Daily Archives: May 10, 2013

Posted by in Blog on May 10, 2013
Recapture that childhood sense of fun — and get a dose of fresh air — with our exclusive workout.
Article By: Michele Stanten

When you were a kid, working up a sweat running from the swings to the slide never seemed like work, did it? Happily, swings and slides aren’t just child’s play. You can get a total body-toning workout at your local playground — no gym membership required.

As a full-time working mother of two and certified fitness instructor, I often take advantage of park equipment to sneak in a quick workout while my kids are playing — but you don’t need kids to try most of these moves.

Choose between the casual, kid-friendly All-Play Toners and the more rigorous Playground Circuit, or combine them both for a fun 25-35 minute routine.

All-Play Toners
Swing set warm-up: Hop on, pump your legs, and see how high you can go. You’ll work your abs, legs, and arms, and swinging for 5-10 minutes is great way to warm up. Lean back as much as possible and focus on using your abs to sit up as you come forward.
With kids: push them on the swing with one arm at a time to tone flabby arms.

Slide rules: Climbing the stairs works your legs and glutes. For a greater challenge, take them two at a time, alternating legs. Then slide down and go again. Repeat 8-10 times.
With kids: as they slide down, pick them up and lift them overhead to sculpt sexy shoulders (and make them laugh).

Monkey around: Boost yourself up into a chin-up position (arms bent, palms facing you, and chin above the bar). Then see how long you can hold it—without holding your breath. Repeat 2 more times.
With kids: See who can hang (arms extended) the longest.

The Playground Circuit

Wrong-way Step (tones legs, butt, and hips)
Stand facing the bottom of a slide. Place your right foot on the slide, press into your right foot, and slowly lift yourself up. Tap left toes on slide without putting any weight on that foot, then bend right leg. Lower left foot to ground and then step right foot off slide. Repeat. Do 10-15 times; then repeat with opposite leg. Challenge yourself:Instead of tapping your left toes on the slide, raise your left leg straight behind you as high as possible, squeezing your glutes. Lower left leg as you bend right knee and return to start position.

Monkey Bar Pull-up (tones back, shoulders, and arms)
Find a bar that is about chest height (or two parallel bars that are about shoulder width apart). Place your hands shoulder width apart, palms facing away from you. Walk your feet forward until they’re below the bar. Extend your arms so you’re leaning back and your body is at an angle to the ground. Bend your elbows out to sides and pull your chest toward the bar. Hold for a second. Straighten your arms back to start position and repeat. Keep abs tight and torso and legs in line the entire time. Do 10-15 times.
Challenge yourself: Walk your feet farther forward and repeat. As your body gets closer to the ground the pull-ups become harder.
Swing Knee Lifts (tones abs, back, and legs)
Stand on a swing (a flexible seat will be more challenging) while holding onto the chains and balancing on left foot. Stand tall as you slowly raise your right knee to hip height, pulling your abs in as you lift. Hold for a second. Slowly lower your leg and repeat, keeping the swing and the rest of your body as still as possible. Do 10-15 times; repeat with opposite leg.
Challenge yourself: Keep your leg straight as you raise it as high as possible in front of you. At the same time, press the swing back like you’re scissoring your legs apart.
Park Bench Push-up (tones chest, shoulders, and arms)
Find a bench (or bar) that’s about waist high. Grasp the back of the bench with your hands wider than shoulder width apart and arms extended. Walk your feet back a few steps so your body forms a straight diagonal line to the ground. Bend your elbows out to sides and lower chest toward bench. Hold for a second. Straighten arms and press back up to start position and repeat. Keep abs tight and torso and legs in line the entire time. Do 10-15 times.
Challenge yourself: Walk your feet farther back so you’re more horizontal and repeat. From there, try doing push-ups with your hands on the seat of the bench.

Michele Stanten is the author of Walk Off Weight and Firm Up in 3 Weeks and a member of the board of directors for the American Council on Exercise.

Posted by in Blog on May 10, 2013

Who needs a gym to exercise? A trip to the playground is all it takes for moms to get in better shape.

By Jessica Brown from Parents Magazine


This convenient full-body workout from Tina Vindum, owner of Outdoor Fitness, in Marin County, California, will have you toned up in no time. Your children also benefit, since they’re more likely to be active if they see you break a sweat regularly — especially if it looks like fun. And this is one workout that doesn’t seem like “work” at all!
Swing Crisscross

Targets: Abs

Sit on a swing and hold the chains, then lean back about 45 degrees. Extend your legs straight in front of you with your feet together and toes pointed. Open your legs slightly to form a V, then cross your left calf over your right, contracting your core muscles to keep the swing as still as possible. Return to V position for one count, then cross your right calf over your left to complete the set. Do 12 to 15 sets.

Jungle-Gym Pull-Up

Targets: Back and biceps

Using an underhand grip, grasp a jungle-gym bar that’s 3 to 4 feet high. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and extend your legs in front of you until your chest is under the bar; place your feet hip-width apart. Pull your chest close to the bar by drawing your elbows alongside your ribs. Straighten arms and repeat. Aim to do five pull-ups; work up to 12 to 15.

Slide Lunge

Targets: Butt and thighs

Stand facing away from the slide and rest your left foot on the bottom of it; place your hands on your hips. Bend your right knee until your right thigh is almost parallel to the ground, but don’t let your knee move farther forward than above your toes. Return to starting position by pressing through your right heel. Do 12 to 15 reps, then repeat with the other leg.

Jungle-Gym Standing Push-Up

Targets: Chest, shoulders, and triceps

Stand arm-length away from the jungle gym, with feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on a bar that’s no higher than your chest. Keeping your body straight and your weight on your toes, bend your elbows until your chest nearly touches the bar. Do 12 to 15 push-ups.

Lateral Leg Lift

Targets: Hips, outer thighs, and waist

Stand alongside a step so it’s on your right side and place your right foot on it; rest hands on hips. Press through your right foot to raise yourself up until your right leg straightens as you simultaneously extend your left leg to the side with foot flexed. Do 12 to 15 lifts, then repeat on the other side.

Bench Dip

Targets: Shoulders and triceps

Sit on a bench and grip the edge with your hands shoulder-width apart. Scoot off the bench and extend your legs in front of you, bending your knees slightly. Bend your elbows and lower your butt a few inches toward the ground, keeping your back close to the bench; slowly press back up. Do 12 to 15 reps.
Originally published in Parents magazine.

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Posted by in Blog on May 10, 2013

Warm, sunny days are the perfect opportunity to get fit on your city’s dime.

By: Zach Even-Esh

It’s hard to justify training in a dark gym when the sun is shining outside. Especially since you can build muscle just as effectively using your own body weight as you can by lifting some iron. All you really need is something to push on or pull on and a little open space where you can move your body and activate all the muscles you’re used to training indoors. We came up with a plan you can do at your local park (or in the prison yard—hey, we won’t judge) to get you ripped and strong while improving your tan at the same time.

How It Works:

Our program of wide open spaces, plus the equipment that’s generally found around parks and children’s playgrounds. You’ll do pull-ups and dips (a jungle gym will work for these if you don’t have bars) with a descending rep scheme—start at 10 reps and do one less every set down to one rep. This is one method those guys you see working out in parks all the time use to blast out scores of reps at a fast clip. You’ll also do fun body-weight exercises that you probably haven’t tried in years, such as bear crawls and crab walks. Though it may look like you’re playing, you’ll feel these exercises work your whole body, particularly your core, and you’ll tire out fast. In fact, you may find these workouts so tough you’ll be grateful to go back indoors to the iron in the fall.


Perform each workout (Day 1, 2, and 3) once per week, resting at least a day between each session.

How to Do It:

The exercises on Day 1 are performed as a circuit. Complete each set with minimal rest. On Day 2, exercises marked “A” and “B” are done as supersets. Complete one set of A, then one set of B; rest, and repeat until you’ve finished all the prescribed sets. Perform the remaining exercises as straight sets, completing all the sets for that move before going on to the next. If you can’t perform all the given reps for a set, do as many as you can without going to failure, rest as needed, and continue until you finish that number.

Day 1 Exercise 1

Jump Squat

Sets: 10 Reps: 10-1

Stand in an athletic stance with knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground and then jump as high as you can. Land with soft knees and repeat. Perform 10 reps, nine, eight, and so on for each successive set until you finish with one rep.

Day 1 Exercise 2


Sets: 10 Reps: 10-1

Hang from a pull-up bar, jungle gym, or tree limb and pull yourself up until your chin is higher than your hands. Perform 10 reps down to one rep as you did for the jump squat. If you can’t perform the prescribed reps, do as many as you can and perform one less on following sets.

Day 1 Exercise 3


Sets: 10 Reps: 10-1

Suspend yourself over parallel bars and then lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Perform 10 reps down to one rep as you have been.

Day 2 Exercise 1a

Bear Crawl

Sets: 3 Reps: Crawl for 50 feet

Bend down and plant your hands on the ground. Try to keep your back flat as you crawl forward like a bear as fast as you can.

Day 2 Exercise 1b

Crab Walk

Sets: 3 Reps: Crawl for 50 feet

Sit on the ground and bridge up with your hips so you look like a table top. Walk forward on your hands and feet as fast as you can.

Day 2 Exercise 2

Parallel Bar Hand Walk

Sets: 5 Reps: Walk to the end and back

Hang from a jungle gym or length of parallel bars. Walk to the end of the row and back with your hands.

Day 2 Exercise 3a

Forward Sprint

Sets: 5 Reps: Sprint 50 Yards

Run at about 90% of your top speed.

Day 2 Exercise 3b

Backward Sprint

Sets: 5 Reps: Sprint 50 Yards

Run at about 90% of your top speed.

Day 3 Exercise 1

Burpee/Broad Jump

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

From a standing position, bend down and touch your hands to the ground. Now shoot your legs out behind you fast so you end up in the top position of a push-up. Perform a push-up and then reverse the motion quickly and come back up. Immediately jump as far forward as you can.

Day 3 Exercise 2

Dip/Leg Raise

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Perform a dip and then raise your legs straight out in front of you as high as you can.

Day 3 Exercise 3

Pull-up/Knee Raise

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Perform a pull-up and then raise your knees up as high as you can.

Over time, landscape architects have pushed playground design forward as research has deemed certain aspects of play beneficial to childhood learning.

As public open spaces are diminishing in our rapidly growing cities, architects must make the most of available space to provide a foundation for learning in a safe environment.

“As 89 percent of Australians now live in urban environments, outdoor play for most children will take place in spaces that have been designed,” said Mary Jeavons, director of Jeavons Landscape Architects.

Traditional Pre-1920s Playgrounds

To improve the quality of life for inner-city children, traditional playgrounds often included hardwood pieces such as balance beams, swings and ladders. Traditional playgrounds were designed to serve neighborhood centers so that children from underprivileged families could experience the social standards of the upper-class in an effort to teach “social morality.” It was often a meeting place for mothers who supervised their child’s activities.

Traditional Post-WWI Playgrounds

To give children social experiences, traditional playgrounds after WWI included pre-developed play pieces such as steel climbers, swings, jungle gyms, sandboxes and fencing. Children were provided with materials to create their own play environments.

Junk Playgrounds

Often viewed as unsafe, junk playgrounds emerged after WWI in vacant and abandoned lots. Children used spare construction materials to create, destroy and rebuild customised play spaces.

Adventure Playgrounds

Where traditional playgrounds only offer regulated play in supervised environments focused on social development, adventure playgrounds give children the ability to construct their play experiences. Adventure playgrounds emphasise the use of natural and recycled materials rather than manufactured pieces and have an informal layout. Construction play encourages a variety of physical and social development in children.

Imagination Playgrounds

Imagination playgrounds use many of the ideas found in adventure playgrounds but are mostly made with a mixture of prefabricated materials that can be moved. Both permanent and movable play materials encourage children to use their imagination to create different spaces each time.

Contemporary Playgrounds

By the 1970s, playground safety standards were becoming more stringent. Since that time, rules seem to be continuously tightening. Uniquely designed elements were replaced by manufactured playground elements which met stringent safety regulations. This shift was due to increased demand for children with disabilities to be able to use public playgrounds and playscapes. Contemporary playgrounds typically include plastic and metal play structures such as swings, slides and climbing structures, all with impact-absorbing materials underneath.

The Resurgence of ‘Imagination’ and ‘Adventure’ Playgrounds

A movement back to adventure playgrounds has occurred due to growth in adults’ ability to trust that children know how to play and trust that they will play instinctively if provided with the right tools and environment.

Though extremely popular, there are currently only five adventure playgrounds in Australia. Skinners Adventure Playground in South Melbourne plays an integral role within the local community, catering to disadvantaged children from nearby public housing developments.

A Blend of Playspaces

Innovative landscape design in Australia shows the endless possibilities within playspaces. For children and adults, they are places to meet friends, celebrate, educate and relax. New playscapes are often not isolated from the community, but rather integrated into a wider social network where people of all ages can mingle.

The educational needs of children which come from playspaces needs to be considered by designers to figure out how play zones for children and adults can be included in public spacesbeyond formal playgrounds.

Recent Australian examples of play design show the traditional playground being expanded to incorporate social and environmental functions while connecting with open space networks. Designers predict that playgrounds will move further from the ‘play zone’ to permeate the built environment.

Letting Children Create

Jeavons says it is difficult for landscape architects to leave spaces undesigned, yet that practice allows a child’s mind to flourish.

“This provides some major challenges for our profession: to overcome the temptation to over-design public space; to research and understand the importance of unstructured free play to children (even if this challenges our sense of control); to recognize and advocate for children as legitimate users of outdoor space; and to hold firm against over-sanitizing our parks, open spaces, school grounds and early childhood centres,” she said.

Guidelines for Future Playgrounds

Learning from the gaps in conventional, traditional, imagination and adventure playgrounds, designers can follow suggested guidelines for future playgrounds:

  • Integrate native plants into playscapes to offer opportunities for education about local ecology
  • Provide building materials that are movable and changeable to let children create new experiences
  • Use natural elements in a controlled fashion. Ponds, creeks, rocks, earth and wildlife give children the chance to experience how seasons and weather affect those elements
  • Encourage different levels of physical activity with a variety of play equipment
  • Provide opportunities for different types of play: construction play to learn creativity and problem solving, functional play for basic skill development such as running and climbing, and symbolic play to encourage role playing
  • The playground should reflect local values, needs and ideas
  • Design a variety of spaces for children of all ages; younger children need semi-enclosed spaces to play in small groups while older children prefer larger open spaces
  • Create a microcosm of nature within the playground to encourage children to relate learning small facts to larger abstract ideas
  • Allow children to create their own playscape without guidance and allow them to have control over it
  • Create naturally occurring shelter such as bushes or small enclosures for children to seek refuge or rest.

Recent research shows that children need unstructured free play. Public play equipment is certainly an excellent educational tool, but there also must be elements that are undesigned and natural such as a tree they can climb, some leaves that can be collected, branches that can be used to make a fort or a big rock that can be their island of refuge. A mix of both designed and undesigned elements in a safe environment results in a safe haven for childhood education.

By: Kristen Avis