Fun Workouts Without the Gym

Are you sick of the gym? I love the gym for its ease and convenience, but it does get a little monotonous, unless the trainer is putting me through the wringer. So how do I mix it up? By mixing it up, of course! There are quite a few ways to inject new life into your workouts that don’t require a gym membership, or even a workout tape.

Outdoor Pursuits

The gym can get stifling, so try some different outdoor activities. There are plenty to pique your interest, no matter your preferences. If you’re an adventurer, there’s an outdoor pursuit for you. Prefer drinking to competing in triathlons? You can still get your exercise outside and raise a pint or three.

A recreational or beer league. Do you love team sports and want to play them with your friends? Join a rec league sponsored by your local parks and recreation department. Many host soccer, softball, and volleyball leagues (among others), from beginners to semi-pro levels. If you’re not interested in honing your Olympic beach volleyball skills, check out a beer league sport. In my hometown of Boise, Idaho, a growing favorite is kickball. There are now two leagues and 16 teams total.

Hiking/trail running. My favorite non-gym activity is hiking. When I’m at the gym, I prefer to exercise by myself, unless I’m working with the trainer. Gym time is my time. But when I’m hiking, I love to do so with my friends. There are three good friends with whom I go hiking on a regular basis. Not only are you guaranteed a cardio workout, but you get in your strength training as well as you climb up and down those hills.

If you’re doing a little scrambling with your hiking, you may be working your arms more than usual as well. Are you usually running the sidewalks? Try trail running instead. Not only is the trail a little more forgiving on your joints, it also gives you a more thorough workout.

Snow sports. Fall has begun, so it’s time to start thinking about snow sports, if you’re in an area where you can pursue them. I’ve always wanted to learn to ski, either downhill or Nordic. Since I don’t really know, taking lessons would be a great form of exercise, especially since I’ll be working muscles I probably don’t know I have. I already know how to snowshoe, and I have a group of friends who also enjoy that snowsport. We’ve all decided to go skiing this winter when the trails get frosty.

Commuting to work: Bike, walk, run... Does your commute bore you practically to death? Or is it making you mad? Then ditch the car if you can in favor of your bicycle or your feet. I even know someone who commutes by longboard. Why not? He gets to bomb down a big hill every day. That’s much more exciting than 30 minutes on a treadmill.

Fun runs. Do you like your cardio with some hyped-up DJing and 1000-plus other people? Then it's time to sign up for some fun runs. I freely admit I have done two of them, and they were a lot of fun. I just did the Color Run in August, and I enjoyed whipping through 5K of downtown Boise streets in less than an hour with a good friend. We walked it, but we walked it fast. Therein lies the beauty of most fun runs: you don’t have to run. Most fun runs are grouped by runners, walkers, and even kids. They are great ways for families to exercise, and they often support a local office of a non-profit.

Geocaching. Just a little bit techie like me? Try geocaching. It’s part workout, part geekout. You can play modern-day pirate while you’re camping, hiking, or even trail running. Flex your research muscles and learn about GIS before your first geocache adventure. GIS is widely available at local municipalities, and it can help you plan routes to caches in your community or near your next campsite. Then you get to think of a trinket to leave behind in exchange for one at each cache!

Urban Exploration. Want to try something completely different? Try urban exploration. This isn’t just meandering around a city while traveling. Urban exploration, or UE, is exploring typically abandoned man-made structures. These structures are usually in one’s own town or city. UE is an effort to rediscover places in communities that have been forgotten about by the public.

Swimming. Have a pool in your backyard or know someone who does? Time for a pool party! Swimming in a backyard pool not only improves fitness, but it keeps you from other potential health hazards like infections that can proliferate at a public pool. It also reduces stress. Just lounging on the ledge of the pool for 20 minutes or so can increase vitamin-D and serotonin levels. Make sure, however, you don’t spend too much time on that poolside, increasing your risk of getting skin cancer.

Indoor Pursuits

Even if you don’t like the gym, you may not like the outdoors either. Or it may be snowing, and you don’t have access to mountains. Try some of these indoor activities to get your sweat on indoors.

Classes. For a few years, I took belly (or beli as the instructor taught us) dance classes through my local community education department. They were a blast, I worked up a sweat, and I felt pretty powerful learning those moves. Want something tougher? Find a rec center with a pool and try kayaking. Or try pole-dancing. It’s harder than you think!

Speed-clean your house. This sounds silly -- until you try it. Set a timer, blast some music, and whip out the cleaning supplies. I wear a Fitbit, and I have actually logged time “cleaning house.” You’ll be surprised how many calories you can burn. An hour of mopping? One hundred-seventy calories! An hour of cleaning the entire house? That’s 204 calories burned. Just think what a whole day of cleaning your house can do! Don’t forget the outside of your house either. Yardwork is a great form of exercise, and if you don’t have a yard, volunteer to clean up yards for people who can’t do so themselves.

Chair yoga/walking desks for “work”-outs. Spend a lot of your day at work? Try a regular “work”-out to keep the blood flowing when you’re at your desk. If you can, lobby for a walking desk. These desks combine a standing desk and a treadmill for a desk that promotes stress reduction, fitness, and even creativity. Afraid you’ll bite it in the middle of creating your next presentation? Yeah, I’m the uncoordinated one, too. Chair yoga might be the trick. This 20-minute workout is great for doing at your desk or if you’re not the most experience yogi. That’s also me.

Your Turn

Whether you live in one of the healthiest states in the country, a state with year-round sunshine, or one that sees snow on its mountains every month of the year, you have the potential to get bored by going to the gym. What are some of your favorite non-gym workouts?