How to Turn Your Run or Walk Into a Full-Body Workout

Take Your Outdoor Routine from Ho-Hum to Heavy Hittin'

Outdoor Running Full Body Workout
Getty Images/Thomas Barwick

One of the least expensive, easiest and most effective ways to start a workout routine is to simply lace up your shoes, step outside, and start walking or jogging. And while a basic, 30-minute outdoor cardio session is nothing to scoff at, it's lacking a few of the physical activity guidelines suggested by the American College of Sports Medicine. Namely, it doesn't incorporate strength training exercises for muscular health, or neuromotor exercises that enhance balance and coordination.

The good news is, you don't have to ditch your walk or run to turn your workout into a total-body fat blaster that checks all the boxes. Rather, by extending your workout just 10 extra minutes, you can incorporate a little bit of everything into your routine—walking or jogging for cardiovascular health, bouts of strength training for muscular health, and a few balance training exercises to improve coordination and stability. All you have to do is try the following workout.

Using Rate of Perceived Exertion to Gauge Exercise Intensity

When doing this routine, use the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to manage intensity. RPE is a self-reported 10-point scale based on how you feel during exercise. An RPE of 1 is the equivalent of sitting still—essentially no exertion—while an RPE of 10 is the equivalent of an all-out sprint—a level of exertion you couldn't possibly maintain for more than 10 to 15 seconds.

Using the far left and far right ends of the scale as guidelines, most exercise falls somewhere between a 5 and 9 for intensity.

The beauty of RPE is you can apply it to any activity you perform, so it applies regardless of whether you're walking, cycling, running or swimming. For the purpose of this plan, RPE suggestions are provided, and you can apply them to whichever activity you perform, whether that's walking, running, or even cycling.

Your Full-Body Outdoor Workout Plan

You can do this routine wherever you typically walk or run, but if you have access to a fit trail or park, some of these exercises will be easier to perform.

Time required: 40 minutes

  • 8 minute cardio warmup: Walk or jog for eight minutes, starting at an RPE of 4 and gradually increasing your intensity so you reach an RPE of 6 by the end of your warmup. 
  • 1 minute lunges: Stop wherever you are and perform 60 seconds of alternating lunges.
  • 3 minutes cardio: Walk or jog for 3 minutes at an RPE of 7.
  • 1 minute wall pushups: Stop and perform 60 seconds of wall pushups using any surface available, whether a wall, a tree or a bench.
  • 1 minute cardio: Walk or jog for 60 seconds at an RPE of 8—you should be working hard during this interval.
  • 1 minute squats: Stop and perform 60 seconds of staggered squats with one foot on a raised surface, like a curb or a step on a playscape, or even a rock or stump—after the first 30 seconds, switch which leg is staggered.
  • 1 minute cardio: Walk or jog for 60 seconds at an RPE of 8.
  • 1 minute modified pull-ups: Stop whenever you get to a low bar (like a low monkey bar at a park) or a low-hanging (but sturdy) branch on a tree. Use the bar or branch to perform 60 seconds of a modified pull-ups.
  • 1 minute cardio: Walk or jog for 60 seconds at an RPE of 8.
  • 1 minute triceps dips: Stop and perform 60 seconds of chair dips using a bench, table or bar for support. If you don't have access to a raised surface, you can perform them on the ground.
  • 5 minutes cardio: Walk or jog for five minutes at an RPE of 6. This should be a "moderate intensity," comfortable pace you can maintain.
  • 1 minute plank: Stop and perform a 60 second plank.
  • 3 minutes cardio: Walk or jog for for three minutes at an RPE of 7. This should be a more challenging pace—you might be able to maintain the pace for awhile, but it requires more effort to maintain.
  • 1 minute lateral lunges: Stop and perform 60 seconds of lateral lunges, switching sides after 30 seconds.
  • 1 minute cardio: Walk or jog for 60 seconds at an RPE of 8.
  • 1 minute agility drill: Stop and perform 60 seconds of side-to-side skaters.
  • 1 minute cardio: Walk or jog for 60 seconds at an RPE 8.
  • 1 minute standing core: Perform 60 seconds of high-knee twisting marches, alternating from side-to-side.
  • 1 minute cardio: Walk or jog for 60 seconds at an RPE of 7.
  • 1 minute twisting side plank: Perform a standard plank, but shift your weight to one side to rotate into side plank, rotate back to center, then rotate to the opposite side—continue for 60 seconds
  • 5 minutes cardio: Cool down for five minutes, starting at an RPE of 6 and gradually decreasing intensity to an RPE of 4.

Just like that, you've taken your standard walk or jog and turned it into a full-body routine! To take some of the guesswork out of the program, try entering the workout into an app with a timer to help you stay on track. Seconds is one version that's available on iOS and Android.

Discover more ways to turn your city into a gym.

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