Fitness: Great Summer Workouts (cont.)

"Walk up with strong, bold steps and then walk down slow for recovery," Pittsley says.

Repeat this 10 times and you've got yourself a nice workout, he promises. Compare it to running the bleachers at the local football field. (If you never ran bleachers, chances are someone you knew boasted about doing it.)

If you've got a mountain bike, many areas have miles of dirt trails great for the fat, nubby tires of a mountain bike. Even moderate trail cycling is a great whole-body workout that doesn't feel like exercise.

Exercise on the Beach

If you're going to the beach this summer, says Ayres, pack a mask and some fins and snorkel. "It's not going to be this high-end cardiovascular workout," he says, but it does keep the body moving. "You're using big muscle groups and the fins add increased resistance. It's great work for the back extensors, the lower limbs, and the trunk."

See who can find the most interesting, colorful sea life or other underwater treasures. Venture a bit further out so you take more effort to get back to the boat or shore.

If getting in the water is not your thing, put up a net and get a friendly game of volleyball going. Or throw the Frisbee or a football around. Throw far and go long, you'll be surprised how winded you can get.

How about building a sand castle? Can that be a workout? Pittsley says you don't have to build one, just start moving the sand around the beach.

Start kneeling with an empty bucket. Reach in front of you and dig out a full bucket of sand and twist to toss it behind you, alternating sides for a great oblique workout. You may not feel it then, but you may be sore the next morning, so don't overdo it.

No buckets? Try getting on your feet.

Walking in the soft sand of the beach alone is a workout, says Calabrese. "Sand gives you the extra resistance that you wouldn't have on a treadmill or on asphalt," she says. "You can do it barefooted and you'll feel a great workout in your feet, shins, and calves."

Ayres agrees. "Beach walking is great for ankle stability," he says. "Eighty percent of ankle sprains are rolling out of the ankle because the lateral ankle is weak. I don't have a client daily that I don't do strength training where we're standing on one leg."

One-legged stork stands in the sand improve balance and ankle stability, says Ayres.

If the spirit moves you, Calabrese says, you can create a great strength workout with just you, a beach towel, and of course, some sunscreen. Alternate walking, jogging, and sprinting to work the lower body and get the heart rate elevated.

"The beach can be so tranquil and yet so energizing. Start out by walking, and all of a sudden you get the energy from the earth and you start to jog a little."

Calabrese then suggests either doing walking lunges or stationary lunges the length of your beach towel. Work the upper body with pushups and reverse planks and the abdominals with crunches on the towel.

The peaceful mood of the ocean's edge is a great time to stretch as well, she says. "Finish with some stretching, deep breathing, and meditation," she says, "taking time to close your eyes and feel the ocean mist and smell the salty air."

Poolside Fitness

The days of playing "Marco Polo" and doing cannonballs may be a distant memory, but you can still get a great workout in the pool.

Swimming is an obvious choice and an option many people use all year round in heated pools at health clubs. It's is an excellent, low-impact, whole-body workout.

But it's not very social, so if you're with the family, make it fun.

"Everybody's got floaties," says Pittsley. Any kind will do, but the smaller, the more work you'll have to do. For example, one of those long, skinny noodles is a great challenge.

Try putting it under your arms or holding it with your hands and doing flutter kicks while staying afloat, he says.

"The kicking works the quadriceps and hamstrings and a little bit of the glutes," says Pittsley.

Then try balancing the floatie on the lower body, either across the hips or between the legs, and work the shoulders, arms, and back trying to stay afloat. "These exercises can be used as a combination of cardiovascular and toning," says Pittlsey.

Compete with family and friends for time or distance. Have races with mid-torso power walking in the shallow end of the pool, says Ayres. Put your hands underwater and swing the arms with open hands to increase resistance.

Calabrese recommends water aerobics. Organized classes are great, but why not create your own? she says. Here's a sample routine to try:

  • Warm up by walking the perimeter of the pool, then jogging it. In the shallow end, do 90 seconds each of walking lunges, squats, and leg lifts to the front side and back, holding on to the edge. Finish working the lower body with flutter kicks holding the edge or using a kickboard. Then submerge to the neck and do chest presses, reverse flies, bicep curls, and arm circles to work the upper body.
  • "For the core," Calabrese says, "try floating prone [face down] and supine [face up] and keeping the body straight using only the arms and abs."
  • For muscle endurance, she says, "go to the deep end and tread water as long as you can for the finale." Tread just with the arms, then just with the legs, then with both.

The water is a good place for exercise beginners because of the low stress to the joints, say experts.

No matter where you choose to be this summer, all these outdoor activities, says Calabrese, bring you back to being a kid. "As adults, we go to the lake or beach and we just sit there. Let being outdoors bring back all those childhood memories of the fun vacations you had. You'll never regret the memories you create doing these activities as a family."

Published May 2005.

SOURCES: Patrick Ayres, MS, CSCS, EPC, exercise physiologist with Lifestyle Management, Bloomington, Minn. Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist; co-author, Feminine Firm and Fit; owner, Calabrese Consulting, Long Valley, N.J. Jesse Pittsley, PhD, exercise physiologist; program director, exercise science department, Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, N.C.

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