Who says playgrounds are just for kids? If you want to get a great workout in while enjoying the outdoors, there’s no better place to go than to your local jungle gym. Use the bars to perform pullups, dips and modified pushups. Use the swings like suspension trainers to perform balance lunges and planks, and put those park benches to use just like you would a plyometric box — box jumps, step ups and bounds will make your lower body burn.
Make your workout better: Grab a mat built for the great outdoors! With this one tool you can add any number of exercises to your routine, and you won’t have to worry about it blowing away with the wind. Our pick is the CG Outdoor Fitness Mat. (Camp Gladiator, $40)
As things start to heat up outside, car exhaust, lawn mower clippings and unshaded sidewalks can really turn your road run into a less-than-enjoyable experience. Instead of pounding pavement, opt to go off-roading. Not only will you be more likely to stay shaded, the uneven terrain and beautiful sights will keep you challenged and engaged.
Make your run better: Shoes built for the road aren’t going to have the support you’ll need for navigating rocks, tree roots and creek bottoms, so you’ll need to grab a pair of trail shoes. We love Vasque’s Pendulums because they’re lightweight and breathable, like a road shoe, but tough enough for whatever Mother Nature throws at you. (Amazon, $110)
Canoeing… or paddle boating
Yes, there’s an inherent thrill to hitting the lake in a motor boat for a day of skiing or wakeboarding. No one’s debating that. But for a more low-key experience (that’s also more affordable and appropriate for any skill level), head to your local river or lake and rent a canoe or paddle boat for the afternoon. Both options allow you to enjoy the sun and water while getting a workout in, but you’ll be having so much fun, you won’t even realize how hard you’re working!
Make your experience better: Skip the flip flops and wear shoes! You don’t know whose feet have been on those paddles, and you don’t know what muck might be inside your canoe. Either way, you’re going to want to wear shoes. While flip flops are great for a day in the sand, if you’re going to be more active, you want a pair of shoes that’s water-appropriate, but will stay on your feet without slipping and sliding. We absolutely adore the Ahnu Tilden IV — they’re solid enough for light hiking, water-repellant enough for water sports and bright enough to be fun to wear! (Ahnu, $100)
Even if you’re uncoordinated, even if you haven’t touched a volleyball since middle school and even if you don’t have a net, now’s the time to grab a ball and some friends and head to your local sand volleyball court. Sand workouts burn more calories than workouts performed on solid ground, and with all the jumping, diving and running required, you’ll work up a sweat in no time. Plus, who doesn’t like having an excuse to get a little dirty now and then?
Make your game better: If you’re planning on playing in a swimsuit, you need to make sure you choose one that will stay put and flatter your figure. Aqua Sphere suits are designed for women’s bodies (not teens, like many other brands), and are intended to be worn during active sports. For a bikini option, pick up the Tulsi, or for a one-piece, go with Olympic Swimmer Amanda Beard’s favorite, the Lima. (Aqua Sphere, $45)
A weekend bike ride is great, but a cycling tour? Even better! All over the country cycling tour companies are popping up, offering bike ride experiences you’ll savor for years. These tours are essentially vacations filled with cycling, eating, sipping wine or beer and connecting with other cyclists. Search for tour companies in your area, or travel to join in adventures offered by companies like Getaway Adventures, located in the Napa Valley area or BikeQuest in the Texas Hill Country.
Make your ride better: You know you need cycling shorts, a tire patching kit and sunscreen, but what you really need on this type of tour is a tough camera! Take great pictures without worrying about weather conditions by packing a waterproof, freeze proof, shockproof camera like the Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 14MP digital camera. Pack it in a fanny pack or detachable handlebar bag for easy access no matter where you are. (Amazon, $222)
Not every outdoor activity has to be overly ambitious. When all you want to do is enjoy the outdoors from your own backyard, games like croquet are a must-have. Plus, it’s the type of game that’s every bit as fun for kids as it is adults, so you can get the whole family involved.
Make your game better: Skip the plastic mallets and flimsy wickets, opting instead for a set that will last you years. It may come at a higher price, but if you enjoy getting together with neighbors on weekend evenings to chat and play, the upfront cost will pay back dividends in the long run. We like the Scottsdale Croquet Set by North Meadow. (Amazon, $179)
Before investing a ton of money in a windsurf board, it’s best to get started in this sport by borrowing or renting a board for a couple days. Windsurfing isn’t easy at first, and it will leave you sore in places you never imagined, but there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as catching a breeze in your sail and skating off across the waves, your hair blowing behind you.
Make your experience better: Suck it up and wear a life jacket! No matter how strong a swimmer you are, your first few times out will involve an unexpected amount of time in the water paired with heavy breathing and tired muscles. Why risk getting into a dangerous situation? We like this sport-friendly life jacket with pink details from Coleman. (Coleman, $38)
Pretending that trampolines are just for kids is crazy talk. And while exercise videos would like to relegate adults to the mini-trampolines, I say “Go big, or go home!” Go ahead and indulge yourself by purchasing a trampoline for your home, or see if you can talk a trampoline-owning friend into letting you jump on hers. Either way, you’ll be surprised at how much fun you have while piking, flipping and twisting your way through a series of jumps.
Make your experience better: Okay, granted it may not be “necessary,” but if you’ve ever watched a game of trampoline basketball on ESPN 2, you know you want to add a basketball goal to your trampoline experience. Pick up a goal separately, or just buy the whole trampoline/basketball kit together to score major points with the fam. (Amazon, $200 for goal only/Amazon, $1,297 for entire system)
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a circus performer without having to deal with the carnie jokes, slacklining may be your new sport-of-choice. Kind of like tightrope walking right next to the ground, stringing up a slackline in your backyard will offer hours of balance-training entertainment. It may sound like a silly past time, but this sport is gaining traction and is popping up at extreme competitions around the world. Start now, and who knows? Maybe you could join the competitive ranks!
Make your experience better: Clearly, you’re going to need to purchase a slackline from a reputable retailer, but once you’ve got it strung up, a little extra guidance on getting started will certainly help. Try picking up an instructional DVD from Gibbon to really help you get started. (Amazon, $16)
Regular golf is an expensive past time that, while rewarding, can be really hard to get the hang of! If the idea of golf draws you, but the cost puts you off, disc golf may be right up your alley. Most cities offer courses that are open (and free!) to the public, so all you need are the right discs and an open afternoon!
Make your game better: Don’t assume you can use any old Frisbee to play disc golf! Like regular golf, there are different sized discs for different aspects of the game. To throw like a pro, pick up a set of discs designed for putting, mid-range and driving throws. We like the Discraft Deluxe Disc Golf Set that includes four discs and a carrying bag. (Amazon, $39)