Exercising outside can be a stellar way to shake up a blah routine and reap the amazing benefits of nature. With an outdoor circuit workout, you can tick both those boxes—while also getting in a solid cardio and strength challenge too.
Opting to do a workout outside in the fresh air—where there’s a whole bunch of different sights, sounds, and smells—can inject variety and novelty into a repetitive gym routine. Plus, you can enjoy the perks of nature exposure while you’re at it, which include things like increased happiness, memory, and creativity, as well as decreased stress, according to research.
Of course, there are loads of different workouts you can do outside (hello, walking or running), but a full-body circuit workout can be especially worth your while since it’s a great way to hit a ton of major muscle groups while also delivering a dose of cardio. With circuit training, you’ll perform a set number of exercises back to back, then repeat that set of exercises a certain number of times. It’s a whole bunch of work with not a lot of rest.
This style of exercise can be a great way to get a good workout in a short amount of time, personal trainer Sivan Fagan, CPT, owner of Strong with Sivan, tells SELF. That’s because the minimal rest format will jack up your heart rate and really challenge your muscles—especially if you choose intense full-body moves. So if you’re wondering if a 20-minute circuit workout is long enough to be beneficial, the answer is yes, absolutely.
With that in mind, Fagan designed the below full-body workout that you can do outside using just your bodyweight. This four-move, HIIT-based routine combines single-leg moves—like the warrior balance and skater hop, which will challenge your balance and coordination—with awesome core exercises (which are actually more like full-body moves) like the lateral plank walk and frogger. As you do this circuit back to back, you’ll likely notice your heart rate climb and your muscles start to fatigue. “It's not an easy workout,” says Fagan, who included beginner-friendly modifications below for each exercise.
When scouting a location for this outdoor workout, try to find a place that’s shaded (perhaps under a tree in a park) and with a comfortable, even surface, like grass. Pay attention to the weather and avoid exercising outside when it’s really hot, as that can increase your risk of getting really dehydrated and possibly experiencing heat-related illness. To that end, bring a water bottle and possibly an electrolyte drink to help replenish the fluids you lose through sweat, says Fagan. Also consider bringing a mat or towel, which can come in clutch for moves like the frogger and lateral plank walk where you’re placing your hands on the ground.
Before jumping into this 20-minute outdoor circuit workout, make sure you do a quick warm-up so that your body is loose and ready to move. You don’t need anything long or intense—just two minutes of striders (the first move in this sequence), inner-thigh mobility drills, and T-spine rotation can be enough.
With that, scope a shady spot and get ready for a stellar full-body outdoor circuit—no equipment needed. You may just want to pencil this into your weekly workout routine this summer.
What you need: Just your bodyweight, though you may also want a yoga mat for comfort.
- Warrior Balance
- Lateral Plank Walk
- Skater Hop
- Perform the warrior balance for 30 seconds per side, do the lateral plank walk for 1 minute, and do both the skater hop and the frogger for 45 seconds each.
- Move from one exercise to the next without resting, though of course take breaks if you feel like you can’t catch your breath or your form is slipping.
- After you’ve completed all four exercises, rest for 90 seconds, then repeat the circuit. Complete 4 rounds total.
Demoing the moves below are Cookie Janee (GIF 1), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Mirinda Carfrae (GIF 2), a professional triathlete; Nikki Pebbles (GIF 3), a special populations personal trainer in New York City; and Landyn Pan (GIF 4), an online fitness and nutrition coach.