5 Outdoor Workouts to Burn Fat and Boost Performance

Break out of the gym and into the beautiful weather with these five high-intensity, fat-burning cardio workouts.
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We spend more than half of the year waiting for sweet summer to arrive. Then when it does, we persist in trudging to the stale, dank confines of the gym to do cardio on the same old machines we labored on over the endless frigid months. Nothing against treadmills, but it's time to kiss them goodbye (well, not literally — yuck).

The following five expert-designed workouts will free you from the gym without compromising your fitness-building fat-burning efforts. Go outside and try them today because as we learn all too quickly each year — summer is fleeting while winter is (seemingly) forever.

sprinting outdoor workout

Sprinting is the weightlifting of the running world.

Sprints

This on-the-oval regimen is the go-to of Samantha Clayton, vice president of Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness for Herbalife and a former Olympic track athlete. "Think of sprinting as the weightlifting of the running world," says Clayton, who competed at the 2000 Olympic games in the 200 meter and 4x100 meter relay events for Great Britain. "It's high intensity and high impact and promotes muscular growth — especially in the posterior-chain muscles like the glutes and hamstrings."

The Workout

Warm-Up

  • Jog two laps (800 meters).*

* One time around a standard track oval on the inside lane is 400 meters.

Pre-Sprint Workout

Do the following moves in order for 30 seconds each. Complete three rounds.

  • Walking Lunge
  • Running With High Knees
  • Side Step
  • Butt Kicks
  • Skipping

Sprint Workout

Repeat the below sequence eight times through.

ExerciseDistance

Sprint

100 meters (on the straightaways)

Walk

100 meters (on the curves)

Cool-Down

  • Walk two laps (800 meters).

Training Tip: "If you're a more advanced athlete, finish up with four 50-meter sprints with a 60-second recovery between each one," Clayton suggests.

distance running outdoor workout

Distance running improves both your mind and body.

Distance Running

"Distance running is great for your body and your mind, and I like to think of steady-state runs as meditation in motion," Clayton says. Even so, if you aren't game to just lace up and run for 60 minutes straight, use the following workout, which includes running intervals and an exercise interlude to further engage the lower body. "Intervals help you build the stamina and confidence to work progressively up to longer-distance runs," Clayton explains.

The Workout

Warm-Up

  • For 10 minutes, alternate between walking and jogging in 60-second bouts.

Running Workout

Repeat the below workout for six rounds, or a total of 30 minutes.

ExerciseTime

Run (moderate pace)

5 minutes

Walk

1 minute

Post-Run Workout

Perform the below strength workout, resting as needed.

ExerciseSetsReps

Stationary Lunge

3

10 (per leg)

Bicycle Crunch

3

10 (each side)

Calf Raise

3

10

Cool-Down

  • For five minutes, alternate between walking and light jogging in 30-second bouts.

Training Tip: Eliminate a one-minute recovery walk each week. "That way, at six weeks, you'll be running the full 30 minutes straight," Clayton says. "This will equate to about a 5K — or 3.10 miles — distance."

bicycling outdoor workout

Outdoor cycling requires insane intensity and focus.

Bicycling

Though Spin classes are as popular as ever, the indoor cycling experience just can't compare to riding a bike outdoors. Encountering real hills and physically propelling the bike forward requires insane intensity and focus. (There's a reason that completing the Tour de France is one of the most difficult athletic achievements in sports.)

Patricia Friberg, group fitness manager at Equinox in Westlake, California, and creator of the Bottom Line & A Core Defined and Belly Beautiful workout DVDs, devised the following cycling regimen that will burn max calories in minimal time. "Cycling also helps build lean muscle, improves mental well-being and reduces stress," she says. Plot a route ahead of time that's at least 1 mile long and includes a hill that is about 1/10 of a mile with a 20 to 30 percent grade incline.

The Workout

Warm-Up

ExerciseTime

Cycle at an easy pace

5-10 minutes

Cycling Workout

ExerciseTime

Cycle at a moderate steady-state intensity

10-15 minutes

Ride up a hill as quickly as possible with maximum intensity, rest one to two minutes at the top, then coast down

20 minutes

Cycle at a moderate steady-state intensity

10 minutes

Cool-Down

ExerciseTime

Cycle at an easy pace

5-10 minutes

Training Tip: "To increase the intensity, time yourself on the uphill sprints, striving to beat your time within the session and workout to workout," Friberg says.

stadium stairs outdoor workout

Stair workouts burn fat quicker than many other types of cardio.

Stadium Stairs

There's nothing easy about carrying your bodyweight upward at an incline against gravity. "No gym equipment can simulate a lung-busting, total-body, muscle-burning stair workout," says Teri Jory, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer, fourth-degree black belt and creator of the Poise method. "It'll also burn fat quicker than many other types of cardio. For instance, a 155-pound woman will burn more than 1,000 calories in an hour of running up and down stairs."

For this workout, source out some stadium stairs at a high school or college, or find a traditional staircase in a high-rise, parking garage or public monument. Since the size and number of stairs will vary, perform each section of this workout for 12 to 15 minutes.

The Workout

Warm-Up

Exercise Time

Walk up and down the stairs

5 minutes

Walk up the stairs, skipping every other step; walk back down using every step

5 minutes

Stair Workout

Perform each section for 12 to 15 minutes.

Section 1: Single-Step Run

  • Sprint up the stairs as fast as you can, hitting every step. Jog back down.

Section 2: Double-Step Run

  • Sprint up the stairs as fast as you can, skipping every other step. Jog back down using every step.

Section 3: Two-Legged Hop

  • Stand facing the staircase with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms in front of you. Quickly push your hips back and swing your arms behind you to load your posterior chain, then swing your arms forward, extend your knees and hips, and jump onto the first step, landing softly.
  • Pause briefly, then repeat on each step all the way to the top.
  • Jog back down

Cool-Down

Exercise Time

Walk on a flat surface at an easy pace

5-10 minutes

Training Tip: Don't look down, which can throw off alignment and balance. "Pull your core in tight with your shoulders down and your eyes straight ahead as you climb the steps," Jory says.

boot camp outdoor workout

HIIT your workout goals with these glutes and core-focused exercises.

Boot Camp

Looking for a one-stop outdoor option that combines resistance training and cardio? This boot-camp routine designed by Friberg requires nothing but a loop band and hits the whole body with extra focus on the glutes and core, and the high-intensity Tabata-style training maximizes calorie burn and incites a fat burn like no other. Do each part twice through with a short one- to two-minute rest in between rounds.

The Workout

Part 1: Banded Bodyweight Workout

Perform each exercise for 50 seconds, then take 10 seconds to rest and/or transition to the next move (for a total of one minute each).

Bodyweight Squat

  • Secure the band loop around your thighs above your knees and stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms in front of you for balance. Push your glutes back and bend your knees to lower into a squat, going as low as you comfortably can while consciously driving your knees outward to create tension. Return to the start.

Side-Step Squat

  • Keeping the band around your thighs, stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes forward. Lower into a squat so your glutes are just below the level of your knees, and hold here as you step 10 times in each direction.

Squat Arabesque

  • Keep the band around your thighs and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Squat down to parallel or slightly below, and as you rise, extend your right leg straight behind you, keeping it low. Replace your leg and then continue, alternating sides.

Alternating Arm Plank

  • Loop the band around both wrists and assume a high plank with your shoulders over your wrists and your head, hips and heels aligned. Keeping your feet in place, step your right hand out to the side and place it firmly on the floor. Pause for one count, then return to center. Continue, alternating sides.

Lateral Shift Bow and Arrow

  • Hold a band with both hands at shoulder level and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step back 45 degrees on the diagonal with your right foot and stretch the band apart as if shooting a bow and arrow. Return to the center and then continue, alternating sides.

No band? Do the moves without and simply perform more reps.

Part 2: Tabata-Style HIIT

Perform each move Tabata style, doing 20 seconds of work with all-out intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Complete two rounds for a total of four minutes.

Speedskater

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and push your hips back to load your posterior chain, back straight. Stay low as you spring laterally to the right, landing on your right foot, swinging your arms to the right and crossing the left behind you on a diagonal. Continue, alternating sides.

Scissor Lunge

  • Stand with your feet in a wide lunge, with your right leg forward, right knee over your toes, and your knees and hips at 90-degree angles. Explode into the air, using your arms to help generate momentum, and switch lead legs so you land with your left leg forward and your right leg back. Land softly and repeat right away.

Mountain Climber

  • Get into plank with your head, hips and heels aligned and your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Keep your hips stable as you alternately drive your knees into your chest, going for speed and precision.

High Skip

  • Skip across a field or down a sidewalk or street. With each step, leap as high into the air as you can, driving your knee up and reaching as high as you can with your opposite arm. Go for height rather than distance.

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