Playgrounds aren’t just for kids. Rather than sitting on a bench reading a magazine while your children run from swings to slides to monkey bars, join in on the fun and get a total body workout at the same time. Last fall I put a small local playground to the test and found some great ways to firm up and spend a fun afternoon with my girls. It’s free, the air is fresh and with the exception of minus degree temperatures in winter, a great way to spend time outdoors. Before you begin, warm up your bodies with a quick game of tag, then give your major muscle groups a good stretch. Also, don’t forget to bring water to stay hydrated. Here are some fun ways you can use playground equipment to strength train and get a good cardiovascular workout at the same time.
Utilize a set of monkey bars or any kind of single metal bar for chin-ups, push-ups and for what monkey bars are designed for – swinging from rung to rung for a great upper body and arm challenge.
Playground ladders are usually made from wood or metal. Climb up and down a few times and see if you can increase your speed each time. Some parks have wide net rope ladders where you can skip a few holes as you climb, making it a tough workout for your legs as you pull yourself up.
It might have been a while since you’ve slid down one, but hugging the pole as you stop every few inches and hold your position is a great abdominal, arm and leg workout. Challenge your kids to see who can go the slowest!
Pumping yourself higher and higher on a swing will snap your abs into action in no time. Strengthen your quads and upper thighs as you stretch your legs back and forth and your arms as you lean forward and backwards. Swinging is so much fun, you won’t even notice how hard your body is working, until the next day, that is! Pushing kids on swings is a great upper body workout too; get a few going at a time so you’re constantly pushing and running from one to the other.
If you’re visiting the park with a friend, sit at opposite ends with your kids on your laps and send each other up and down. If this isn’t the greatest workout for your thighs, I don’t know what is.
Pretend you’re football players and quickly step through tires on the ground. Try to increase your speed each time or jump through slowly, bending your weight bearing leg and leaping through for a more cardiovascular workout.
Instead of sliding down, try climbing up! Running up a slippery slide is a great workout for the backs of your legs and your calf muscles. The higher the slide the better. Slide down the regular way to catch your breath.
Merry Go Round
Load up the kids and give them a spin. Running in a circle beside a weighed down merry go round gives your legs a great workout and pushing it as it goes by is an effective upper body workout as well. Remember to spin opposite way to exercise the other side of your body as well.
Invent Games With Your Children
Play shark, wolf or tag for quick bursts of cardio. Running on uneven surfaces like gravel or sand causes your muscles to work harder as you run.
Keep a soccer ball, Frisbee or baseball equipment in your trunk to haul out after you’ve exhausted all the playground equipment. Invite other children to join in and make friends with yours; you just might meet some people that from your neighborhood that you’re not acquainted with yet. After you return home exhausted, draw yourself a nice hot bath with plenty of Epsom salts to relax your tired muscles and plan to do it again soon!