No doubt, summer arrives with its own rhythm, its own demands, and its own kind of freedom. Summer is an invitation to revitalize, rejuvenate, and redefine your fitness routine. As the mercury soars, the conventional gym walls might feel more like a prison cell than ever before. So, how about we shake things up a bit? Let’s break away from the conventional and immerse ourselves in a summer fitness experience like no other. Brace yourself for an exhilarating journey to the best shape of your life.
Here are my 6 basic principles for proper summer fitness.
You can certainly train in the gym during summer. I do a lot of my training in the gym, indoors, throughout all seasons. But gym training isn’t unique to summer. Plus, it’s the default option for most people. I’m trying to get you to try something you haven’t tried before, to train in a way you can’t always train.
Sure, if it’s 100 degrees out, you might want to do the gym. You might want to get some shade. But summer affords you the opportunity to train outside in most locales.
Train barefoot in your background or a park. If you have gym equipment, simply take it outside and do what you normally do in the garage, only on the grass or dirt.
Train in the forest. Climb trees, lift logs, throw boulders.
Train at the beach or at the lake or river. Bring a kettlebell out there and get to work.
Focus on Fun
The key to great summer fitness? Making it not just about the sweat and effort, but about the sheer joy of movement, the exhilaration of performance. Seeking healthy pleasure is a cornerstone of being human and thriving as a human. Pleasure is how our brain reward systems get us to do things that are good for us. Exercise is no different. If you make training fun, you actually look forward to it. You enjoy it in the moment, not just when it’s over.
And just because it’s fun doesn’t mean you’re not going to be working hard or getting a great training effect from it. It means the workout is intrinsically valuable in the moment, and therefore more sustainable.
The picture of this begins in your backyard, under the bright summer sun. In your hands, a kettlebell, that deceivingly simple yet incredibly effective piece of equipment. You swing it, lift it, press it, transforming each movement into an opportunity to build muscle, endurance, and strength. Each swing is met with a cool breeze, each lift underlined by the sun’s rays bestowing upon you a golden glow and a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
Transition your training ground from your yard to the vast, blue expanse of a lake or an ocean. Envision yourself gracefully cruising on a stand-up paddleboard, or perhaps navigating the waves in a kayak. It’s not just a workout; it’s an intimate connection with water, an element that has been entwined with our existence since evolutionary times. Comfort in water is a fitness staple, and summer is the ideal time to master it.
On dry land, there’s an entirely different adventure waiting for you. Picture yourself biking on winding trails or rollerblading down the coastline. Consider these not just as fitness tools, but as vessels of exploration. The goal isn’t merely to burn calories but to soak in the surroundings, to integrate with the elements, to experience the freedom that summer brings.
These tools – the humble kettlebell, your watercraft, and your chosen mode of land exploration – they are your partners in fitness, enabling you to tap into the unexplored power of outdoor training. What makes them special is that they aren’t just exercising equipment; they are a part of your summer fitness story, enhancing the quality of your workout and your overall experience.
Go on Adventures
Instead of just using the rower at the gym, go kayaking down the river, through some sea caves, or across the lake (for time, if you wish to increase the intensity). Or, as I do, paddle down Miami canals, often meeting dolphins and manatees along the way.
Instead of only walking on the treadmill, do a backpacking trek for a day or two. Carry your belongings up and down mountains, over boulders, through meadows and across rivers. You’ll log far more steps than you ever would on the treadmill while getting an incredible sensory experience out of it.
The gym is great. I use it myself all the time, no matter the season. But the point is to take your conventional gym training and use it to conquer the world and go on adventures.
I’m not going to tell you what specific exercises to do. Deadlifts, squats, pull-ups, push-ups, presses, rows, swings, muscle ups, dips, lunges, step ups, hip thrusts… they’re all fantastic options. You know what you like to do. I am going to tell you to try being a bit more intuitive and “touchy feely” when you train. That’s what summer is: a season for intuition and feeling and spontaneity. Foster that summer spirit with your rep schemes.
Here’s what I mean.
Say you’re doing push-ups, kettlebell swings, pull-ups, and squats. Or dips, trap bar deadlifts, rows, and lunges. A push, a pull, a row, and a knee flexion.
Instead of hitting a set amount of reps, do the first exercise (push-ups) until you go just shy of failure. 2-3 reps left in the tank.
Move on to the next one (kettlebell swings) and do the same. Feel that deep burn but keep a few reps in the tank. When you’re ready, return to the first exercise and do the same. Then do the same for the next one.
When you’ve hit 3-4 sets of these, move on to the next two exercises and repeat the process.
You’re learning how to feel when you’ve approached your limit. You’re getting the training effect for your muscles but you’re also training your intuition. That’s summer.
Embrace the Elements
Summer, for all its joys, brings with it an intense heat. But instead of letting it bog you down, let it fuel you. Embrace the warmth, revel in the sweat. Get filthy, dirty, dusty, muddy. Summer is your chance to build heat tolerance and improve your overall fitness level.
It’s also the time to use water to your advantage. Whether it’s plunging through the waves at the beach, diving into a crystal clear alpine lake, swimming with (or against) the current in a river, or even doing laps and underwater pool workouts, the water is an entirely new playground for your fitness exploits.
When the sun climbs the sky, don’t hide indoors. Go outside and train in the oldest, biggest gym in the world. Soak up as much sunlight as you can, safely—don’t get burned, of course. It isn’t just a pathway to a glowing tan, nor is it only a source of vitamin D, which is a crucial prohormone involved in muscle protein synthesis, bone density accrual, and hormonal health. It also increases nitric oxide production, which can improve the transmission of oxygen and important nutrients to your muscles and other tissues as well as enhance the “pump” you get when you lift weights.Furthermore, training in hot weather can add an additional stressor—the heat—that can enhance the training effect. However it is a stressor and you may need more recovery from an outdoor sun drenched workout, but you can also derive greater benefits.
Just make sure that you stay hydrated. Add high quality salt to your water or make an electrolyte mix. I like to add a packet of LMNT to water plus collagen and creatine, then sip that before and during my workout. Hydration will improve not just your workouts but also your skin’s resistance to UV light.
In essence, summer fitness is about embracing the inherent power of the season—the heat, sunlight, sand, water, and the calming energy of nature.
Summer fitness is an exploration, an adventure. The sun-soaked season invites you to push beyond the typical, to break free from monotony and create a summer fitness routine that reflects the unique opportunities of the season. The world is your gym. Now go out there, embrace the heat, the sun, the water, and make your summer fitness journey an unforgettable one.
How do you approach fitness in summer? What are your basic summer fitness principles?
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.