Playground Fitness


You’ve heard me talk often about my love for being in nature and using our natural environment to keep our bodies fit. God designed everything to work in harmony together. We reap so many health benefits from spending time outside, surrounded by the beauty of nature!! Often, people tell me they don’t live near wooded areas or they just don’t have time for daily exercise due to work and family commitments. When raising my daughters, I found myself having to find any possible way to keep my body moving and not becoming sedentary. I had to make my health and wellbeing a priority. I know that sounds selfish, but in reality, I found that if I wasn’t feeling my best each day, then I couldn’t give my best to my family and students. No matter what is happening in my life, I will find ways to move throughout each day. This is all part of finding the fountain of youth! Try this...go outside and take a walk or some chosen activity that you enjoy. Pay close attention to how you are feeling both physically and mentally while performing this activity. Do you have more energy and feel happier? If you can hold onto that wonderful sensation that getting up and moving will make you feel incredible, full of energy each day, this may motivate you to stick with a daily exercise plan. Remind yourself how good you will feel each time you find yourself trying to find a reason why you can't get up and move. The key is not to think of exercise as a chore, but as your mood and energy booster! Here’s a way that may help you not only exercise daily, but get your entire family to look at staying fit as having fun and feeling fabulous. Our children and grandchildren learn by example!! I found using our time at the playground to be a productive way to incorporate family, fun, and fitness all into one! It’s not only free, but an added perk is that you are spending quality time outside with your family! You may have to ignore comments or odd looks from other people at the playground, but in the end, you may inspire others in your community to do the same thing! That’s our mission! Possibly even start a Community- wide Fitness Movement at your local park or playground! This would build an incredible exercise support system where everyone motivates each other to stick with it! You might find it harder to stay in bed or on the couch if you know others are waiting for you, and look forward to that social interaction with other people who have the same desire to find the fountain of youth!

It’s no secret that I love using nature, rocks and logs for strength training, but I also enjoy using my bodyweight to build strength, as well. A playground is the perfect location for this type of workout, with all the equipment you’ll need for a full body workout - for free! Click HERE to watch our corresponding video!

Swing Row

This is wonderful exercise for the upper body: building strength in your back and arms. Stand facing a swing and hold the chains so that your arms are straight out from chest. Lean back until your body forms about a 45-degree angle to the ground. Keeping shoulders down and back and core engaged, pull your body to meet your hands, bending elbows straight back. Slowly lower back to the starting position maintaining control. To increase intensity, lean back more to start.

Swingset Crunches

This strengthens abs, arms, chest, back, and legs: Sit on swing, holding onto chains and lay back until you are parallel with the ground, raising legs stretched out at the same time. Engage core, sit up bringing legs and chest to meet where hands are holding onto chains. Return to starting position and continue crunches. Do three sets of 12.

Single Leg Squats

This workout targets the legs and glutes, similar to using a stability trainer. Stand with your back to the swing and place the top of your left foot on top of the swing. Be sure to have good ground footing. Either place your hands on your hips or use raise arms stretched out in front of you as you lower your standing knee until the thigh is parallel to the ground. Return to the start position and repeat. Be sure your foot remains flat throughout the entire range of motion. Complete 12 reps, then switch legs and repeat. Do three sets, making sure both legs are given equal amounts of leg squats.

Here's another version that is similar to a pistol squat. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, facing the swing. Hold arms straight out, holding the chains for stability. Raise the right leg and lower the body while bending the left knee, keeping core engaged and right leg held parallel to the ground, lower body to the level of a chair height, even lower if possible for more of a challenge, then return to standing position. Repeat desired number of reps, then switch to the opposite leg and repeat.

Bench Push-ups

This exercise targets the arms, chest, back, and core. Place your hands on the seat of the bench with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Walk feet back until your body forms a diagonal line. With elbows tucked by your side, lower torso to the bench, performing a push-up. Be sure to keep core engaged, push up to the starting position.

Triceps Dip

Love this for working those triceps! Sit on the edge of the bench and place hands next to your hips, moving fingers forward to hold onto the edge. Raise your butt off of the seat and walk feet a few steps away from the bench. Now, bending at the elbows. Lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the seat of the bench. Push yourself back up to complete one rep. Do as many as you feel comfortable doing. Increase reps over time! Slow and steady!

Brachiation

This really builds upper body strength. Brachiation (from "brachium", Latin for "arm"), or arm swinging, is a form of arboreal locomotion in which primates swing from tree limb to tree limb using only their arms. This is that same mechanism our hunter-gatherer ancestors used when climbing trees to gather nuts, berries, honey, a lookout for wild game, or escape from predators. As many of us no longer hang from a bar as adults, we may find it a bit difficult at first. Take your time… Begin hangs and brachiation movements a few times each week, working up to daily sessions of about 5 minutes. Install a pull-up bar in your home if going to the playground isn’t feasible every day. Begin by raising your hands to grasp the bar over your head about shoulder width apart. Be sure your arms are completely straight, keeping shoulders relaxed and up close to your ears. Support your full body weight. If you have shoulder injuries or are new to this, place your feet on a bench or stool to reduce the amount of weight you are applying to the shoulders. Once you have built enough endurance to be successful at this passive position, try an active hang on one arm, alternating arms. This will prepare your for the monkey bars/ape bars!

Leg Raises

Builds core, leg, back, and shoulders- While hanging from a bar, raise your legs as high as you can. I think of forming a right angle, hold a bit and then slowly return legs to starting position. Do as many as you can. This takes time to build body strength. Practice on lying on the ground, legs straight. Bring your leg up so it is perpendicular to the ground, again forming a right angle with foot pointing toward the ceiling or sky, depending on where you are. This will help to build core and leg strength.

Monkey/Ape Bars

This is a wonderful full upper body workout! It’s probably been quite awhile since you used Monkey Bars, so you may be surprised how challenging it can be to swing and climb across the “Ape Bars” now that you’re a grown adult. As I'll always be an educator first, here’s some nifty information to wow family and friends with: We call them Ape Bars because monkeys actually cannot brachiate. Their shoulders only allow for front and back movement. Whether they are on the ground or branches, their bodies are parallel to the surface. Chimpanzees brachiate, they are not monkeys, they are apes. Next time you’re at the zoo, compare the locomotion of a monkey to a chimpanzee. Back to this exercise! This works the core, grip, shoulders, back, and arm strength. There are many styles of “Ape Bars” available at parks now. Many will add an extra degree of difficulty to this exercise.

Lying Row

Great for arms, back, chest, and core! You may find it easiest to sit underneath the bar and grasp the sides of the bars with hands facing out. Straighten your legs and pull your body up to the bars and return to starting position. You may work towards using one hand instead of two to make this even more challenging.

Climbing

Whether you’re climbing a pole, a tree, or a net, this is a wonderful full body workout! One of my favorite things to do! Grasp the pole with your hands and brace your feet against the pole. Walk up the pole using your arms and feet to assist you. You may only climb a short distance at first, but with practice and patience, you will master climbing to the top. I always like to hang once I reach the top. Click HERE to watch our corresponding video. Then return to the bar by holding the bar with your feet and placing one hand at a time back onto the bar to return back to the ground. Take your time learning how to climb a pole or tree. So many benefits from climbing! You may find you feel like a child again!! I do!! 😃

Climbing a net is also wonderful as it allows you to move all of the muscles in your body; reaching, pulling, and lowering your body as you move about the net.

Running

Run around the perimeter of the playground as if it were a track. Each week, add another lap…have your children join you!