Playground Workouts – Fitness Tips for Exercising Outdoors


It’s that time of year when many exercise enthusiasts head to the great outdoors. After spending the winter cooped up in a gym, or basement, it can be refreshing to feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. It’s also a great way to get back in touch with nature and feel like you’re reconnecting with the world. Numerous articles and studies have outlined the physiological benefits to outdoor exercise and recreation.

Unfortunately, many people still feel confined to the indoors when it comes time for a kick butt strength workout. This is really a shame because strength training outdoors can be a very refreshing experience and can breathe new life into a stale lifting routine. But what are you going to do? It’s not like you’re going to take an entire power cage or weight machine with you to the beach.

The good news is that there are many outdoor gyms that are ready and waiting for you. They have loads of equipment and most of them are open 24 hours a day. Best of all they are also free of charge. You don’t even need to fill out any paper work. You simply just show up and rock out.

Strangely enough, most folks never take advantage of these free outdoor gyms. This is largely because they usually go by the name of “playgrounds” and are considered by many as something that’s built just for little kids. Yes it’s true. Playground workouts are one of the best kept secrets within the world of health and fitness. Below are just a few of the unique benefits of playground training!

Pet and kid friendly. The playground is a gym with a built-in childcare and pet sitting service. What better place to take the kids and the dog than a playground?

Free and open 24/7. Nothing better than having a gym that’s free and open whenever you want it. Best of all, because playground training isn’t popular, there are no crowds to battle and you won’t have to wait for equipment.

Lots of convenient locations. When folks first get into playground training they figure there might be 1 or 2 playgrounds in their town. However, once they start looking for playgrounds, they are amazed at how many there are in the area. I personally pass by 5 on my way home from work and I only have a 6 mile commute.

Limited by your imagination. Playgrounds naturally inspire a sense of play and creativity. This ability to let loose and be creative is a highly underrated quality within our fitness culture where we are told to do everything by the book.

Functional and effective exercise. Playground workouts are free, fun and convenient but that’s all worthless if the quality of your workout isn’t there. The good news is that playgrounds can offer the world’s best workouts. The exercises are naturally functional and safe as well as real butt kickers.

playground-workoutsVery few distractions. The trouble with working out at home is that there can be so many different distractions. The typical gym is generally a much more focused environment, but even there you have TVs, magazines and idle chit chat. Playgrounds are exercise focus havens. They are literally removed from most people and distractions. The only thing to do there is be active and workout. So leave your smart phone in the car and experience laser like focus with every move you make.

Playground Workout Tips! 
You don’t need to know or have a lot to get started. You can literally just go to a playground and start playing around to get started. However, you can maximize your playground workouts with the following tips!

Bring water and dress appropriately. Treat your playground workouts just like any other outdoor recreation. Be sure to dress in lightweight and comfortable clothing and wear sunglasses and a hat when it’s hot and sunny. Also don’t forget your sun screen! It’s also a good idea to bring some water as you’ll probably dehydrate faster when exercising outdoors. A hydration pack is a fantastic accessory to use for playground workouts.

Bring gloves. Keep in mind that the playground isn’t a pristine and clean environment. There is always the chance for sharp stones or glass on the ground as well as rust and flaking paint on the equipment. For this reason, it’s a good idea to invest in some cheap work gloves to protect your hands.

Look for playgrounds with a lot of metal. Some playgrounds are more suitable for workouts than others. Chances are you won’t be using elements that are more geared towards children. A good rule of thumb is to look for playgrounds with a lot of metal elements. The more metal bars there are, the more you can do to work your body.

Add some cheap and portable tools. A playground by itself is a great place to workout, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw in some extra toys to make the experience more fun. Here are a few examples:

  • Interval timer. A simple timer can add motivation and structure to any workout and it works very well out on the playground where there are no clocks.
  • Hand weights. While body weight exercise is the meat and potatoes of playground training, a simple adjustable dumbbell or kettlebells can add some more variety. You can also use them to add weight to some of your body weight exercises.
  • Sandbag. The sandbag is a particularly well suited tool for playground work, not just because it’s great to add weight to all body weight exercise, but because it can travel well in your car without rolling around.
  • Suspension straps. The playground already offers more exercise variations that you can shake a stick at. However, if you’re looking for a bit more, then adding a simple set of gymnastics rings or suspension straps can give you even more variety and versatility.

Bring a towel. Sometimes the bars and ground may be wet or dirty. Keeping a towel to wipe down these areas can make your workout safer and more comfortable.

Become a student of calisthenics and ground based weight training. Like all forms of training, your potential for success is only limited by your own knowledge and skills. Regularly invest some time in some basic body weight books or programs as well as information about how to use basic free weights. The more you learn and develop your skills, the more you’ll discover just how much further you can progress.

So start checking out your local parks and school yards. By this time next week you just may have found yourself a new outdoor gym and you will be wondering why you didn’t start working out there sooner.

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About Author

Matt Schifferle

My name is Matt Schifferle and I'm an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 coach, underground strength coach and I'm a 5th degree black belt in Taekwon-Do. I specialize in outdoor and playground based underground and CrossFit style bootcamps. See my profile page for more information!

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