I’m lucky enough to live right around the corner from an amazing park. It’s got a lake, a running path, and tons of exercise stations. I’m a personal trainer, so you’d probably expect to find me torturing myself on the pull-up bars. But I’m also a mom of two, and my kids would be bored as sin if I made them hang out with me at the exercise stations. Nope, if we’re going to the park, we’re going to be hanging out at the playground.
As a parent, I know it’s hard to find a little extra time to hit the gym or grab a run. That’s why I like to multi-task. Let the kids play — and work out at the same time. Playgrounds and parks are full of equipment you can use for a killer total body workout.
So the next time you and your brood head to the park, try out this 30-minute workout. This set is designed to target all your major muscle groups — arms, core and legs. Repeat three times … or until you feel like your limbs are too noodle-y to do anymore.
15-25 raises, for three sets
Heel raises are one of those exercises that can be done just about anywhere. Just find an elevated horizontal surface that will support your weight. Lower your heel below parallel, then bring them back up until you’re back on your tip-toes. Really maximize the range of motion up and down — then repeat until your calves start burning. I'd suggest about 15 raises if you're just starting and 25 if you're more advanced.
If it’s tough for you to balance while you're hanging over the edge, go ahead and hold on to something to stabilize yourself. But don’t rely on it too much! Heel raises can really help improve your balance. It also works your calf muscles, strengthens your ankles and even works the muscles in your feet.
10-15 push-ups, for three sets
Wherever there are playgrounds, there are picnic tables and benches. Use them! Often times, the ground at parks is too hard for push-ups. All those little pebbles grind into your knees and stick into your palms. So, instead of skipping the push-ups, just move over to a picnic table! They’re perfect for modified push-ups.
Square your legs so they are shoulder-width apart and plant your palms on the picnic table — you can use the table top or the bench. The closer your body is to the ground, the harder the push-up will be. Eventually, you can work your way up to traditional push-ups on the lawn (or on the top of the picnic table, if you want to keep out of the pebbles and mud).
15-20 dips, for three sets
I dip, you dip, we dip! Dips are one of my go-to exercises, because you can take them anywhere. You just need a bench, a really short wall or a really tall stair. Dips target the area of the arm that I call my “bingo hall lady wings” (that underpart of the arm that has a tendency to get flabby and wobble around).
Start out with your feet firmly planted before you and lower yourself until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Make sure you have a good grip on the bench behind you and then dip down until your butt almost touches the ground. Bring yourself back up again. Keep going until your arms get wobbly.
Daily dip tip: Dips can also be easily modified to match your strength level. You can make this exercise tougher by fully extending your legs out.
10-15 reverse push-ups, for three sets
Reverse push-ups are a powerful exercise. Like a classic row, reverse push-ups work the lats — a muscle in your back that helps you when you’re doing pull-ups, swimming and even breathing. And they are great to do with playground equipment, because there’s lots of hip-level bars you can hang off.
In this exercise, you are using your body weight to your advantage. Keep your toes up and dig your heels into the ground. Then, pull your chest up to the bar. You can modify this exercise by changing the angle of your body. The more parallel you are to the ground, the harder this exercise gets.
45-60 seconds, for three sets
Planks are everyone’s worst enemy. When you’re in that plank position and your core is burning and your arms are shaking and it hurts to breathe, every single second feels like a lifetime. But they’re also so good for you. Your whole body hurts because planks engage pretty much every muscle. Plus, you don’t need any special equipment or gym memberships to do them.
So find a piece of level lawn (or hop up onto the top of a picnic table, if the ground is too muddy or hard) and savor every horrible second. You’ll thank me later.
Pro Plank Tip: When you’re in the plank position, be sure to keep your body flat, your butt down and your feet hip-width apart. And keep your elbows directly under your shoulders.
15-25 on each leg, for three sets
Grab your little one, because this is an exercise you can do with a toddler in tow.
Step-ups make your butt perkier while tightening your gluts and quads. Find a steady horizontal surface to step up on to, and do just that: step up. The higher the step, the harder the exercise. For an added butt booster, lift your free leg out behind you as you step. Repeat until your bum feels like it might fall off. I'd suggest 15 for a beginner and 25 if you're more advanced.
And that’s it. Complete this set of exercises three times — and you’ll get a whole body workout while your kiddos are playing at the park. I think these workouts are so effective that I often bring my clients out to train on playgrounds — whether they have kids or not. I’ve even done a few online personal training sessions with clients at parks. And since you can take your kids with you, you can check both park time and exercise time off your list at once.
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