This morning as I sat on my front porch, drinking coffee and soaking in the gorgeous weather, my thoughts turned to the a.m. gym session I had planned. I felt the warm sunshine. Hmmmm. I was caressed by a gentle breeze. Ahhhh. I smelled the fresh air. Gym? No thank you! So I decided to take my workout on a roundabout route to the park.
Sunscreen? Check. Garrett’s bike helmet on his head? Check. Bottle of water Graham must have to quench the thirst he gets exerting extreme amounts of energy riding in the jogging stroller? Check. And away we went.
We started on a run through the open space near our house. No, I do not make my kids wear helmets to run down hills. Garrett left his bike at the bottom of the hill and ran up with me, while I pushed Graham in the stroller. Once we got to the top, Graham wanted to get out and run down. He didn’t even fall!
After about 40 minutes of running (with just a little bit of walking mixed in), we made our way to the park.
This is how they let you know you’re at the park, just in case you can’t figure it out on your own.
Oh, crazy, dancing metal guy on a post; we must be at the park.
Since today was supposed to be a weight-training day before I cut out on the gym, (and I’m in a hard-core weight loss contest) I decided to use the playground equipment to continue with my workout while the kids played. I had Garrett take some pictures so I could share a few great exercise ideas with you. Yes, my almost six-year-old is my photography assistant. What a sight we must have made.
There is a ton of great equipment at any local playground. All you need is a little creativity, and a thick skin so you’re not embarrassed about using the playground as your fitness facility. Warning: you will probably get some looks.
Here I’m using a bar to do an inverted row. The lower the bar, the harder this exercise is. Start hanging, with an overhand grip. Pull body toward bar, and lower back down to hanging position. This exercise works your back muscles (where you should focus the effort), with your biceps assisting. Tip: a workout buddy makes everything more fun.
Next, I headed over to a platform to do some push-ups. Notice my back is flat, belly button pulled in. If that post wasn’t in the way, you would see my neck is in neutral alignment with the rest of my spine, and my hands are about shoulder width apart. You could make this easier by using a higher bench or bar; or make it harder by using the ground, or (if you don’t want to rip up your hands on the concrete), by raising one foot slightly off the ground. If you raise one foot, make sure to alternate supporting legs (do one set on one side, next set on the other side), and keep your hips squared to the ground. This exercise works your chest and shoulders, with a little bit of triceps assistance.
I completed three sets of 10 of each of these exercises, alternating between the two.
After a quick monkey bar break, I moved on to triceps dips on this wooden ramp thing. With your hands just outside your waist, lower body down until you feel a slight pull across the chest and shoulders (or your butt touches the ground), and raise back up. Tip: make sure to keep shoulder blades set; shoulders should not hunch up toward ears. One way to think about this (and I know it sounds super cheesy) is you want to slide your shoulder blades into your back pockets. This exercise works the triceps.
I paired the triceps dips with some alternating lunges, meaning I switched back and forth between the right and left legs. You could also do what’s called a static lunge, meaning you complete all reps on one side, then switch legs. Alternating lunges require a little more balance and stability, and raise your heart rate more than static lunges. The most important thing to notice is that my front knee is behind my toes.
I also completed three sets of 10 of each of these exercises, alternating between the two.
After awhile I figured child-labor laws must be kicking in, so I finally let my kids play a little bit.
I did this workout with some breaks in between the exercises because I was playing with my kids, and because I had done about 40 minutes of running before even getting to the park. If you don’t do the cardio first, you can work it into the body weight exercises by doing quick circuits with no rest. You can also add 30 sec–1 min bouts of cardio into the circuits by doing jump squats, sprints, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, or jumping rope (fake it if you don’t have a real jump rope). A 20 minute workout of circuits, with minimum rest will be a real calorie blaster.
I have to admit, this kind of outdoor workout can be tough for me; I have a hard time motivating myself to do strength training away from the gym, especially with my kids. But when I do manage it, I really have fun. Plus, as my kids get older and more independent, it’s easier to say, “I’ll push you on the swing in a minute. Mommy is exercising right now.” I think it sends a good message.
Parents and grandparents, do you ever exercise with the kids at the park? What’s your favorite playground move? Do you force your children to help you with your work instead of letting them play?
Just for fun, check out this video I shot after we got home from the park and running errands. From sunshine to hail in four hours.