Attention parents (and babysitters, guardians, older siblings, etc.): Want a surefire way to get exercise into your day? Use your child.
People use their children all the time. They’re the perfect excuse to go out for ice cream. They’re “the only reason” you have cookies in the house, but because you want your children to be healthy you limit them to one per night and then you grab three when they are in bed! Oh and let me guess: You ordered all the classic Disney films on DVD because you don’t want your child to miss out on the wonders of these cinematic stories you experienced as a child, right? Sure…Like your heart doesn’t flutter when you see this on the screen:
Hey, I’m not judging you. I’ll likely do the exact same when I have children. I pull that ice cream move on Val all the time as it is! It works for gluttonous pancakes, too… Just saying.
But kids can also be used to get some healthy exercise in even if you’re not necessarily wiping sweat from your brow. You read that correctly. Your babies no longer have to be a reason for why you don’t have time to work out.
Like most people, you probably wish there was more time in the day. I definitely wouldn’t have a problem with a few more hours. We’re all knee deep in work, emails, and other errands. You’ve got deadlines, bills, and to-do lists constantly on your mind. But being the super parent that you are, you still try to make sure your child gets fresh air and Vitamin D by getting outside. For those of you who sit on the park bench or swing or watch your children from your kitchen window: join them instead! The park and/or your own backyard is a great place to get a quick workout in while your children are playing.
Here’s how to lifehack the great outdoors and make it your personal gym:
- Monkey bars: I know what you’re thinking: blisters and calluses. Probably true. But here’s what you can see from now on: pull-up bars. Why not do some pull-ups or the classic monkey bar swinging routine while you’re watching your children? Challenge them to a “Who can do it faster” contest or try to cross to the other side as many times as you can without letting go. This can make it more fun for them and difficult for you!
- The physical space: Tag! You know what playing tag looks like? Running. You know why? Because you are doing just that. Playing tag is such a great way to engage your children in healthy exercise—not that they’re not already running around like they haven’t seen green grass in years. This game involves you and your children engaging in cardiovascular exercise that is really good for the muscles, immune system, and so much more. All of the stop-and-go involved in tag is also a benefit for your fitness!
- See-saw: What does see-sawing looking like? Come on…Nothing? Okay , I’ll give it to you: Squats! Suggestion: Hold onto 3-5 lb dumbbells or strap ankle weights around your ankles for more of a workout for you (and maybe for your child?).
- Park bench: Instead of sitting on the bench, use it as workout equipment. Dips are great to do on a sturdy and stationary park bench. The act of dips targets triceps and your core. Extend your legs straight out instead of bending them for added difficulty.
- Trees, light post, or something similar: Just wrap a resistance band around something of a cylinder shape and you’ve got the perfect station for some arm workouts. Of course you can use resistance bands without anything to aid you, but something sturdy may make the workout a bit easier to do. Simply pulling the handles or gripped ends to you can be enough. It’s difficult to explain these workouts, but a quick search on YouTube should help you out.
As you can see, the park is a great outdoor workout gym. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the park playground is really a condensed bootcamp facility for children. The colorful equipment may trick them, but it sure as heck isn’t tricking me anymore! Seriously, though: Next time you go to the park, imagine the rubberized ground or woodchips as mud and tell me you don’t see a military-style obstacle course.
Your backyard can also be your gym used for similar workouts or more.
If your backyard has stairs similar to those in the picture, this is a great way to get a quads and glutes workout in. Start at the bottom and walk up slowly, skipping at least 1 stair but maybe even two (this may feel a bit like doing lunges). Be sure to engage your glutes and your core for the most benefit. Walk down normally and repeat several times. You can add dumbbells or ankle weights for added resistance.
Do you have a seating area in your yard?
Where you see chairs, I see a dip station.
Do you just have mostly grass where your child brings games and toys outside for fun?
Know what I see? A lot of space for playing any variation of tag (Sharks and Minnows, anyone?) and also performing exercises such as push-ups, walking lunges, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and so much more. There is actually a great chance that if you make it sound fun, your children will even join you in these exercises!
Here’s an idea that will probably help get your children to be more interested in joining you for your exercises (not that they have to be!): If you have one or choose to invest in one, set up a Bluetooth compatible speaker with your smartphone and have a playlist or station ready…one with music and songs that your child loves or will enjoy. Every minute or two or every time you are ready to switch up the exercise, change the song and have a good time exercising with your child. During your rest, don’t rest! Have a freeze dance competition with your child(ren) and show them that mama or papa’s still got it!
There you have it. So, the next time you head to the park with your kiddos, don’t forget to pack the yoga mat, light dumbbells, resistance bands, and whatever else you would like to bring with you. You may just decide to leave it all in the car and just chase your child around the park for 20 minutes and that’s perfectly okay!
Playing and cardio? A resounding Yes to that!
PS: You obviously don’t need a child to tke make use of what’s included in this blog post!