How Quitting The Gym Taught Me To Embrace The Great Outdoors

Photo: Stevie Van Horn

It’s no secret that human beings enjoy being among the trees and breathing in the fresh air and with science backing up the benefits of outdoor exposure, it's no surprise there's been a recent surge in interest in nature. We're exposed to stressors every day, and our brains absorb a ton of that pressure: constant technology in our faces, work-life imbalances, stressful home situations, and even a crowded gym can trigger our brains to absorb more stress energy and in turn, welcome burnout.

When we're exposed to trees, green grass, wildlife, and other forms of nature, the stress hormone, cortisol, lowers in our bodies. When we are leaving these stressors behind, our brain goes into somewhat of a dream state, giving us a massive break and a newfound sense of calm. Not to mention, the constant changing of our environment is beneficial for our brains and helps to keep us better engaged and more present than when on a treadmill.

Whether you are just getting started with your workout regimen or you're a longtime professional sweat breaker and curious about new ways to maximize your endorphin release, here are just a few of the no-nonsense reasons for trading in your gym membership for movement in the great outdoors.

Get to know the local grounds in your neighborhood.

So where do you start? In your own backyard, of course! The first thing to do is check for parks and trails around you so you can avoid that commute, put on your gear, and just head out the door! You can also download a running or fitness app that allows you to track your mileage, your progress, and your route for an easy way to organize your workout routines. If you’re not keen on running and prefer strength training on some days, most fitness apps also allow you easy access to a ton of moves you can easily do on a patch of grass, without weights. If you don’t have access to a local park, trail, or forest by foot, check out the easiest way to get to one by either a subway, bus, train, bike, or car.

Save money.

An easy reason to convince you to get active outside is your wallet. How cool is it that you can take in the sights, break a sweat, increase your endorphins, and breathe in fresh air for free! I know there really is nothing like a good yoga class with your favorite instructor, or that feeling you get when you are in a class and that group dynamic has got you feeling all motivated and strong—but if you are in a pinch with your finances, know that nature has got your back. Grab a couple of buddies and find a park to move around in. Whether you are running, doing yoga, dancing around, or strength training, you can easily get inspired without breaking the bank.

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Diversify your routine.

Even if you enjoy working out on the treadmill, would you put it on your list of favorite hobbies? Working out is important to so many of us, and it can sometimes be tough to find a workout or regimen we can stick to or get excited about. When we do find those hobbies or activities we really love, we find a lot more meaning in our daily lives and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I live in New York City, and even hitting my local park and doing laps among the small natural world brings me a sense of joy. If you find a workout that brings you joy, you’ll most likely want to do it more often.

End the cycle of comparison.

Sometimes at the gym, I find myself comparing my strength or agility to the person next to me, asking myself when I’m going to be able to do that many push-ups, butt lifts, or accomplish the dolphin pose. It’s not uncommon to compare yourself to others or to feel like others are watching your every move. Being in wide open spaces and being outside are the best ways to get out of your own head and truly focus on releasing your thoughts and pent-up energy and focusing on your performance.

There are so many ways we can boost our self-confidence, release endorphins, gain energy, and experience a sense of calm. With just a little research on where to go, the right gear for the weather, and a will to be a healthier version of ourselves, we can merge two activities like working out and being in the presence of nature into one super activity—and reap the full benefits our bodies deserve at the same time!

Cold weather got you down? Try these tips for staying active while outdoors this winter.

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