Playground Workout Routine (or non-routine) to Make you Feel Like a Kid Again!

Do you watch your kids play at the playground from the comfort of the park bench?

Perhaps you check your email on your smartphone.

Or maybe you catch up on the latest celebrity gossip?

Well, let me suggest a better use of your time.

Why not join your kid on the playground.  You can get your workout in (though it won’t feel quite like a workout), and your child will think it is great fun (unless they are a teenager).

Here are some of the exercises that I invented one afternoon playing with my son.   Please take these exercises as inspiration.  They may or may not be right for you, your child and your playground.  Invent your own exercises that fit your situation.

Fitness is something that must be integrated into your daily life.

Fitness is not something that you can do for a half-hour a day and then forget about the rest of the time.  Build exercise into your lifestyle. For example:

  • Run the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
  • Walk the four blocks to a local restaurant instead of driving across town.
  • Do 10 pushups after you brush your teeth in the morning.
  • Go swimming instead of sunbathing.

And when your kid is running around playing, by all means, go play with them!

Amber Ellison Walker’s Playground Workout Routine:

1. Get into the right state of mind.

First you must get in the right state of mind.  You are not doing reps and sets here.  You are not going to worry about building muscle, or your heart rate, or making sure to get to every exercise on your list.

You are going to follow a different rhythm.  Not an adult rhythm but your child’s rhythm.  Some days it may be fast, some days slow.  Some days you may stay on one piece of equipment and others you may run all over the place.  Enjoy it.  Take a lesson from your child on how to play.

2. Get good at following your child around the playground.

Depending on the age of your child your first workout may just involve trailing them around the playground.   Follow them around but do not mimic them.  See how your body interacts (safely) with the equipment.

Get to know the terrain of the playground.  Where are the pitfalls?  Where could you sneak in a pushup?  What can you  jump over?  Where can you go?  Where can’t you go?

3. Add in an exercise ‘snack’ here or there.

Now that you know the playground terrain a little better you can start to add in exercises.  Adjust your routine depending on where your child is and what he or she is doing.  I.e. Every time he plays on the jungle gym, you do  pull ups.   Every time he goes down the slide, you run around the slide’s perimeter.

Here is an example play time for my son and I at our local playground:

Disclaimer: As with all workout routines please use your best judgement and don’t do anything that doesn’t feel safe.  I’m illustrating exercises that work for me as a personal trainer and retired professional dancer.  The exercises demonstrated are for entertainment and informational purposes only.   They are not necessarily  recommendations for you.


If you are comfortable hanging and can find a good place to do so try some knee-ups.  But be sure to use your abs!

There are lots of places in a park to do push-ups. If you can do a regular pushup, add incline pushups for variety.

No doubt your child will be very curious about what you are doing.  Have fun figuring out a way to incorporate them right into the exercises.

Part of my ‘non-routine’ is that when Jasper drives the steering wheel,  I jump on and off the staircase platform.  Jasper really likes to drive and boy, are my legs sore.

You can use any obstacle as an inspiration for an exercise.  Try to move  in many directions, like jumping sideways in addition to forward and back.

You can find an exercise to go with almost any playground activity.  Enjoy!


4.  Increase the difficulty level incrementally.

If you get into the habit of playing with your kids at the playground you may find that your strength and agility are improving rapidly.  If so, then increase the difficulty level.

  • Instead of just pushing your kid on when she is swinging why not add in a squat between pushes.
  • Do two park bench pushups when your kid is playing on the merry-go-round instead of one.

Whatever you do don’t start writing things down, don’t make a plan to improve, and don’t get competitive with yourself.

This is suppose to be playtime remember?  Your child is not at all concerned with how many times they climb up the pole.  They are just messing around.  Sure, as they play they get stronger, gain endurance, and coordination.  But they don’t know this and they don’t particularly care.

They are only concerned with having fun.  So should you.  When it becomes easy to do something, and when it sounds like fun to increase the challenge level, then do so!  Just don’t push yourself if it you don’t feel like it.

(By the way, I want to clarify that pushing yourself in your more methodical workouts can be a great thing.  These playground workouts should be in addition to your more adult-style exercising.  Push yourself at the gym or with your trainer, but when you are at the playground, play!)