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.
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.
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.
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.
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.