Outdoor weight training

I lift weights indoors at the gym all winter. Now that summer is here, I don't want to be stuck inside. How can I keep my muscles toned?

You’re not alone. I also hate working out inside when the weather is warm and the sun is shining. The good news is, lifting weights at the gym isn’t the only way to maintain muscle tone. During the summer, I’d encourage you to take a sabbatical from the weight room. Instead, when you’re outside for a walk or run, take advantage of the objects you find along the way to keep your muscles toned and strong.

Before you do any kind of muscle conditioning, warm up with at least five minutes of cardio exercise, such as walking, running or cycling. Then make your way to a park and try these four muscle-toning moves. Try combining these exercises with a variety of cardio workouts. By mixing up your routine, you’ll be less likely to get bored with exercising so you’ll stay motivated all summer long. Remember to stretch your muscles afterwards, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

For your arms: stand behind a bench with your hands on the backrest positioned a little wider than shoulder width apart. Keep your abdominals contracted and your back in its neutral position, with just a slight arch. Now slowly lower your chest toward the bench and then return to the starting position. When you’re a beginner, you may want to take a break between repetitions. Do eight to 20 reps.

For your legs: face the bench with one foot on the seat. Keep your knee facing forward and your weight distributed evenly on all four corners of your foot. Slowly step up extending the supporting knee into a fully upright, balanced position. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Perform eight to 20 reps for each leg.

For your back and arms: hold on firmly to the bars just above your head with your hands positioned about shoulder width apart. Pull your body upward, while pushing up with your legs. (If you’re short, you may need to jump up slightly to reach the monkey bars.) Stop when your chin clears the bar. Slowly return to the starting position. Don’t lock your elbows. Try to focus on pulling with the muscles in your back rather than your arms. Perform five to 15 reps.

For your legs and rear end: stand about one foot away from the pole, holding on to it with both arms almost perfectly straight. Stand on one leg and slowly lower your body weight back and down. Keep your front knee over the top of your ankle and push your hips back as if you were sitting down into a chair. Lower to a 90-degree angle or to a comfortable position. Use your leg muscles to push you back up to the starting position. Perform eight to 20 reps each leg.

Women who aren’t already lifting weights will see dramatic results after doing this workout for eight to 12 weeks. If your muscles are already toned, performing this workout three times a week will keep them that way all summer long. To see more definition, increase the number of sets you do during each workout and you’ll get even greater results.

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc., is the author of Fit Over Forty: The Winning Way to Lifetime Fitness (Raincoast).

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