As a work-at-home mom to two young sons, I spend a lot of time at the playground. Sometimes my boys want me to play with them, but other times they are happy to play together or with other children. It is at during these latter times that I get to sneak in a workout.
Me? Exercise? At the playground? What will all the other moms think?
Who cares! It’s fun!
The playground is a giant piece of gym equipment designed for body weight resistance and cardio work – and it’s not just for kids. Take, for example, these five exercises to challenge major muscle groups:
Park Bench Push Ups
Standing behind the bench, rest your hands on the top of the back and walk approx two feet backward. This position should allow you to bend your elbows, lowering your torso toward the top of the bench back in a diagonal push-up position.
Straighten your elbows to return to start position.
Park Bench Tricep Dips
Sit on the bench with palms on the edge, fingertips pointing down. Scoot your bum off of the bench, then lower until elbows are bent to about 75°. Press into the bench and extend elbows to return to start position.
Find a railing about three feet off the ground. Slide underneath of it, grasp the railing and extend the legs out long. With your hands above your chest, flex and extend the elbows, pulling your body toward the railing and then lowering down again.
With feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the knees (as if sitting in a chair) until thighs are parallel to the ground. Straighten knees to return to upright position. Be mindful to sit back as you move, preventing the knees from projecting beyond the toes.
Lunges with Knee Lift
Stand perpendicularly behind the park bench so you can hold on if you feel unstable. Take a big step backward, then lower body by bending back knee down to the ground. Align the front knee over the ankle. As you stand, drive the back knee forward and up so that it is lifted in front of you. After ten reps, turn around, and lunge/knee lift with the opposite leg.
If you can do ten repetitions of each of these exercises, you’ll be warmed up well for a core workout:
Sit on the ground (or a platform of the playscape), raise up your legs (bent knee is okay), trying to balance only on your bum. Straighten your arms and legs to increase the difficulty. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Rest your forearms in the seat of a swing, then push the swing away from your body until you are in a diagonal plank position. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Crossing the monkey bars requires a lot of core strength. If it hurts your hands to do the monkey bars, hold and hang and try to lift your knees to your chest. Go for 8-10 repetitions of hanging crunches.
By this time, I’m sure your kids are wondering what you’re doing, and they probably want to get in on the fun.
Here are some ideas for cardio exercises that will help all of you burn lots of energy:
With each step, raise one leg out in front of you while reaching forward with the opposite arm. Step again, with the other leg out and the alternate hands reaching forward. Circle the arms to get the windmill effect.
Using a step or the playground edging, step up-up-down-down. Kids like to try to do this really quickly, and turning it into a game can make you go faster (and thus increase the cardio load) than you’d probably want to do otherwise. What great motivation!
Pick three objects in the park that are roughly in a line, each one slightly further than the previous one. The object is to run (or do some other cardio activity like skip, hop, gallop, run backward, shuffle sideways, crab walk … kids love to choose!) to the first object, then run back to the start. Then run to the second object and run back to the start. Finish by running to the third object then return to the start.
Now all of the other kids at the playground are watching you and your kids having a great time, so they want to play, too. It’s time for relay races!
Think about it – you’re getting in a workout and being a great role model for the kids. Fitness can be fun, positive family time. Be creative!
Just remember that as you increase your exercise, drink plenty of water. Hydrated, strong muscles are a key component of a healthy body. Please receive clearance from your physician before engaging in this or any other physical activity program.
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Karen Shopoff Rooff is a work at home mom, Cooper Institute Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Pre/postnatal Fitness Specialist. She is the founder and owner of Balance Personal Fitness Training, which was born out of her passion for teaching and with gratitude for the benefits she has reaped from leading a fit and active life. Karen is committed to helping others become models of wellness as we strive to make Austin the fittest city in America. Often quoted in articles and blogs, Karen loves to share her knowledge of and experiences on the wellness journey. As a work at home mom of two young sons, Karen understands the significant role exercise plays in achieving a sense of balance. Pre/postnatal fitness is a topic that inspires her; guiding other women along their fitness path during pregnancy and the postpartum period is an honor. Using fitness to cope with the realities of motherhood is paramount in her work, and she is adept at finding ways to integrate exercise and fitness into daily life. Karen has completed nine marathons (including four Boston Marathons), two 50K ultramarathons, numerous other road races, and countless playground obstacle courses. To learn more about Karen please see: On Balance.