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How to Use Your Community's Playground as an Outdoor Gym

Warm spring days are reason enough to shake up your workout routine, but you don’t have to sign up for a gym membership or buy any new equipment to do it. Check out your local park or playground and take advantage of all it has to offer. A community playground not only provides free facilities and tools you might not have at home, but it also presents an opportunity to meet a community of neighborhood runners or workout buddies who are local to you.

With COVID-19 still in play, the CDC recommends that if you do choose to workout at a park or outdoor playground, you wear a mask and continue to socially distance by remaining six feet apart from other people. If you use park equipment that others may have touched, consider taking disinfecting wipes with you and make sure to use hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face with your hands post-workout.

1. Don’t neglect the track

One particularly nice thing about a lot of school and community playgrounds is the presence of a pre-measured track to run on. If you’re a runner or jogger who likes to monitor your distances and times, having a track to use as a guide may help motivate you to hit your fitness goals more than a run through your neighborhood might. 

2. Hit up the monkey bars (obviously)

Parks and playgrounds tend to bring out your inner kid, so why not embrace it? A lot of community park equipment is designed with bodyweight workouts in mind—specifically, the monkey bars. Using monkey bars can provide a better bodyweight workout than other pieces of high-end workout equipment. This list details the muscle groups a monkey bar workout can improve, so go out and get swinging, hanging, and pulling up.

3. Use the balance beam or a park bench for elevated pushups or adjusted planks

Incorporating elevation into your core workouts can help improve muscle strength and coordination. And using a balance beam or other playground equivalent can take your workout routine to new heights (even if those new heights are a mere 12 inches off the ground). For those that prefer modified workouts, having something to support your feet or shoulders can make a world of difference.

A raised platform can also benefit your cardio routine, incorporating block jumps and rear-foot elevated lunges will get your heart pumping just as fast as sprint drills.

4. Swing on the swing set (and then use it for a core workout)

When you’re just getting back into the swing of things (pun intended), simply getting your body moving can have a big impact. Take a walk to your local park and spend some time on the swings to familiarize yourself with the park equipment and get used to the routine of making the trip during the week, so that if and when you decide to branch out to different workouts or equipment, the park will feel more welcoming.  

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the lay of the land, you can graduate to using a swing set for adjusted planks, swinging knee tucks, elevated pushups, and many more standard core exercises.