All work and play

5 exercises moms can do with kids at the park

Brooke James demonstrates the bench dip exercise while playing with her son at the Westside Recreation Center in Gainesville. Playground workouts give moms the opportunity to exercise while still spending time with their children.

Tom Gaard/Correspondent
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2011 at 3:30 p.m.

With the start of the New Year, resolu­tions of weight loss typically top the list of goals for many women. But finding time for fitness amid cleaning the house, chauffeuring the children and cooking dinner proves difficult for busy moms, resulting in disappointment and failed resolutions.

“People can get very overwhelmed when it comes to establishing an exercise routine,” said Pam Harrison, certified personal trainer and fitness instruc­tor at Gainesville Health and Fitness. “It’s really just all about moving the body.”

By dedicating only 30 to 45 minutes of time for movement twice a week, moms can be on their way to shedding lingering baby weight, increasing their energy level, improving their sleep habits and feeling better both mentally and physically, Harrison said. The time can even be split into 15-minute inter­vals if shorter sessions are easier for moms to fit into their schedules.

Participating in a “playground workout” gives moms with kids of all ages the opportunity to get in shape while their children play or even participate in the exercis­es, she said.

“Taking away the worry of what to do with the children removes one more barrier from someone’s mind as to why they can’t fit fitness into their lives,” Harrison said. “You can involve your children and most importantly, set an example for them.”

But Harrison cautions that setting small, realistic goals is key when it comes to getting off the couch and maintaining a more mobile lifestyle.

“Small victories are what will keep you going another day,” Harrison said. “You want to be able to keep up with your kids and live life to the fullest.”

The playground exercises below, recommended by Harrison, can be done with any swing and bench. The goal is to perform each exercise for 60 seconds with 30 seconds of rest in between. The set of five exercises can be done once or repeated. Harrison said she recommends that beginners start slow and execute the routine once a week, working up to 60 seconds for each exercise. The frequency of the playground workout can slowly be increased to every other day.

Total Time: About 8 minutes.

Equipment needed: Bench, swing, towel, watch with second hand, water bottle

1. Swing and squat (works chest, biceps, legs, bottom)

Put feet in a staggered stance, draw elbows back and push child in swing with even pressure on both arms. Step back and squat. Then, step forward with opposite leg and push again. Repeat steps as child swings back and forth, being sure to alternate lead leg.

Trainer Tip: During squats, keep your toes, knees and hips pointing forward and drop to where your thighs are parallel to the ground. Proper alignment is key.

2. Swing pulls (works shoulders, abdominals, lower back)

Lay towel on ground in front of swing. Bring elbows down to the towel and hook feet onto the swing. Push up on elbows so body is aligned with abs in and back strong. Draw knees in toward chest then extend back long.

Trainer Tip: Imagine pulling your belly button to your spine, and avoid letting your belly sink down into the space below. This will help to keep your abdomi­nals engaged and braced.

3. Swing or bench lunge (works legs, bottom, abs and can be performed using a swing or bench)

Standing tall, place one foot back onto swing. Engage abdominals and sink straight down, bending front leg to 90 degrees and extending back leg behind. Draw leg back into starting position. Switch legs after 30 seconds.

Option 2 (easier): Place back foot on park bench and sink straight down and up.

Trainer Tip: Make sure your front knee does not extend past your toe when you sink down. It should align with the middle of your foot.

4. Bench step-ups (cardio, works bottom, legs)

Standing tall with abs engaged, step up onto bench and back down. Work at an even tempo. Switch lead leg after 30 seconds.

Option 2 (harder): Hold your child in your arms or in a carrier while performing this exercise.

Trainer Tip: Make sure you step all the way up on the bench. Don’t let your heels hang off, and keep your head up.

5. Bench dips (works triceps and shoulders)

Sit on the bench and slide out so bottom is off the bench, with the body supported by the hands (fingers facing body). Keeping legs bent and bottom up high, sink downward, bending elbows back toward the bench. Press back up to start.

Option 2 (harder): Put child in your lap facing you for added resistance.

Trainer Tip: Rest when you need to. This one is hard!

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