Training outdoors can provide a valuable mental and physical boost.
We go to the gym, we work out, and we move on, never really stopping to think about the stagnation that occurs from doing the same thing day in and day out. Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Now, when Albert Einstein said this, he was gearing it toward business and, frankly, life in general. But let’s take it to a physical level and look at it as it pertains to building an amazing body. We change up our workouts, add more weight, new exercises, a little extra cardio, but what are we doing to truly change our patterns in a larger sense than just altering the gym routine? It can make us feel apprehensive to think about stepping away from the gym, but trying something different might be just what you need to overcome your barriers—the same barriers that have been keeping you from reaching both your physical goals and your mental ones.
I used to be afraid of losing my hard-earned muscle, so I avoided activities that I loved, like hiking and kayaking, anything that I thought might cause me to regress even one small fraction. It wasn’t until I took the leap of risk that I realized that I not only looked better, but felt better when I spent more time outdoors, cross training and doing the stuff I used to love as a kid, like baseball or even playing with my dogs. In fact, the stimulation of something different brought me back into the gym with a better perspective of what defines a fit body in the first place. I came back to the weight room physically stronger and mentally refreshed, which allowed me to reach my goals quicker than I could have ever imagined.
Here’s an example: If you get out of bed early to do fasted cardio, you are taking a step toward a better body. But do you have to get in your car, drive to the gym, and start a treadmill? Why not accomplish two things at once by getting outside and doing something different while still burning the same amount of fat? For those of you who still aren’t convinced, consider the effect of cortisol on the body and how it can inhibit muscle gains and slow your fat loss. One of the most difficult obstacles that I had to overcome was accepting that living more of a stress-free life actually improved my physique. When I became less stressed, my body digested food better, I seemed to absorb more protein, and I made more substantial muscle gains. I was more rested and felt like I was living a more fulfilling life both in the gym and out. It was absolutely earth-shattering how much of a difference simply getting outside and doing something different changed the entire dynamic of my fitness lifestyle, and ultimately my fitness career.
There’s another component to going outdoors: active recovery. Rest days are necessary, but they don’t have to mean sitting inside, waiting for our bodies to recuperate. The best way to recover is to get outside and do what I call a “30 percent workout,” which is essentially an easy workout at 30 percent of your normal intensity. Grab a pair of light dumbbells, a resistance band, and maybe a medicine ball and head to a local park or, if you’re fortunate enough, a beach. Not only will you get the chance to absorb a little bit of vitamin D and get some blood flowing to those damaged muscle fibers, but you’ll recover in a way that recharges you for your next session in the gym. The mind is a powerful tool when it comes to making the tough decisions that are part of being a top-notch fitness competitor or model. Just like you keep your muscles constantly adapting to changes in the gym, you have to keep your mind fresh in order to persevere through the difficult times of dieting and training. To put it into a bit more of a tangible sense, think of getting outside and changing up your program as a way to exercise a different muscle; in this case, that “muscle” is actually your brain. After all, being the best that you can physically be is only half of the equation, the other half comes down to willpower and commitment. Those traits need to be exercised and guard-ed at all costs.
What makes a successful fitness model or top-tier competitor is not luck, or even hard work necessarily, but a combination of those two, plus commitment. And just like any successful endeavor, taking some time to think outside the box is an absolute must. Here is a quick workout split that I implemented shortly before being offered my first magazine cover, and I like to attribute much of my success to adopting this. It allows you to recover and recharge your batteries so that you can get to where you want to go.
Monday: Quads, calves, triceps, 20-minute post-workout outdoor cardio
Tuesday: Hamstrings, back, biceps
Wednesday: Fasted low-intensity intervals done outdoors (30 seconds slow jog, 30 seconds walk)
Thursday: Chest, shoulders, abs, high-intensity interval training (run or bike) done outdoors
Friday: Quads, calves, triceps
Saturday: 30 percent active-recovery workout (body-weight or resistance bands) and light cardio
Sunday: Hamstrings, back, biceps
Do cardio on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays regardless of body parts targeted
by Thomas DeLauer
Thomas DeLauer is an accomplished fitness cover model who has devoted himself to living an active and healthy lifestyle without sacrificing the fun and excitement of life. Although he has the body to show some serious time in the gym, he embraces every day to its fullest, using a fit body and a fit mind to achieve his goals and experience new things. DeLauer lives by what he says: “I don’t live to work out, I work out to live.”