Playtime for Parents: How to Fit in a Park Workout

Boy Biking with Dad Running

School’s out for summer! Of course, the kiddos are excited about the laid-back schedule, but moms everywhere are wondering how they are going to fit in workouts during the next three months. Never fear: Playground time can equal calorie-burning for parents, if you get creative!

Getting there is half the fun.

Avoid piling everyone into the car to get there, if at all possible. Walk, jog or bike to the park. If your child is old enough to ride a bike, let him or her ride and be your coach while you walk or jog beside. I love playing “bike tag” with my five-year-old. Here’s how: Have your child begin biking and listen for your cues. Encourage them to start pedaling at a pace that allows you to walk quickly and stay right by their side for 2-3 minutes (this is your warm-up). Then, play tag the rest of the way. Yelling “go” means pedal fast and mom’s going to try to keep up. Eventually, say “stop,” which gives you a chance to catch up. Repeat all the way to the park!

Never sit down.

Without putting much thought into it, you can burn a few calories by avoiding the park bench. You may not be the mom who wants to slide or hang from the monkey bars with your kiddo, but you can certainly avoid parking yourself on the nearest bench and staring at your cell phone for half an hour. Walk the perimeter of the park to keep yourself busy. You could even lunge down the sidewalk if you’re feeling energetic! If you’re more the stand-in-place kind of gal, do 10 calf raises, 10 squats, 10 side leg lifts, and 10 hip extensions (straight leg lifts to the back, to work the glutes and hamstrings). Rest and repeat.

Mom with Kids at Playground
Enjoy the elements.

Take a look around; there are plenty of opportunities to get a workout in while you supervise your child at the park! Try these quickies next time:

  • Silent Swing – Perform a plank with your feet on the swing and your hands in the sand. Keep the swing from moving by engaging your core. For a bigger challenge, try tucking your knees in (pulling the swing toward you) or piking your hips to the sky and bringing your feet toward your hands.
  • Bar Bonus – The monkey bars (or even a single bar) are a great upper-body and core tool. Position yourself under the bar, jump to grasp it, and then try to pull yourself up. Even if you can’t complete a full pull-up on your own, your muscles will still reap the reward. If you’re not feeling the pull-up, hang from the bar and alternate between pulling your toes up to the bar (or knees into your chest), lowering and then flexing the elbows to inch toward a pull-up! Even shimmying across the bar, while minimizing the lower body movement, is a great exercise.
  • Slide Step-Up – You may not want to slide down, but why not stand at the bottom of the slide, awaiting your kiddo’s wild ride? While you’re waiting, place one foot on the edge of the slide and perform a few step-ups to work your glutes. Next trip, change legs. For a cardio bonus, try to eliminate rest or add a hop at the top.

Let your children be the guide when you’re at the park. Of course, getting to the gym is a great way to exercise, but why not enjoy the sun and be a kid again via a park workout? Park time can equal playtime and more calories burned, if you change your mindset!

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the VP of Fitness Programming for the FIT4MOM® franchise. For more than two decades, she has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, Silver Sneakers, and BOSU® as a fitness business and programming consultant. An experienced educator, freelance writer, and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable serves as Vice Chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the founder and co-owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool.