Playing & Training

How to Work Out Without a Gym in Sight

Person digging with spade

When the sight of yet another barbell is bringing you down, it may be time to change up your training regime with an outdoor workout. Whether it be chopping trees, stand-up paddleboarding, open-water running in the surf or even just exerting yourself in the garden, there are plenty of diverting activities to keep yourself trim – outside of the gym!

How does your garden grow?

Gardening is ranked as a moderate to strenuous exercise by fitness experts, in the same class as a brisk walk or a cycling trip through the countryside. If you are shovelling soil, for example, you will be exercising all the major muscle groups – thighs, glutes, biceps, lower back and abdominal muscles – and burning a good amount of calories. The green-fingered will also be limbering up as they stretch for weeds and branches, bend down to tend to a plant or rake up fallen leaves. Digging a hole will burn some 200 calories per half-hour for men, and 150 for women; likewise, men will use up 157 calories through weeding, and for women, the figure will be around the same. This sum is akin to cycling for five miles or walking for two miles in 30 minutes.

You will need to be gardening for a minimum of half an hour several times a week to feel the benefits, but you’ll be increasing your flexibility, strengthening your joints and decreasing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels while hopefully taking in the sunshine. Always use your legs to lift up heavy items with your hands in the garden, and vary your tasks and movements to give yourself a full body workout.

Person chops wood on log

Chop, chop – get chopping

Swinging an axe at a tree or chopping firewood is not only a hugely cathartic exercise, it also burns between 400 and 500 calories an hour. If you’re looking to beef up your arms, you may be disappointed though, since chopping wood is much more of a cardio and core-muscle workout than a conditioning exercise for your biceps and other muscles. In fact, if you bring the axe down the centre line of your body, you exercise the very same muscles you would when performing a crunch.

You can always bulk up your arms by shifting the wood you have chopped. Make sure you pick an axe with a short handle for more control and power, with a blade that is around a kilo in weight. Wear safety glasses, thinnish gloves for grip, and stout boots. Lift the axe until it is slightly above your head and in the centre of your body. Your hands should be at opposite ends of the axe’s shaft, with your top hand sliding from near the blade down towards your lower hand as you bring the tool down in a line between your eyes and body. Try to have the wood you wish to chop at a height of around 40-45cm.

Water, water everywhere – so use it

Getting away from the gym will add some pep to your rugby fitness programme. Head to the ocean, river or sea for some free resistance training. Unlike pounding away on the treadmill or the cross-trainer, water-based workouts come virtually injury-free, have a positive impact on your cardiorespiratory fitness and metabolic rate, and work out almost every motion in most of your joints. You’ll also burn a good amount of calories.

Try water running – get in the water slightly above your knee and run at 60-80% of your maximum speed for 5 sets of 10m, using the drag and resistance of the water to work on your muscles and joints.

Fist-swimming is also good – swim 7 x 10-12 metres freestyle with your hands bunched into fists. As with the water running, rest for a minute between sets.

Stand-up paddleboarding is a lot of fun and gives you a complete body workout with minimal impact on your joints. You will combine balance, strength and stamina, working your core muscle groups, your quads, mid-back muscles, lats, arms and neck as you paddle or just balance on your board. You’ll burn within 625-735 calories an hour through paddle-surfing. Surf’s up!

If you enjoyed this blog article, check out our advice on training with Exercises from Different Sports.



Writer and expert