How to train in your local park like an elite athlete

Local parks are a lovely place for a picnic in the sun, romantic kiss, walk with the baby buggy, and ball toss with the hound. It's also a place where you might have found me swearing and dry heaving the other day.

This particular day, a cruisy run wasn't going to release some personal frustrations, so I changed it up and readied myself for fifth gear. I planned it, then called it The Park Workout from Hell. It promotes power, speed, strength, and endurance. It's full-body, tones, tightens, and facilitates weight loss. Here it is:

The Football Pitch Session

After a warm-up, head to a footy pitch, which most local parks contain.

Every football (soccer) pitch includes four corners measuring about 100 metres in length and 70 metres wide. Those dimensions and corners make for the perfect, grassy gym.

Looking lengthwise, turn the volume and intensity up, start at corner number one, and:

Sprint 100 metres at full intensity

Sprints are explosive and work every muscle in the legs and glutes. You not only build muscle (you even build abs too – scan every Olympic sprinter) but also speed and an increased metabolism. Run all the way to corner two like it's the finish line (save yourself the injury if you can't stop on a dime), then drop for:

20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, and 10 eccentric push-ups

Push-ups are a classic exercise, and they are my favourite – sure, they challenge your chest, but they also engage the shoulders, arms, back, core, and legs. After banging out 20 push-ups, turn over for 20 sit-ups – which of course work your abs – more specifically the rectus abdominis.

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When completed, turn back over for 10 eccentric push-ups. They are similar to standard push-ups but with varied tempo – time the "down phase" to a count of five, then push back up. Eccentric push-ups promote growth and strength in the chest.

Rest and walk

Stand, relax, rest, and walk slowly over the width of the pitch (behind the goal), to corner three, and then sprint with 100 per cent intensity (again) to corner four.

20 bodyweight squats and planks

Here, perform 20 bodyweight squats. Squats, like push-ups, are a classic movement that are functional and hit every major muscle in the legs. After squats, drop to elbows and toes for a one minute, isometric plank – a must do for core strength and back health. After planking, progress straight into a side planks (20 seconds each side), which tone the obliques and work many other muscles.

From there, walk back to corner one, rest as needed, and repeat. If you can perform three or four loops of this circuit, you're smashing this fusion session (it smashed me) where HIIT meets Tabata. Time it, race your mates, or simply use this session to get out of gym and into the Aussie sun.

The Burpee-Bar Session

Most local parks have an outdoor gym that consists of bars, benches, and sometimes machines (elliptical and butterfly). Yet that static, geometric pull-up bar is all you need for full body fitness and punishment.

The burpee pull-up is a self-explanatory type of movement. Below a pull-up bar, perform a burpee, and at its completion jump straight up into a pull-up. It sounds simple – but it sucks. There isn't a muscle group this exercise avoids, and from avid exerciser to professional athlete, it will send heart rates through the roof.

We should all know Tabata by now – the standard version is choosing one exercise, and doing 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest for a four minute period. I split it up – 20 seconds of burpees pulls-up (then rest), and 20 seconds of bodyweight squats for four minutes. I'd like to say I smashed out another round, but it wasn't pretty. Exhausted, my outdoor sessions provided intensity, fitness, and (somehow) fun.

Get outdoors for your health

With over 28 million hectares of land, Australia has over 500 national parks. Adding every neighbourhood football pitch and outdoor gym, we have limitless options for park workouts, parkour, jogs, hill sprints, group sessions, bikes, HIIT, and stairs sessions.

  • The benefits of a park session:
  •  Saves time – no gym required;
  • The outdoors – soak in that Vitamin D and fresh air;
  • The cost – it's free;
  • The ease – no weights required;
  • The impact – running on grass is easier on the body;
  • Dynamic movement – no machines required;
  • Anybody can get involved – scale sessions down to your ability; and
  • The psychology – being outdoors by the water feels good.

Training in the park isn't hip and sexy, it's simple – and it's a hell of a workout. There are too many bodyweight exercises to name with countless permutations and combinations resulting in infinite exercise routines. Now it's up to you. Design your park session, up the intensity, and add the best music to increase effort.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his 'Cut The BS' diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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Got a local park you like to train in? Share your workout tips in the comments section below.

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