Thursday, July 12, 2012

Workout on the Playground

Kids' playground or a moms' gym?
Question: When could you fit in a quick work-out?
A - while waiting for my kids during their sports/dance/play/school/tutoring activity
B - while watching my kids run around the playground
C - on my way home from work, before I get distracted by chores and TV

I'll admit, during those hours of chaffeuring my kids, I often use the time to read or crochet, if there's not time to go home and cook dinner.  But sometimes, I use that waiting time to exercise.  I mentioned in my post yesterday, and in others, I consider this my "mommy workout" - not because the exercises are specific to mothers, but that empty time, waiting for kids is a standard motherly activity.

Part of the "mommy workout" is accepting two fundamental principles.

  1. my own health, fitness, and mental sanity are all as valuable as that of anyone else in my family.
  2. my children will be able to swim / hit a ball / throw a ball / sing / dance / play / do anything without me watching them every second.

Moms, you will also have to accept these ideals not only to fit in your exercise, but for any time for yourself, whether its to wander around aimlessly in the fresh air, read, take a nap in the car, go grocery shopping, or whatever other manner in which you want to use your found free time.

But, specifically for the workout regimen, you have to plan it into your schedule or you’ll just put it off until the next day.  Here's some ways I've managed to fit in 30-45 minute workouts into a busy day.
  • When I walk the kids to the bus stop or take them to school, I go in my workout clothes and sneakers, so I don’t have to return home – that’ll get you everytime.  Dishes, laundry, and checking email can quickly thwart workout plans.
  • Look around for workout space nearby - a well-traveled walking path or public park, a running track, soccer field, or tennis court at the school, convenient sidewalks through the neighborhood.
  • Keep your other kids busy, too - if you have the other siblings with you, consider some activity for them while you are working out.  A track (if available) is great because you can run/walk, and they can do the same or play on the field in the middle of the track and still stay within your eye-sight.
  • Do something with the other waiting siblings - but something that's really a physical challenge or exertion for you, not just pushing them on the swing (that's good, of course, as a mommy, but if that really counted for exercise, my arms would look like Serena Williams, and trust me, they don't).   Hit tennis balls (doesn't matter if either of you are very good), play soccer, or go for a walk/run around the neighborhood.  My son and I race in the pool (yes, he always wins; no, I don't "let" him, he actually beats me).
  • Swim laps or do aqua-exercises while your kids are doing their swim lessons.
  • Find some like-minded moms if you’re the social type.  Mention to some of the other moms that are sitting around at dance practice that you’re going for a walk and they just might join you.
A school track is a great enclosed workout space - mom can exercise, kids won't get too far away
In the Pack Your Bags: Work-out on the Go post, I checked with my personal trainer friend, Valerie Merriweather about the stuff to put in your gym bag.  She suggested that we keep this packed bag of essentials in your car so that you are always ready.
My portable gym stays in my trunk
I'm going back to Valerie for some creative ways to get a quick workout in no time.  Since working with her on this post, I've already added jump-roping and the fast half-laps to my run around the track - great for the heart-rate!  And of course, check with your doctor, consider your personal fitness level and health, and all that medical stuff before you jump out there in a new exercise routine.
Getting in some exercise on the playground
  • Jump rope at the park (15 minute minimum)
  • Perform a circuit of jumping jacks, walking lunges, push-ups, bench squats, and modified or regular Burpees.  Do 2-3 rounds of 8-15 reps. Be prepared to sweat!
The best way to perform a Modified Burpee is to do the following:
1.  From a standing position drop to the floor in a push-up position.  Hold.
2.  Bring the knees into the chest and once you place your feet on the floor either stand up or jump up.  That's one rep.
Advanced Burpee
1.  From a standing position drop to the floor and perform a push-up. Don't hold the position.
2.  Immediately bring the knees into the chest and once you place your feel on the floor jump high (your toes should be pointed). 
3.  Repeat the next rep right away.  No rest.
 The Burpee is an advanced exercise so I recommend the modified one to start with and progress to the advanced level once you can easily do 15 modified Burpees.  
  • Do a round of squeeze-it exercises.  Squeeze or tighten your abs and hold for 30 seconds, then squeeze your butt and hold for 30 seconds.  This is an ideal exercise to do especially if you’re manning the fundraising table – it’s private and it works!
  • Perform a series of step-ups on a bench adding a plyo-hop at the top of the movement to increase the intensity
  • Do a set of bear crawls across a field (people might stare but they’re probably jealous)
  • Perform a set of bodyweight rows using a playground equipment bar. 
  • Do some hanging leg raises using an overhead playground bar (Make sure your knees touch the elbows; 2 sets of 15 is your ab workout for the day!)
  • Run half laps as fast as you can around a track and do a recovery jog or walk for the next half lap.  Do this 2-4 times for the best results.  You’ll feel like an Olympic mom.
  • Dance to your favorite tunes
Whatever you do, make time to workout.  Even if you can’t get the gym there are plenty of things you can do to stay fit on the road.

Read more about Valerie's go-to workout essentials at

And, in this heat - stay hydrated!

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