This is the time of year to get out and to the park. This is my favorite time of day. I load up the kids, pack a book on tape if I think there is the slightest chance they may fall asleep during the walk, and make our way down to the local playground. My eight – six – and four year olds are excited and I’ll be crossing workout off my to-do list. Yep, I will be moving too. This isn’t time for me to sit on a bench and read, talk, or yawn wondering how many more times the slide can produce such a gleeful sound. Why should I wonder…why not find out?
In my line of work I repeatedly hear, “I’m just too busy to spend time working out.” We’ve all heard obesity is on the rise. Childhood obesity is steadily climbing, and is a risk factor in many diseases. According to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, Type II diabetes is on the rise in children. “Known as “adult onset” diabetes because it usually affects people over 50, the disease is afflicting children as young as 4”, for many Type II diabetes is linked closely to obesity and inactivity. Fortunately, obesity in most cases is preventable, but yields enormous health risks if left unattended, and people aren’t listening. They continue to blame someone else for the extra weight they are packing around; just look at the newest trend in lawsuits and petitions to claim obesity as a disease along the lines of AIDS. Instead we can change our lives. We have the power to create a better quality of life just by moving our bodies.
So, next time you make a trip to the park, play with your kids, run, jump, pull-up! Research shows a correlation between parent-child activity behaviors. Study after study show links between parent activity levels and their children’s activity levels. Being active is not only going to benefit you, it will directly influence your child’s attitudes about activity and their lifestyle choices for the rest of their life. If that isn’t reason to move, I don’t know what is.
Check out my Youtube Channel for ideas on home exercises. Then adapt them to your park setting.
Next time you visit the park,(children optional); try these moves:
Pay attention to the muscles you are working. Exhale as you complete the exertion or work phase of the movement, and keep proper alignment. Maintain core (abdominal and back) strength to protect your spine as you work, and lastly have a great time – your kids won’t be the only ones begging to head for the park once you’ve become a player, too.
Entire Lower Body~
Determine the approximate distance you’ll be walking to get to the playground. Divide that number into six sections. Begin by walking one section. Follow that with walking lunges for one section, repeat until you’ve reached the park. If your sections are large, do 10 walking lunges at a time, rest by walking, do 10 more, repeat until you’ve completed the section.
*Safety Notes: If you are a beginner, wait until you’ve reached the playground and perform lunges while holding a bar for stability until you are confident in your form. More advanced practitioners begin by practicing while standing still. To avoid overstressing the knee, keep your knee over your ankle. This is more difficult while moving forward. Tip: Pick up your toes while practicing to get the correct position. You’ll get the bonus of balance practice, too. Once you are able to do a correct lunge standing still, practice moving slowly in a forward direction keeping the knee over the ankle.
Center your weight over both legs and keep your shoulders over your hips. Go down only as low as you can while maintaining good form. Keep your head and chest up, and keep your back knee off the ground.
Run with your children. This can take the shape of a game or whatever they are doing, let them lead you. Try this variation while you run, kick you heels toward your buttocks while keeping your knees close together. This will help you focus on the hamstrings plus run slower letting the kids win one!
Another variation on the run, one your kids will love, running backwards. Aim to keep the shoulders over your hips, as you move backwards bring the leg out, extending from the knee. Try to move slower and focus on the quads as the leg extends. To add more intensity lower your body into a moving squat as you slowly move backwards.
*Safety note: Never completely lock out a joint during a regular workout. 95% extension of a joint will protect your joints and allow you to move through full range of motion. Remember to keep the knee over the ankle. Pick your toes up to help you find the correct position, and make sure you are able to maintain it while moving before beginning advanced movement.
Abductors & Adductors~
The kids will love this one. You may remember karaoke from grade school gym class, but never knew you were working on so many things as you performed this drill, did you?
Begin moving sideways by bringing the feet together. Alternate crossing one in front of the other. Again, center your weight and focus on the muscles you are working, inner and outer thighs. Repeat with the other side leading.
Bonus: When you cross the midline of your body you are causing both sides of your brain to cooperate and are building coordination.
My personal favorite muscle to say, gastrocnemius, can be effectively worked as you move up the stairs to the slide. On each step pause to do a calf raise. You can lift with both feet or more advanced, one foot at a time. Step on the edge of the stair; push up onto your toe. Then complete the move by bringing your heel back in line with your toes.
The good ole fashioned push-up is here. Find an elevated surface: Stairs, ledge, bar, etc. Standing, place the wrists in-line with the shoulders and extend the elbow. Bend the elbow and lower the chest towards the hands. Breathe out as you extend the arms back to the starting position. Get the kids to do them with you. Work up to ten.
Safety Note: Stabilize the core to protect the back. You will be ready to move into a more advanced exercise when you can complete 10 in good form. The more horizontal you are, the more advanced the move. Remember small is still good – better than big motion, bad form. The spine should stay long and natural.
Back & Biceps~
Everyone’s favorite – the pull-up. The playground is a great place to pull-up, there are lots of bars at different heights…ok no cheating with all your weight on your feet! Find a bar at an accommodating height. You don’t have to be straight up and down. Begin with a lower bar where your body is at an angle underneath. Grab the bar and pull your upper-body to your hands. The more advanced you are the higher the bar. Once you are completely up right use your feet only for balance or cross you ankles and bend your knees to pick your feet off the ground. See who can do more, you or the kids.
Shoulders, Triceps, & Biceps~
Get the little ones involved – let them be the weight! Depending on the size of your child they may be just what the trainer ordered. With your feet shoulder width apart and your knees soft, stabilize your core. Position your hands firmly under their arms and slowly lift your child off the ground. Keep your elbows and child close to your body as you bring your hands towards your shoulders, once you’ve given your child a kiss, extend your arms up and lift them over your head. Again, keep them close to your body. Their feet should dangle in front of your face.
Safety Note: Be careful with the child! A slow movement is required to keep the body in alignment and not use momentum to get the weight over your head. Do not strain your back as you reach up – it is easy to arch back to support the weight – remember good form first.
If you child is too big or doesn’t want to cooperate pack along some hand weights or find two rocks – pebbles don’t count, but make sure the weight (child or not) is accommodating to you. You should be able to perform 10 lifts with good form – if you can do more add more weight.
Back to the stairs, find a low stair and sit on the edge. Position your feet out in front of you – the further you move them away the harder the movement will be. Place you hands directly under your shoulders next to your hips. Slide your buttocks forward and lower straight down until the elbows and shoulders are in a line. Finish by pressing up into the starting position. Aim for 10.
The swing set is calling your name. Begin by swinging. As you move higher into the air use your abdominals to pump your legs. Add variations: Curl into a ball at the top of the movement – bring the shoulders and knees together. Bring the knees to one side and alternate for an oblique crunch. To build back strength, add a slight back extension as you move yourself higher into the air.
Safety Note: Pay close attention to your body and alignment during these activities. It sounds easy, but adding the mental element will enhance your muscle activity making it an exercise rather than just movement. Exhale as you crunch in.
Most importantly remember to have fun! Move with your kids and they will learn to love moving on their own.