Dryland Training: A New Way To Work Out In The Parks

By: Tyler Thompson

September 07, 2020

Category: Recreation

Parks and trails are natural fitness centers. Whether it is your daily run through French Regional Park, your bike ride around Cleary Lake or the outdoor gym at Hyland, parks and trails are popular places to exercise. But beyond these traditional active uses, there are many other ways to integrate fitness into your visit to the park. One model for outdoor fitness is called dryland training. 

What Is Dryland Training?

Athletes in downhill and cross-country skiing, hockey and other sports often train during the off-season months to improve their performance and stay in shape for when they go back in season. While many other sports always occur on land, the term “dryland” comes from the fact that winter sports take place on snow or ice. Thus, off-season training during the summer and fall months became commonly referred to as dryland training. 

Who Can Do Dryland Training?

While the term “dryland” simply refers to being on land, the term “training” often implies a higher level of intensity. However, dryland training does not just apply to athletes looking to improve their speed or race time; it is relevant to any individual who wants to be physically active outside and work toward a goal. Dryland training can be done at any level of intensity to benefit your strength, balance, flexibility, endurance and general fitness.

What Activities Are Part of Dryland Training?

Dryland training can occur in many different forms for your desired fitness level, and often, little to no specialized equipment is needed. Lace up your sneakers, and you’re ready to go. If you have a yoga mat or towel and pair of armpit-length ski poles, they can be helpful for enhancing your workout, but they’re not necessary. 

Pole Hiking

Pole hiking, also referred to as Nordic walking, is a form of low-impact fitness that can improve your endurance over time. It is commonly incorporated into dryland training because walking with poles imitates the traditional cross-country skiing motion. 

As you step forward with your right foot, your left arm extends forward with a 90-degree bend in your elbow. Your left arm then plants the pole slightly behind your foot at an angle. Applying gentle pressure to the pole when it is planted engages your upper body and core and relieves pressure from your knees and joints. 

A man demonstrates how to do pole hiking.

Creating A Workout

Parks are full of amenities and natural elements that you can incorporate into your workout. A few to consider using are: 

  • A picnic table bench for tricep dips, step-ups or box jumps. 
  • A scenic spot by the lake to do a few low-impact core exercises like crunches. 
  • Hit the trails for an endurance walk with or without poles. 
  • Increase your heart rate and build leg strength by bounding up hills. If you have poles, use them to harness upper body power while lessening the impact on your knees. 
A man demonstrates using a picnic table for tricep dips.
Picnic tables can be used for tricep dips. 
A man demonstrates doing step-ups on a picnic table.
Try step-ups on a picnic table.

Three Rivers Dryland Training Clubs

The Outdoor Recreation School at Three Rivers offers three dryland cross-country ski training clubs that start on Sept. 15. While these clubs are intended to help people prepare for the upcoming winter ski season, they are open to anyone and designed to accommodate varying levels of interest and ability. 

Participants will focus on core and body-weight strength exercises as well as pole hiking to build endurance and cardiovascular capacity. These programs also offer a great introduction for those looking to learn cross-country skiing or improve your technique prior to getting on the snow. 

I encourage you to take advantage of exercising outdoors in the parks. With more than 150 miles of hiking trails and ample space to spread out, let the fresh air, green grass and soon-to-be fall colors surround your workout in the parks. 

About the Author

Tyler, wears a plaid shirt, hat and backpack and holds hiking poles while standing in front of mountains in the Teton Range.

Tyler is a research and evaluation analyst in the planning department at Three Rivers. Previously he was a recreation program specialist with the Outdoor Recreation School (ORS) and a facility supervisor at various parks around the Park District. He graduated from Saint John’s University with a degree in environmental studies and economics.

In addition to sharing his passion for data with his co-workers, he also enjoys sharing his passion for winter and coaching cross-country skiing. He is an avid cross-country skier, canoer, camper and mountain biker, and loves to explore the vast public lands across Minnesota and the country. When he is not exploring the outdoors, he enjoys cheering on Minnesota sports teams, reading books by Minnesota authors and cooking delicious meals at home. 


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