knee isn’t further forward than your toes. From here use your front heel to push yourself back to the starting position. Then lunge forward with the other leg. If you want an additional challenge, perform plyometric lunges by springing up into the air and switch your front leg to the back and vice-versa, lowering yourself into a lunge once again (just like the first lunge but with legs switched). Spring back into the air and repeat the exercise for the full work time.
Sit up tall and grasp the handles (they should be at mid-chest height). Push the handles forward and squeeze your chest as you do so. Control the movement as you return your arms to the starting position. Repeat without resting for the full work time maintaining a steady (but not rushed) pace.
Position your feet equally spaced on the platform. Hold on to the handles and brace your core/abs. Twist back and forth so that your feet point towards the left and then the right, maintaining tension in your core. Try to keep your head and shoulders still and use your core for the movement.
(Assisted) Pull-Ups or Lat Pulldown
The choice here will depend on the equipment available and your level of upper body strength. Assisted Pull-Up and Lat Pulldown are the easier choices. Grab the overhead handles/bar just wider than shoulder-width. As you pull yourself up, squeeze your shoulder blades together to engage your lats. Control the movement as you come back down. Keep a steady pace throughout the full work time.
Make sure you engage your arms as well as pedalling with your legs and maintain a decent pace for the full work time.
Hanging from an overhead horizontal/pull-up bar, engage your core as you raise your knees up towards your chest. Try to get them to at least horizontal or slightly beyond. Slowly lower your legs back to the starting position keeping your core engaged to minimise swinging. To make this more challenging, try keeping your legs straight and raise them out in front of you. Maintain a steady, controlled pace throughout the work time.
Start standing with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes pointing out about 30°. Then push your hips back and lower your butt like you’re sitting back into a chair until your thighs are parallel to the ground or lower. Make sure your knees follow the line of your toes but don’t go further forward than them and maintain the natural curvature of your spine (no hunching). Next engage your glutes, push through your heels and return to the starting position.
Sit with your back supported and your feet flat on the ground. Reach out, grab the handles and pull them towards yourself, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do. Make sure to keep your chest “proud” and control the movement throughout the range of motion.
These can be performed on parallel bars or on the edge of a bench. If you’re using a bench you can adjust the degree of difficulty by altering the distance your feet are away from you. Sit on the edge of the bench with your hands just outside your hips. Support your weight with your arms as you move your butt off the edge of the bench. Keeping your elbows pointing straight back, lower yourself towards the ground before pushing yourself back up. That’s one dip. Repeat for the full work time. If using parallel bars, keeping your torso upright and elbows pointing straight back will focus on your triceps. If you lean slightly forward and allow your elbows to point out to the sides, this will focus more on your upper chest.
Floor Sprints/Mountain Climbers
Start in a push-up position, ensuring your shoulders are directly over your wrists. Bring one knee in towards your chest and return it to the starting position. Repeat with the other knee. Pick up speed so your legs are in a “running” motion.
After each round of 10 exercises give yourself 1min rest before starting the next round. Perform 3 rounds for a really good workout in under 40mins. BOOM!