Get a Full Workout from the Park
In the fitness industry, we hear two common reasons for people not
working out: not enough time and not enough support. (Of course, money,
lack of access to trainers or gyms, fear of failure, and anxiety over
body image are also factors.)
I get it. I’m a busy mom working several jobs, and sometimes just getting
out of bed seems like a workout! But I never forget the effect that fitness
has on my energy level: it makes me a better parent, wife, friend, employee,
and personal trainer, so I try not to let even a day go by without a little
bit of activity.
And truly, it’s amazing how easy it can be to fit it in when you stop thinking
about the “work” part of a workout, and you start looking for ways to have fun
and get fit at the same time.
A great example: head to the playground with your kids. Each station or
play area represents a new opportunity to flex your muscles. You’ll sweat,
the kids will have a blast playing with you, and when you go home, you’ll be
so happy you made it happen!
The moment we get to the playground, my daughter heads straight for the
swings. Who can blame her? Swinging free with your legs in the air, pumping
them to go higher and higher – that’s pretty close to flying. Just that
movement alone is great for your big leg muscles and your core, so grab
a seat and start swinging!
Ready to turn it up a few notches? Try leaning back, and when the swing is
fairly still, slide your hands down the chains as low as you can. Engaging
your core, scissor your legs so you cross right over left, left over right,
etc. Start with 10 seconds – it’s harder than you think! If 10 feels too easy,
go for 30. Take a rest, and then start again. If you can make it two to three
sets, you’ll feel a big difference in your core.
Still not tough enough? Try swinging first, and then scissor your legs
so you cross right over left and then left over right. This is a great
full-body workout, and it will take all of your mind-body focus to do it
Once you’ve completed your criss-crosses, get off the swing and get
into push-up position on the ground directly in front of the seat.
Carefully lift one foot and rest it on the swing seat, then lift the
other. With your wrists directly under your shoulders, look at a point
just ahead of your wrists and slowly bring your knees in toward your
chest. Hold for a moment, and then slowly bring your legs back to their
starting position. You may feel a little shaky, and that’s okay – this is
a great move for working on your stabilization, balance, and strength.
However, you can always bring one foot down to the ground and alternate
legs if you feel more comfortable. If you can do eight reps, great!
Take a rest, and then try one more set.
The monkey bars are one of the most effective pieces of workout
equipment you’ll find at the playground – but you probably just
remember how fun they were to swing on as a kid! Nothing has
changed, except you’re a bit heavier. This is good news for
your fitness, since you’ll be using your body weight for resistance
as you scurry from one bar to the next. Make sure you bend your knees
so your feet stay all the way off the ground.
Ready for more? The monkey bars are a great place to work on pull-ups and
chin-ups. Keep your hands in either prone or supine position (overhand or underhand)
and try to lift yourself up to or over the bar. This will work out all of your big
muscles – so if you have any shoulder or rotator cuff issues, this may be a move to
skip. If it’s too tough, this is a great time to recruit a kid to help: have him or
her gently give you a little support under your feet or hips, lifting you up so you
don’t have to raise all of your body weight.
Going down the slide is really only a workout if you laugh the whole time –
and that’s not hard to do, since it’s so much fun! But try this: as soon as you’ve
reached the ground, put your hands on the edges of slides and try to complete 5–10
push-ups. You’ll focus on your triceps, since slides are fairly narrow, so be sure
to send your elbows straight behind you and lower down to bring your chest as close
to the slide as you can. (Of course, be sure that the person behind you isn’t making
his or her way down the slide until you’re done!)
Another option? Again, making sure that there’s nobody behind you in line,
lie backwards at the top of the slide and, hooking your feet on either side of
the handrail bars, slide down until you’re almost flat. Try some small crunches
(not full sit-ups), keeping your hands behind your ears to support but not tug
your neck. This is definitely a more advanced move, so if you’re afraid you might
lose your foothold, please skip this one so you don’t go sliding backwards head-first
down the slide!
If all of that is too much, try doing jumping jacks at the bottom of the slide
while waiting for your kid to come down. When he/she does, take a break to offer a
hug and high five, then get back to work!
Sand is great because it’s an unstable surface. From push-ups to jogging,
sand takes a standard fitness move and amps it up significantly. Try marching
in place for 30 seconds while your kids build sandcastles. From there, sink
into 10 good air squats, by pressing your glutes down and back as if you’re
sitting in a chair, then pressing back up to the starting position.
Finally, try some calf raises. Start with both legs, but if you need more,
try single-leg raises: bend one knee so it’s flexed behind you and do 10 reps
on one leg. Switch and try to go for two sets on each side.
After you watch your kids scramble up the ladder, why not drop and do 10 push-ups?
You can pick how intense the move is: the higher the bar, the easier the move; the
lower you go, the more body weight you’ll be pushing up. I like to do five push-ups
on each bar, starting at the top and going all the way down. It’s really, really hard
Alternatively, try step-ups and step-downs! Keeping a gentle grip on the bars or
nearby equipment for balance, step one foot up on a rung, then the other. Then step
down to the ground with one foot, then the other. You can keep an eye on the kids the
whole time, and you’ll not only work on your quads, hamstrings, and calves, you’ll
kickstart some good cardio, too!
The bottom line is: fitness is where you create it. Sure, a gym is packed with
equipment and trainers and treadmills (oh my!). But if you can’t get there, bring
your workout to wherever you are. Never miss an opportunity to get a quick workout
in, even if it’s just a few strength training moves at the playground. It’s good for you,
it’s great for the kids who are looking up to you, and it takes the pressure
and guilt out of feeling like you should do more.