Our pick of the best outdoor fitness activities to try this spring

    Swimming fitness outdoors
    Published: 3 April. Written by Tom Wheatley.

    Get active in the open air with everything from competitive team sports to high-octane thrills. As the long lockdown winter draws to a close, we can finally start filling our calendars with activities other than takeaways and Zoom catch-ups, starting with outdoors fitness. 

    For many of us, that means an end to home workouts and the chance to get back to the activities we live for. For some, it’s also an opportunity to make the most of our freedom by trying something new – whether that’s alone or with others so we can unleash our competitive sides again.

    Here are some of the best outdoor activities across the country, from solo adventures to group sessions designed to get us fit and healthy.

    Note: Although every activity featured is open in line with the current government guidelines across the UK, that can change, so make sure you check with the relevant organisation in advance.

    For a competitive edge

    Girl playing tennis outdoors

    Staying fit during the past 12 months has been a learning curve for many of us. But for those who exercise best with some friendly rivalry, there has been little substitute for competitive sports. 

    When it comes to socially distanced sports that have you bursting with competitive energy, tennis is top of the list. Not only will you have half of the court to yourself, you’ll be comfortably within the rule-of-six guidance. A game of doubles can also be a great way to get the whole family involved.

    Based on the Lawn Tennis Association’s summary, spring also sees the return of outdoor tournaments, which can vary in size depending on the capacity of venues.

    Due to social distancing, there are restrictions on contact sports such as boxing, judo and kickboxing until the wider relaxation of rules from 21 June. However, you should still be able to take part in outdoor training sessions before then. Groups of up to 30 should be allowed in organised groups from 17 May – the perfect opportunity to build strength and fitness in advance of contact sessions returning later in the summer. That means, when the time comes, you can worry more about your technique than keeping up with your opponent.

    If it’s outdoor team-on-team action you’re looking for, it may be time to give netball a try. Before Covid-19, the sport saw 50,200 more people taking part between 2018 and 2019 compared to the year before. England Netball courts are currently open for organised training sessions, with competitive tournaments due to return by 21 June – just enough time to get your skills together to win some trophies.

    And if there’s one outdoor activity that kept us going through lockdown, it’s running. From March to June alone in 2020, the NHS-backed Couch to 5k app saw more than 858,000 downloads, fuelling the trend for people across the country lacing up to stay active. 

    For many runners, training is only part of the overall enjoyment. The opening of running clubs across the country means getting back to everything from track training to social runs, with planned races also set to start again. Don’t forget to sign up for the Virtual Vitality London 10,000, taking place from Saturday 29 May to Sunday 6 June.

    For the fitness fan

    Group bootcamp class in summer outdoors

    For some, the lack of sociable fitness opportunities has made the past year even more difficult. The camaraderie of joining a bunch of like-minded fanatics and sweating it out together can power you through the toughest of sessions. 

    Luckily, the spring brings the return of group fitness. Organised outdoor sessions of up to 30 people, including an instructor, can take place as long as they conform to social distancing guidelines. This means that many gyms and studios will be taking their classes and training sessions outside.

    If you’re looking for a great training option, Be Military Fit could be the answer. With locations across the UK, it’s one of the most established outdoor group fitness options around. The name might be daunting, but it’s designed to be social, challenging and fun. Classes combine cardio, strength training and teamwork drills, and cater for different abilities, so choose a pace that suits you.

    For the lone ranger

    People rock climbing fitness outdoors

    Just because you can take part in group activities, doesn’t mean you have to. There are plenty of outdoor activities for the solo fitness seeker.

    If your aim is to get back to nature, open-water swimming is a great option and one that has seen an increase in popularity in recent years. The outdoor swimming season in the UK doesn’t start until at least mid-April, due to water temperatures being too low in the winter months. Remember, the water in most outdoor lakes in spring does tend to be chilly, so unless you’re a seasoned veteran, you’ll want to invest in a wetsuit. You can also read the health benefits of going wild swimming. Please note that open-water swimming can have risks when the water is cold, and therefore it is often advised to make sure there are lifeguards or you go with someone else. Before going open-water swimming it is advised to look into how to stay safe and find guarded open-water places to swim. 

    Ever watched someone clambering up the side of a mountain and thought it looked fun but don’t fancy the heights? Then 2021 is the year to give bouldering a go, a form of free climbing that takes place on smaller rock formations. It’s a great opportunity for beginners to enjoy the basics of climbing without the need for specialist equipment like ropes or harnesses (apart from climbing shoes and a safety mat). It’s also free and can be done pretty much anywhere there’s climbable rock, although there are many popular locations across the UK to set your sights on. If you’re new to the sport, we suggest you head to a climbing centre to master the basics before venturing into the wilderness.

    For the adrenaline junkie

    Parkour outdoors man jumping high

    If months of sitting at home have given you a thirst for adventure, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone.

    Remember that scene at the start of Casino Royale where James Bond is chasing a man who’s jumping and forward-rolling across an operational building site? Well, that’s Parkour – where you run, vault and climb across a typically urban setting. It’s a great way to stay active if you’re looking for something different or challenging. 

    Organised outdoor Parkour sessions can be found at locations across the UK, including the return of London’s popular Parkour Generations sessions.

    If that’s still not enough to satisfy your thrill-seeking desires and you want to jump in at the literal deep end, there’s always wakeboarding. Once this sport – which combines elements of water-skiing and surfing – could only be done at a few coastal locations, but now you can get involved at watersports centres across the country

    Wetsuit-up and hit the waves at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour while honing your ability to stay upright with the wind in your face. All those hours spent sitting in front of Netflix will seem like a distant memory.

    Fancy taking a stroll instead of these high energy fitness trends? Take a look at 7 of the UK’s most stunning walking routes.

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