Try any of our walking/running, swimming, or biking workouts to help you have fun outdoors—and shed some pounds.

By Amy Roberts

It’s summer! Have some fun in the sun—and shed some pounds at the same time—with these beginner-level workouts that get results. To stay motivated, focus on feeling the joy, not the burn. “You want to finish a workout and feel good, like ‘Gosh, I could do that again!’” says Jenny Hadfield, a running coach in Tucson, AZ. If you go too hard at first, you’ll be so sore that you won’t want to run any errands, let alone run around the block again. And you’ll need your energy because these interval training plans alternate between easy and hard bouts of activity to up your calorie burn. (Just like a car, your body guzzles more gas or energy in stop-and-go traffic than while cruising on the highway.) So pick your kind of fun—swimming, biking or running—and rev up for one of these workouts.

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Photo by Pete Atkinson/Getty Images

Swim

You don’t have to be a swimmer to get some excellent exercise in a pool or lake, says Kim Evans, a water-fitness instructor and personal trainer at Spring Lake Fitness and Aquatic Center in Spring Lake, MI. In fact, you’ll get a greater calorie burn staying upright, barely letting your feet touch the ground. That’s because you’re pushing your limbs against the resistance of the water—and against the current you create with your own movements. “Try ‘running’ just one length of a pool and you’ll feel it,” Evans says. Here’s a helpful bonus: The water’s pressure keeps your heart rate lower, so you can push yourself harder. That said, if you’re just getting back into the rhythm of exercising, do this workout in chest-deep water with your feet on the ground. Aim for 30 minutes of moving, and do as much as you can without feeling like you’re totally out of breath.

THE WORKOUT: Strength 

Warm-up and cool-down

Do five sets, 20 reps each set, staying in place or traveling: 

  • Power “walk,” swinging bent arms at sides
  • High-knee march, bringing opposite elbow to knee 

Workout 

For each pair, do 5 sets, 20 to 30 reps each set:

Pair #1

  • Two-foot side-to-side hops (move arms across your body opposite your legs)
  • Tuck jumps (knees to chest, hug with arms)

Pair #2

  •   Sprint (pump arms!) in place or while traveling
  •   Walk to recover

Pair #3

  • Criss-cross jacks (like jumping jacks, but with your arms in the water and your feet and hands alternately crossing each other)
  • Scissor jumps (alternately jump your feet and swing your arms front to back)

To up the challenge

Move faster, try keeping your feet off the ground, take it to deeper water and/or repeat the entire workout from the top before cooling down. 

Consider a waterproof speaker

When you’ve got the pool to yourself, set up a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. Any time you need to switch up songs, use Siri or OK Google to change tunes while dripping wet. Try the Fugoo Style XL (amazon.com, $170) or the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom (amazon.com, $100).

NOTE: Being submerged keeps you cooler, so you may be able to exercise longer despite the heat.

Photo by Eyeswideopen/Getty images

Bike

If you’re dusting off an old 10-speed after a Marie Kondo–inspired garage cleanout, bring joy to your back, neck and butt by getting it professionally tuned up and fitted to your body. If your bike doesn’t fit your body correctly, you’ll have post-ride muscle pain and saddle soreness. Beginner cyclists should be able to handle an easy 30- to 60-minute ride at least a couple of days a week prior to trying these workouts. While you’re building your base, take the time to learn your gears. You’ll be using them both to make riding easier (for example, by switching to a lower gear on hills) and to make it harder (by using a higher gear on flat terrain). 

“Learn to ride by feel, on a scale of 1 to 10,” says Lisa Mazzola, a cycling coach and cofounder of Art of Cycling in New York City. She crafted these two workouts based on perceived effort. A 1 equals easy pedaling, a 5 means you can carry on a short conversation, and a 10 is an all-out sprint. Unless you’re in serious training mode, you won’t need to get to 8 or higher here. “The goal is consistency,” says Mazzola. “Choose an achievable amount—even just two or three rides a week—that you can commit to, rather than being sporadic.”

The Benefits of Biking

  • Being seated reduces impact on joints.
  • Cycling improves aerobic stamina and muscle strength in the legs and core.
  • It’s good for your balance.

WORKOUT #1: Speed & Endurance

Warm-up and cool-down

Pedal for 10 minutes at 1 to 4 effort

Workout 

  • 5 minutes—about a 4 pace 
  • 5 minutes—about a 6 pace 
  • Repeat twice

WORKOUT #2: Form, Control & Efficiency

Warm-up and cool-down

Pedal for 10 minutes at 1 to 4 effort

Workout

  • 1 minute—4 pace 
  • 3-minute drill: 
    • 30 seconds—fast pedaling (reduce your gear and let your feet fly, but engage your core and stick your butt firmly to the seat so your hips don’t sway)
    •  30 seconds—coasting rest
  • 5 minutes—2 or 3 pace
  • Repeat from the top 
  • 30 seconds—fast pedaling (reduce your gear and let your feet fly, but engage your core and stick your butt firmly to the seat so your hips don’t sway)
  •  30 seconds—coasting rest

To up the challenge

Increase your effort level or duration (in 30- to 60-second increments) on the harder intervals, add more repetitions or simply tackle more hills.

Consider a better saddle

Do yourself—and your lady parts—a favor and invest in a saddle that doesn’t make you sore. Some riders find the kind with the nose cut off more comfy. Others prefer a cutout in the middle. We like the Specialized Dolce Gel women’s saddle (specialized.com, $50).

TIP: Download a timer app for your smartphone, like Seconds, to hear prompts for your intervals.

Photo by Stocksy

Walk or Run

Walking and its speedier sibling, running, are about the simplest exercises an able-bodied woman can get into—all you really need is a decent pair of shoes. (Pro tip: Start with running shoes, even if you aren’t running yet.) The trick is to ramp up your time on your feet slowly, adding speed in increments. “For at least three weeks, commit to three or four sessions a week of 30 minutes of just walking,” Hadfield says. Then start to pick up your pace: After 5 to 10 minutes of a walking warm-up, push yourself either to power walk or jog until you feel your breath quicken. You’ve got this! Walk to recover until you catch your breath. Repeat as you’re able, alternating for 10 to 20 minutes, followed by a just-walking 5- to 10-minute cool-down. Eventually, your walking recoveries will get shorter until you can sustain a 30-minute (or longer) steady run. Once you’ve got a solid base, try these workouts.

ALSO SEE: Walking Is Considered Exercise—But Only If You Take This Many Steps Per Hour

The Rewards of Running

  • It’s a major calorie burner—more so than most other cardio activity. 
  • While there’s more impact on your body than with biking or swimming, that can be a good thing for your bones—and not harmful to otherwise healthy knees, research has found.
  • Most exercise protects against heart disease, cancer and diabetes, but studies have shown that running can actually slow the effects of aging.

WORKOUT #1: Speed

Warm-up and cool-down

10 minutes of walking or easy jogging

Workout

Choose landmarks along your route—mailboxes, utility poles—and alternately speed up and slow down as you pass them. 

WORKOUT #2: Strength 

Warm-up and cool-down

10 minutes of brisk walking or easy jogging

Workout

  • Find a hill that’s at least a quarter mile long. Walk or run as hard as you can up the hill for at least 30 seconds. Walk back down.
  • Do as many reps as you can, aiming for the same pace and distance, give or take a second or two. Stop when you log two in a row that are significantly slower than your first go.

To up the challenge

Before you get too ambitious, do any new workout several times over two to three weeks before you push yourself harder. “Your body has to adapt to avoid injury,” Hadfield says. Then take your workout to the next level: Increase your pace/effort or the length of your push intervals or reduce your recovery—but pick only one of those changes at a time.

Consider a fitness tracker 

No need to fumble with your phone while exercising. The Fitbit Versa Lite Edition (fibit.com, $160) lets you time all those hill intervals, track your heart rate and total steps and more. Plus, you can take it on swims, since it’s water-resistant.

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