When you’re chasing your kids around all day, it can be hard to find time to squeeze in a trip to the gym. And while running after little ones can be a workout all on its own, it’s probably not quite as effective as a spinning class or CrossFit session. But don’t worry. You don’t have to steal away to the gym to get a good sweat in. You can make any setting into a gym if you’re creative — even the playground.
If you think your kids are the only ones who can play on the swing set or jungle gym, you might want to reconsider. When you’re tied up with an outdoor play date, it’s actually easy to transform this time into an exercise session. If you’re willing to look a little silly in front of the other parents, who are probably just jealous, your body will thank you. Repurpose the playground equipment and run through this full-body workout — all while keeping an eye on the kids, of course.
To begin your workout, turn your attention to the lower half of your body. The playground presents ample opportunities to get a good leg workout in. Head to the slide and start with some lunges. It’s simple: Get into lunge formation first. Place one foot out in front of you with your knee squarely over your ankle, so you can just see your toes, and then stretch the other leg back behind you. But instead of placing your toes on the ground, lift them a bit higher and set them on the slide. Then sink downward.
Complete 12 to 15 reps on each leg before you move on to lateral leg lifts. Find a small step to stand on — perhaps the lowest step leading up to the slide. Balance on one foot with your hands on your hips and lift the other foot straight out, away from your body. Lift 12 to 15 times on each side for a good burn in your outer thighs and hips.
Does your playground have a bench for parents to sit on as the kids run around? Then you can work on your arms until they’re done. Transform the bench into your makeshift push-up spot. Start with 10 elevated push-ups, pushing off the back of the bench. Then move to the front of the bench and do another 10 reps with the seat of the bench as your push-off point. Finally, transition to the sidewalk and complete 10 standard push-ups. Run through another round if you feel up to it.
Another stellar arm workout you can do on the playground? The pull-up. Enlist the monkey bars or any piece of the jungle gym with a bar hanging overhead and perform as many pull-ups as you can manage. If you aren’t up for a traditional pull-up, do a modified one. Find a bar that’s set three or four feet off the ground and position your feet in front of the bar, leaning back and using it to pull yourself forward for 10 reps. You can also pull the chains of a swing taut and use the swing to perform modified pull-ups.
You’ve got the legs and arms covered, so now it’s time to move onto the abs. If you loved to hit the swings as a kid, take this opportunity to embrace your inner child. Grab a swing and start soaring back and forth. But instead of simply swinging, as you move forward, crisscross your legs quickly back and forth. The movement strengthens the muscles in your lower abdomen. Complete about 12 to 15 reps before you take a break, and then go back for another round.
If you want to take your ab workout to the next level, scoot your booty off of the swing and repurpose it as the foundation for a plank. Place your hands on the ground and swing both of your ankles over the seat of the swing. Make sure your body is parallel to the ground as you push up into a plank position. Then lift one leg about two feet away from the other as it remains on the swing. Alternate your legs for 10 or 12 reps before taking a break. You’ll definitely start to feel the burn in your abs after this move.
By now, you probably feel confident that your playground equipment is sturdy and safe. That’s good to know because now it’s time to put it to the test with a good glute workout. Find a cushy part of the playground — preferably with grass or a special rubber surface underfoot — and sink down for a side plank. You start by stacking your feet with your side facing the ground and the other facing skyward. Place one hand flat on the ground and reach the other upward. Hold this pose for up to 20 seconds.
After you’ve mastered the side plank, mix things up with a set of wide lunges. You’ve already done the slide lunge — which built a stronger backside as you worked on your legs — but this requires no support. Simply spread your legs apart so that you’re standing a bit beyond your shoulder width, toes about two feet apart. Then squat down while you move your bottom backward, but remain as upright as possible. Hold the lunge or move up and down for sets of 10 to 12 while you flex those glute muscles.
Working out Creatively
With these creative moves in mind, you’ll have no trouble squeezing in a head-to-toe workout even if there’s a play date on the itinerary. In fact, by modeling these healthy habits for your kids, you might encourage them to work out alongside you in between games of tag. Feel free to let them join in while you do some lunges or crisscross your legs alongside them on the swings. Not only will you get your workout in, but you’ll also start a family habit of healthy living that can carry on for years.