Around this time of year, fitness is booming. The runners get to come back outside and do their sprints in the sunshine or on the sand, the year-round exercise junkies are going into overdrive and those, like me, who spent months hibernating are using the warm weather as newfound motivation to get back into a routine. Not to mention the fact that athleisure makes for the perfect sweat-wicking summer outfit, so most of us are already dressed and ready to go most of the time, anyway. This surge is probably second only to that New Year’s Day rush to the treadmills; it’s like our ambition is augmented by the daylight and tan skin.
What’s adding to it is the emergence of summertime outdoor fitness series in cities across the country in recent years. Between free yoga classes and drop-in high-intensity interval training run throughs, you don’t need a gym to hit up your favorite group exercise classes. From May through September, you can be sure that any green space will be filled with fitness enthusiasts doing downward-facing dogs and squats on Saturday mornings.
In Boston alone, there are at least eight different series run by organizations around the city, including free classes by established boutique trainers and more niche sectors of the fitness industry (goat yoga, for one example). Places like New York, D.C. and Chicago are right there with them, coordinating series for most, if not all, days of the summer.
It’s not necessarily a preference thing, either: Working out in the fresh air is inherently good for you. Obviously, working out in any capacity is great for your mind and body, but doing so in the great outdoors comes with added benefits. Hanging outside keeps you on your toes, for example, since your body is constantly adjusting to its surroundings, whether it be temperature, terrain or distractions. Assuming it’s a sunny day, working out outside gives you your daily dose of vitamin D, and the effects on your mental health are even better. Being outside quite literally eases your mind.
It makes sense -- why would you want to hang out in a stuffy gym, fighting musclehead bros for the elliptical when you could be laying in the grass with the sun shining on your face, a trainer shouting encouragement at you? Plus, it’s a way to try new types of classes without shelling out tons of cash to walk into a studio -- Classpass only goes so far.
Outdoor fitness classes make exercise more accessible, as well. If you’ve never joined a gym before, approaching the front desk can be intimidating, especially when you don’t know how memberships work and are wary of being hit with hidden fees (curse that annual charge, am I right?). While they may be higher in volume than your typical sports club group class, these outdoor classes are often run by approachable and receptive trainers whose main priority is to make sure you’re at ease.
That, and you can’t deny that it’s all a social game. You probably won’t convince a friend to meet you at the gym for burpees at 7 a.m., but walking to the park with a group of co-workers at 5:30 and hitting happy hour right after? Persuading.
Beyond the benefits for the participants, outdoor fitness classes are a way for organizations to stay relevant. Like I said, runners are running outside, sunrise yoga on the beach is a hit and, just at a basic level, people want to enjoy the nice weather! If their members aren’t coming to the gym, the gym needs to come to them.
I don’t really have to tell you to get outside today, do I?