For a handful of different reasons, many of us treat summer as a sort of peak time for training. For some it’s that age old notion of “getting in shape for summer” and we’re motivated by wanting to look and feel our best. For others, it’s the extra daylight hours and the warm, sunny weather that leads to more time spent being active outside.
Whatever your reason, the summer season is arguably the best time to step your workout routine up a notch or two—and the best part is, there are so many different ways to amp up the intensity. We consulted a handful of top fitness experts to find out the best and most effective ways to make your workouts more powerful and fun this summer. Here’s what they had to say.
Plain and simple: if you want to stay on track and see results, no matter what your goal is, you absolutely need a solid plan. “If you do not write out a program for this summer and just try to wing it every time you get to the gym it is not going to work,” says Ben Boudro director of strength and conditioning at Xceleration Sports in New York. “There are so many things that can pull you away from workouts during the summer. Your friends will invite you out on the boat, you will have Fourth of July parties or golfing, baseball, concerts—it’s tough to stay consistent.”
Once your plan is in place, Boudro says you must commit to it. To do so, he says, you need responsibility, mastery and a “why.” Responsibility will help keep you accountable and dedicated towards your goals; mastery, like aiming to perfect your squat form or increasing your running pace, will help keep you motivated and focused; and your “why” will serve as your biggest source of motivation. “Remind yourself of your goals and why you started,” Boudro explained. “Always use that to stay laser focused on your mission.”
There are numerous benefits associated with spending time outside and especially if that time is spent being active. Bourdo says he likes taking workouts outside for two reasons: first, because there are more opportunities for increasing the intensity. “Athletes tend to hold back while indoors,” he said. “When it comes to sprints or agility drills you always have to worry about running into a wall inside. Outside, you have no restrictions and can let loose.” And second, it’s simply more fun. “You spend all winter cooped up inside training,” Bourdo said. “Get out and get some vitamin D and a tan while you train. Doing this will add a little spark to your energy.” Just don’t forget to keep your skin protected with sunscreen.
“My recommendation for intensifying summer workouts is to take it to the football field,” says Greg Justice, fitness expert and owner of AYC Health & Fitness. “There are many options when you take your workouts outside, especially to a local high school football field. Usually there are tires, sleds, boxes for box jumps and other toys to play with, including running sprints on the track or field.”
No doubt, you’ll have plans to hit the pool at some point this summer, so why not get a workout in while you’re at it? “Water aerobics offers the best of both worlds,” says Natasha Miles, a Tennessee-based ACSM certified personal trainer. “You get to join in on a fantastic workout and stay cool at the same time.”
“Inline skating is a fantastic way to cross-train in the summer since it's fun, dynamic and affordable,” says Kacie Cleveland a official Rollerblade athlete and owner and head coach of Sweat on Fitness gym and Kulshan CrossFit in Bellingham, Wash. “With a low impact on knees and joints, inline skating targets what women often view as their ‘problem areas’ of the lower body and abs.”
Certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach Henry Halse says his favorite summertime workouts are simple, yet still intense. “My favorite outdoor gym-style workouts for the summer consist of picking up an object and carrying it for a certain distance or pushing an object for a certain distance,” Halse explained. “For example, load up a wheelbarrow and push it up a slight incline. You can adjust the weight and the speed.”
“Weighted sleds are my favorite by far,” Halse said. “You can load them up with a lot of weight and grind through a 20-yard march or keep the weight light and sprint for 40 yards as fast as you can.”
“Get some heavy kettlebells or dumbbells,” Halse explains. “Hold them by your side and walk in a straight line as far as you can. This seems easy until you try it.”
Laurie Towers, a fitness expert, former professional bodybuilder and founder and CEO of The Bridal Body Shop in New York City also suggests taking your workouts outside and making use of the natural landscape around you. Hill workouts, she says, are great for working the posterior chain. “Both movements of uphill and downhill in the eccentric gear are great for having the stabilizing muscles come into play.” For specific workout info see: How to Run Hill Repeats
Perhaps the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) aren’t news to you, but since it remains one of the best ways to increase workout intensity (and not to mention, calorie burn) we had to bring it up once again. “Intermittent bouts of high-intensity exercise mixed with rest has shown time and again to burn more fat than moderate intensity exercise, whether using weights or cardiovascular exercise,” explains Marc Perry, founder and CEO of BuiltLean and top personal trainer in New York City. “HIIT can be accomplished with cardiovascular exercise, or resistance training protocols.” An example, he said, would be performing a few rounds of alternating between 30 very intense seconds of cycling, running or kettlebell swings, followed by 60 seconds of total rest or easy, active recovery.
Taking away rest in between exercises is a simple way to cut down your workout time and increase intensity at the same time. “Eliminate breaks in between sets by moving from one exercise to the other or add in a 60-second cardio burst in between strength training sets,” suggests Stephanie Mansour, CEO of Step It Up with Steph and a TV personality, health and fitness expert, and confidence and lifestyle coach for women.
“Add some speed intervals to your daily run, specifically, fartlek intervals,” says Arek Long, M.A., C.S.C.S., owner of WorkoutLA. “Nearly as much fun to do as to say, fartlek training consists of irregular speed intervals.” One example he shared: “Say you're running along a street, every time a red car—or a van, or a truck, or whatever, just pick something common—approaches from the opposite direction, sprint until it's past you, then slow back down to your regular pace and prepare for the next interval.”
“Your jog to the park will act as your warm-up,” Long explained. “No need to bring any equipment. All you'll need is the swing set and a park bench.” His suggested routine: step-ups on the bench, triceps dips on the bench, rows on the swing (hold the ends of the swing seat, the bottom of the seat should touch your chest at the top of the movement, like performing TRX rows) and knee raises on the bench. “Do four rounds of the circuit, 20 seconds of each exercise and 15 seconds of rest to give you time to get into position for the next exercise,” he said.
“Many cities have stairs that you can hike up and down a few times to really target the glutes while also getting the added cardio benefit of consistent movement,” says Jenny Schatzle, founder of The Jenny Schatzle Program and a fitness expert and motivational speaker. “When you reach the top of the stairs, you can find yourself a curb and do triceps dips, and when you get to the bottom of the stairs, you can do push-ups on a ledge or on the sidewalk.”
Sean Kemp, C.S.C.S., CEO and founder of Sean Kemp Fitness suggests adding explosive exercises, like squat jumps, burpees or kettlebell swings to your workout routine. “Explosive movements that ignite your nervous system help you lift more weight through your workout and increase the overall volume,” he explained. “And, in turn, increases calorie burn.”
Finally, Julie Stubblefield a fat loss coach and founder of Fit Mom Revolution, reminds us to balance out our intense summer regimens with a little bit of rest and relaxation. “In a stress-driven world, we spend too little time restoring our bodies, and this impacts our ability to achieve restful sleep, manage our food choices appropriately and lower stress accordingly,” Stubblefield said. “Restoration includes slow walking, stretching, yoga, hot baths, reading, journaling, intimacy, massage and sleep, but it can be anything that relaxes your mind and body, even if 10 minutes at a time, sprinkled in throughout the day and week. If you feel like you are doing everything ‘right’ with your exercise but aren't seeing results, you may want to look at how well you are relaxing in between gym time.”