If you like the idea of joining a gym but haven’t got the time or money, all is not lost. You can still make use of popular gym equipment without raiding your piggy bank, by heading to your nearest park, promenade or recreation area.
In recent years, outdoor gyms have been popping up everywhere. The Great Outdoor Gym Company, who is the main supplier of the equipment, has been creating al fresco gym spaces in over 400 UK public locations since 2007. And this number is growing all the time.
Make a beeline for your nearest open space and you’re sure to spy an outdoor gym, but you can also easily find where they are situated by searching on your local council’s website.
What to expect
Outdoor gyms typically combine a number of popular items of exercise equipment that you’d find at a gym, incorporating cardio and strength training. But, you might also find wooden trim trails, hurdles and bars in some areas. The equipment is free to use and accessible at any time of day or night, so there’s no excuse not to get fit!
If you’re new to outdoor gyms, it’s good to know that using the equipment is not as intimidating as that at a normal gym. It’s easy to get started, and each item of equipment includes instructions on how to use it properly. Make sure to read these before you begin to avoid any injuries. Enlisting the help of a personal trainer might even be useful if you’re new to exercising.
The combination of exercising outdoors in the fresh air gives your workouts an added health boost. Many outdoor gyms are also situated next to children’s playgrounds, so it’s the perfect opportunity to let the kids play while you can exercise and keep an eye on them.
Try to include a mixture of items of equipment into each session so that you target both the upper and lower body. Avoid sticking to one item only.
It’s a good idea to start your session with some gentle stretching and then a warm-up on the exercise bike, treadmill or cross-trainer. These are effective at getting muscles into gear, and are ideal forms of cardiovascular exercise.
Most outdoor gyms will include equipment that works the shoulders and upper torso, such as a chest press. This involves pushing handles over your head and lowering them. If you’re new to this equipment, begin with a couple of sets of around 10-15 reps and increase the number of sets and reps slowly. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to alter the weight of the equipment.
Leg press machines are popular additions to outdoor gyms, helping to tone your lower body. New users should begin by doing two sets of 15 reps, slowing advancing to four sets of 20 reps. Follow the same number of reps to improve your core using the oblique machines and pull-up or pull-down bars.
In some areas, you might also find equipment that generates green energy, which means you can charge your tablet or phone while you exercise.
If the equipment is occupied, bring a skipping rope or some kettlebells along, or go for a jog around the park or recreation area, while you wait. Don’t let bad weather put you off visiting an outdoor gym – you’re more likely to have the equipment all to yourself, and you’ll soon warm up quickly as you exercise.
Try to visit your outdoor gym three or four times each week, for sessions lasting around half an hour.