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Would You Work Out in an Outdoor Gym?

By — One of many Lifting blogs on

Welcome back to FitChatter! This week in the news – there’s a new trend in fitness: outdoor gyms! Would you exercise in one – or do you prefer to keep your workout more private?

Way back in November, I set a goal to work out 3 times per week. It went great…for about 3 weeks. At that point, it didn’t just drop off slowly – it died all at once. My motivation resurrected briefly in January, but that, too, was short-lived.

You’ve heard of yo-yo dieting? Well, I’m an expert in yo-yo fitness.

Lately, though, I’ve been making a real effort to get in shape – so I’ve been doing an exercise ball workout every other day. But I’ll be the first to admit: as much as I love my workout, the thought of schlumping down into a cold, partially-finished basement when the sun is shining and birdsong is floating through the warm breeze…is not exactly tempting.

Enter the new fitness trend:

Outdoor gyms

This idea first caught my attention in an article about how they’re catching on in South Africa – one of the fattest nations on the planet, behind only the U.S. and Britain. These gyms look very much like their indoor counterparts: traditional exercise machines (designed to withstand harsh weather) on special mats secured to the ground. A playground, of sorts. And like playgrounds, these gyms are completely free and open to the public. Considering that many peoples’ excuse for not joining a gym is the high cost…that’s pretty awesome.

But here’s the catch: just like in a regular gym, there could be other people watching. And since the workout is outdoors, there could potentially be a lot of people watching.

Make nature your gym

Luckily, there is another option if the thought of stares makes you uncomfortable. A West Michigan company offers a fitness program called EcoTrek, which, according to their slogan, “integrates your workouts with nature.” As EcoTrek founder Cari Draft explains: "When most people think of outdoor exercise, they think of jogging. And that can turn a lot of people off.” (Myself included!) “EcoTrek uses nature and man-made 'props' to get in a great workout."

It’s not a “gym” in the traditional sense, but it certainly does give you a workout: Draft promises that you’ll burn 500-800 calories in each 75-minute session.

As someone looking to both spend more time enjoying the sunshine and more time getting into shape, I think the EcoTrek program sounds like a great solution. Though I think I’d choose a different fitness regime during cold seasons ("There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” says Draft, who offers EcoTreks year-round), an outdoor workout is just what the doctor ordered for spring, summer, and fall. Vitamin D and endorphins? Yes please!

It’s not free, but the prices are pretty reasonable considering that you’d be working with a certified trainer. And unlike a traditional gym, you don’t have to pay for an ongoing membership, whether you show up or not.

I don’t know what you think, but my basement is sounding less and less appealing all the time.

What do you think?

Is a free outdoor gym worth the potential stares?

Would you try an outdoor gym like those in South Africa, or an EcoTrek – or do you prefer exercising in the privacy of your own home?

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