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The Grown-Up, Full-Body Playground Workout In 10 Moves

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Perfect timing. Yet another study, just out, finds that fun is good for you. Or rather, as The New York Times puts it:

"If you are aiming to lose weight by revving up your exercise routine, it may be wise to think of your workouts not as exercise, but as playtime. An unconventional new study suggests that people’s attitudes toward physical activity can influence what they eat afterward and, ultimately, whether they drop pounds."

Responds one commenter: "Finding fun in fitness has to be an essential part of any effort."

About once a week, I run — or rather, plod — up a giant hill. There's no way I can call that fun. But at the top there's a newly renovated playground, and I asked personal trainer Kat Setzer, who writes the How To Be An Athlete roller derby blog, to design a fun but efficient playground workout for real, middling-fit people like me. (As opposed to superhumans like the hulk in this video. What good is a workout when you can't even do an exercise once?)

Important note: No children were excluded from playground equipment in the making of this workout (none were out in the early morning when we ran through it. And honest, if they'd been around, we'd have given them dibs.) Also, remember to warm up and cool down. And aim for two or three circuits.

1. Swing split squat: Stand one long stride ahead of the swing and put one foot on the swing. Bend both knees until your front leg is bent to 90 degrees. Get your back knee as low as you can. Keep your weight on your front heel if possible. (Think of it as a lunge with your back foot up.) Fifteen times on each side.

Kat Setzer demonstrates the swing split squat.
Kat Setzer demonstrates the swing split squat.

2. Swing knee tucks: Facing the ground, put your hands down in push-up position and your feet on the swing in plank position. Tuck your knees into your chest, then straighten your legs. Repeat. You can make this easier by putting your knees in the swing's seat and holding a plank. Fifteen times.

Kat Setzer demonstrates knee tucks on the swing.
Kat Setzer demonstrates knee tucks on the swing.

3. Box jump onto platform Start in a squat next to a platform that's 6-12 inches from the ground, feet shoulder width apart, legs parallel. Jump up and forward, landing lightly on the platform in another squat. Step down. Ten times. Easier: Do a basic squat or jump-squat on the ground.

Kat demonstrates the landing of a jump squat onto a low platform.
Kat demonstrates the landing of a jump squat onto a low platform.

4. Inverted row from bar: Hold onto the bar or swing and walk your feet under it. Pull your chest to the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Fifteen times.

Kat demonstrates the inverted row using a swing.
Kat demonstrates the inverted row using a swing.

5. Step up to bench:  Put one foot on the bench. Press through the heel of that foot and extend your leg to lift your body up. Then slowly sit your butt back to lower your body. Repeat 15 times on the same leg, then change sides.

Kat demonstrates the bench step-up, having drawn in some local playground models.
Kat demonstrates the bench step-up, having drawn in some local playground models.

6. Incline pushup to bench: Put your hands about shoulder width apart on the back of the bench and walk your feet back so that your body is in a straight line. Bend your arms and pull your chest to the bench, then straighten your arms out. To make it harder, use the lower side of the bench.

Kat and the models -- all of them, oddly enough, named Beth -- demonstrate an incline pushup on a bench.
Kat and the models -- all of them, oddly enough, named Beth -- demonstrate an incline pushup on a bench.

7. Box drills on 4-square: Follow the lines of the square: Side-shuffle across to one corner, sprint forward, side-shuffle back the other way, then run backwards. You can up the agility factor by doing cariocas or grapevines on the sideways bits. Forty-five seconds.

As the Beths demonstrate the 4-square agility drill, they look like they might actually be having fun.
As the Beths demonstrate the 4-square agility drill, they look like they might actually be having fun.

8. Reverse shrugs from monkey bars/rings: Hang from the bar or rings so your body is suspended off the ground. Pull your shoulders down and back, then shrug them upwards toward your ears. Ten times.

Kat demonstrates the reverse shrugs on the rings.
Kat demonstrates the reverse shrugs on the rings.
When the Beths protest. Kat offers a modified version with toes on the ground.
When the Beths protest. Kat offers a modified version with toes on the ground.

9. Hopscotch: You remember, right? Forty-five seconds.

Kat demonstrates the the hopscotch drill.
Kat demonstrates the the hopscotch drill.

10. Traveling plank: Get into a high plank position on the grass. Step right hand and right foot out at the same time, then bring your left hand and foot together. Take another step. Continue in one direction for 10 such steps, then go back the other way for ten more steps. Keep your hips as stable as possible the entire time.

As one Beth noted, you would not want to do this in the dog park.
As one Beth noted, you would not want to do this in the dog park.

Another option: Greatist has a nice playground workout here. So would you dare? Or would you fear the ridicule of children and the opprobrium of parents?  And would the parents indeed scoff, or might they offer you some of the praise they so lavish on their children for playground achievements?

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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