Go Out and Play!

A no-equipment playground workout

By Janice Enloe, personal trainer and running coach, RUN Oak Park and Weights and Measures

When the schoolhouse door slams shut on August 31 and Oak Park’s precious bundles tuck into their reading, writing, researching, and recess routine, Oak Park’s parents resume their routines as well.

If “back to school” means back to exercise, take advantage of warm autumn days and quiet playgrounds. Go outside and play!

Kickstart your fitness program or just spice it up with a playground workout. No gym equipment is necessary—just a little imagination, a bench, and swing set. (Remember, if you are new to exercise or returning after a long break, be sure to check with your friendly health care professional first.)

Warm up for at least five minutes before you begin: Swing your arms and then your legs, then follow that with a brisk walk or an easy jog. Save the static stretching for after the workout.

Perform 10 repetitions of each of the following exercises in the order listed. Take a 60-second break, then repeat the circuit one or two more times.

Exercise 1: Sit to Stand

Find a bench and sit tall at the front edge of the seat. Keep your knees behind your shoelaces. Reach your arms forward at shoulder height and stand up. Lower yourself back to the bench keeping your arms raised. Progress the exercise by lowering yourself back down and stopping just before your bottom touches the bench.

Exercise 2: Incline Pushups

Stand behind the bench with your hands on the back, shoulder width apart. Step back so your body is at an angle. With abs and butt tight, bend your elbows and lower your body toward the bench, then push back. Progress the exercise by placing your hands on the seat so you are at a more challenging angle.

Exercise 3: Step Ups

Place one foot on the seat of the bench and step up to full standing position, then step back down. Repeat on the other leg. Progress this exercise by stepping up with one leg and raising the other knee to hip height. Repeat the same number of repetitions on the other leg.

Exercise 4: Swing Rows

Grab the chains of a swing, lean back with arms extended and make your body tight and straight. Pull yourself up toward the swing seat. Progress this exercise by getting under a low bar or ladder rung so your body is almost parallel to the ground. Make your back and knees tight and straight—no sagging! Pull yourself up toward the bar as if you were doing an upside-down pushup.

Exercise 5: Swing Plank & Crunch

Get into a pushup position with your feet on a swing and your hands shoulder width apart on the ground. Keep your back flat and knees straight. Hold this position for 10 – 30 seconds. Progress this exercise by drawing your knees toward your chest and then extending your body to starting position.

If you’re looking for a longer workout, add a cardio blast after exercise five. One minute of an activity like jumping jacks, sprinting across the soccer field, climbing stairs or jumping rope will get the heart pumping. Rest for 60 seconds before beginning the next round of the circuit with Exercise 1. Finish the workout with an easy walk and a few stretches.

Playground workouts are even more fun with a partner. Challenge a friend or enlist the neighbor who just watched their little one line up for the first day of kindergarten. Inspire, become inspired and have fun out there!