One of the greatest balancing acts parents face is the art of juggling caring for their kids with caring for themselves. Self-care can be perceived as a luxury for most parents, especially in times like these where many more parents are working from home and students are going to school online.
One of the first things parents say they sacrifice for time with their children is exercise. Sure, you get your cardio by running after a toddler or riding bikes, but dedicated workout time—not happening.
But what if we told you that with a little creative thinking, you could workout and spend time with your kids? It’s not easy, but not impossible. The first place you should look—the playground!
Even if you don’t have kids, these five playground moves will whip you into shape without a costly gym membership.
1. Bench Jumps (10-12 reps, 3 sets)
Find a bench that you can safely jump on. If all the benches around are too high, look for a curb or step that is lower. Keep your feet hip distance apart, bend your knees, and jump—both feet at the same time—up to the bench. Add a little squat, then carefully look over your shoulder before jumping back down. If balance is an issue, step down instead of jumping backward.
2. Monkey Bar Pull Ups (10-12 reps, 3 sets)
Grab a hold of the monkey bars and transform them into chin-up bars. If you are still working on having the necessary upper body strength to complete more than a few chin-ups, choose one at the beginning or end of the bars where you have a place to rest one leg to help support your weight. You can also bring a resistance band and loop it around a bar. Rest your foot or knee in the loop and use that for support.
3. Climb the Slide (8-10 times)
Mountain climbers are one of the best full-body workouts for cardio, core, arms and legs. You can get the same effects climbing up a slide. If you really want to bring the heat: When you get to the top, do 10 jumping jacks, then run down the steps, back to the slide, and do it again. On your last rep, treat yourself—use the slide to come down!
4. Wind Sprints (in-between sets)
Take a fast sprint around the playground, or sprint through the parking lot to help keep your heart rate up and burn more calories with HIIT (high intensity interval training). After each set, take a 30- to 60-second sprint through the playground for a small cardio blast that yields big results. If you can sprint, you can still take a cardio break with any one of these HIIT moves.
5. Swing Lunges (10-12 reps, 3 sets, each leg)
Stand in front of a swing (back to the swing) and take two to three big steps forward. Place the top of one foot on the swing behind you so that your back leg is elevated. Bend the knee of your standing leg. If your knee goes past your ankle, you need to take another step forward. You want to be able to dip down with your front knee in alignment with your ankle. These elevated lunges are slightly more difficult because they require more strength and balance. If these are uncomfortable or unsafe for you at this time, do walking lunges across the playground—set a goal of 30 for each leg.
A couple of notes before your first workout:
- Do not use a playground as a gym at peak play times, when kids are crawling over every inch of it. Try going earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
- Some parents may feel uncomfortable if you are there working out without a child.
- Before you begin any exercise routine, be sure to warm up. March in place, do some jumping jacks or swing your arms to prevent injury.
- Be sure you are keeping an eye on your child. Don’t let your workout distract you from your responsibility to keep them safe. And encourage them to join you!
Transform your playdates into gym sessions by exploring these five playground-based exercises!