“Nature is always open for business”: an interview with outdoor fitness coach Julian
Getting away from your computer, striking a balance. Tackling something, smelling the sweat. Concentrating, sharpening your motor skills. Achieving a goal, feeling proud. DIY and exercise have a lot of things in common – probably far more than you thought. Springtime is also the perfect time to start doing both in the great outdoors again: any type of activity or physical activity in the fresh air has an especially positive impact on your health and greatly reduces your stress levels.
Fitness coach Julian Haspel also runs his group workouts exclusively in the middle of nature – no exceptions. Up to three times a week, he encourages and motivates participants as they work their way through the squats, push-ups and many, many flights of stairs that make up the interval training session. We had a chat with him about exercising in the great outdoors, his tips and tricks for an active lifestyle and why DIY and exercise are not so dissimilar.
“Any sort of physical activity is better than none at all.”
Julian, how many times a week do you exercise?
I work out about four to six times a week at different intensities. These sessions might be 30 minutes of high-intensity interval training or 60 minutes of active regeneration with a moderate conditioning unit.
And how much exercise should ordinary people do in the week to stay fit and healthy?
Basically, any sort of physical activity is better than none at all. But it always depends a little on how fit you are to start with: I recommend exercising at least three days a week on average.
The important thing is also to have a mix of recovery and training periods.
What does an ‘active lifestyle’ mean for you?
The best thing would be to make physical activity a part of your day-to-day life – that in itself can make a massive contribution. Taking the stairs instead of the lift, for example, or cycling to work rather than driving.
“Get out of the city”
As a fitness coach, you always hold your sessions outside. Why do you prefer exercising in the fresh air?
For me, exercising in the fresh air means being able to escape my thoughts and relax. I particularly enjoy the peace and quiet it offers and it allows me to focus fully on my workout. Plus, you’re not beholden to the opening times of gyms or studios – nature is always open for business!
What does ‘nature’ mean to you?
For me, nature means getting out of the city, away from the rows of shops and hordes of people.
Exercising outdoors is supposed to be very healthy for you in general. Which effect do you consider to be the most positive?
The fresh air reduces your stress levels and strengthens your immune system. Anyone who has a stressful job and only alternates between sitting on the sofa and sitting in traffic can kill two birds with one stone with outdoor workouts in particular: you’re in the fresh air and exercising gets the best out of your body again.
Do you spend a lot of time outdoors when you’re not exercising? What do you appreciate about being outside?
I try to spend as much time in the fresh air as I can in my day-to-day life. But as an outdoor fitness coach, I also spend a lot of time at my desk coming up with training schedules, planning workouts and so on. A short walk also then does wonders there as well – it promotes creativity and you can escape your thoughts and relax.
“DIY also makes you work up a sweat.”
Natural materials such as wood are also a common theme when it comes to DIY as well. Do you have any DIY experience?
Yes, I would say so. You won’t catch me doing something every weekend – I just don’t have enough time, sadly – but I’m pretty handy when it comes to minor repairs and home DIY projects. I’m definitely planning to take on something larger soon. Your DIY weight bench has really inspired me.
Do you see any parallels or connections between DIY and fitness training?
Both DIY and fitness training are all about concentration, motor skills, perfection and creativity. When it comes to fitness training in particular, I’m always looking for exciting new ways to exercise outdoors. Nature just has so much to offer.
Plus, both make you work up a sweat and burn off calories. I’m just imagining how strenuous it must be building a treehouse or a wardrobe...
Have you ever built your own fitness equipment?
I’m actually planning to build a type of weight bench out of wood and bricks for my outdoor workouts. I still need to have a think about how I’m going to go about it though.
Three tips to help get more exercise into your day-to-day life
From the sofa to the great outdoors: what are your three simple tips to integrate more outdoor exercise into your day-to-day life?
There are often small changes you can make to give your day-to-day life a more active look:
- Cycle more or travel via eBike: the streets in many city centres are jammed up enough as it is on the whole. Cycling saves your frustrations, often gets you to your destination quicker and does something for your fitness.
- Find a workout group or training partner: it’ll encourage you to get outside even if the weather’s bad and you can all motivate one another to follow through with your workout schedule.
- Take the stairs more often: not only will it get your circulation going, but it’ll also burn more calories. So resist the temptation to use the lift or escalator and take the stairs. Even just a few floors here and there over the course of the day will add up and make a significant difference.