Do you remember recess? That break in the monotonous school day when you could run wild and free, lost in playful movement? The glory of the playground lingers in many of your participants’ memories too, and you can help to recreate that experience by taking your next class a little less seriously.
Turning the group fitness studio into a playground is a great idea for stressed-out, time-crunched, social media–weary adults who need a break from responsibility. So grab a whistle, cue the bell and get ready to inject some fun into everyone’s day!
The Playgrond Details
FORMAT: strength and cardio conditioning
TOTAL TIME: approximately 1 hour
GOAL/EMPHASIS: total-body exercise with an emphasis on core strength
EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Use what you have and your creativity! For this particular class, I use hoops, Hippity Hop balls, Gliding™ discs (as Frisbee discs), the mini 4-pound Body Bar®, Lebert Equalizer® bars, Just Jump it® Skipper toys, the Bender Ball™ and jump ropes.
MUSIC: Choose a fun beat and a moderate tempo—nothing too fast. It’s also nice to have random, upbeat music that you don’t necessarily have to follow along with.
- Know your audience and ask about injuries or contraindications.
- Advise participants to wear cross-trainer shoes.
- Modify as needed. For example, instead of racing on stability balls, have people hop in place.
- Encourage everyone to drink a lot of fluids.
Warmup (8–10 minutes)
When you were a kid, you could just open the door and run out to play without warming up. That is no longer the case! Program classic dynamic exercises to get class ready for recess. Start with an easy jog in place and then cue the following:
- low-impact jumping jacks
- low-intensity jump rope drills
- arm circles
- torso twists
- walk-out planks
To really elicit childhood enthusiasm, have participants skip around the room! When was the last time you just skipped for no reason? Some adults don’t even remember how to skip. Be prepared to hear some laughter as skipping around the room lightens the mood and puts everyone in a more gregarious frame of mind.
Work Phase (40 minutes)
Spend about 5 minutes on each piece of equipment and use the transitions between stations for recovery.
Freestyle Hula Hoop® play. Using a hoop gives the transversus abdominis a unique workout. We tend to lose hip rotation ability as we age, thanks in part to spending too much time sitting down. Bigger hoops are easier for those who haven’t tried this since the Nixon era. Have participants go in one direction for 30–60 seconds and then repeat in the other direction. Allow for a little freestyle action, and tell people to change foot stance regularly.
Hippity-hop race. My participants love Hippity Hop balls because they really do bounce them back to a simpler time. Feel free to substitute stability balls. Simply pair students up and have them “race” down the studio. This boosts camaraderie while raising heart rates, not to mention exercising the adductors and the core.
Disk Frisbee. Use fabric Gliding discs here, if available. Otherwise, use regular Frisbee discs. Break the class into groups of three or five and have them work on their Frisbee skills. That’s it! Add a twist by asking people to use their nondominant hand.
At bat with bars! In this core and upper-body powerhouse move, participants hold the Body Bar like a baseball bat and practice swinging it as if they were hitting a baseball. Emphasize the importance of good rotation and follow-through, and make sure participants lift the back heel to avoid knee torque. Switch sides at the halfway mark.
Monkey bars. Use the EQualizer tools like monkey bars, but stay close to the ground. Have participants lie supine on a mat underneath and do plank pullups with isometric holds. If people are game, let the holds be a friendly competition.
Skipping and jumping. Do you remember the Just Jump it® Skipper toy? It’s essentially a rope with a loop on one end and a weighted ball on the other end. You place the loop around your ankle and move it around in a circle while skipping/hopping over it with the other leg. This is a wonderful way to work on balance and proprioception.
Jump rope games. Here you can either cue class to jump rope in the classic fashion, or use a long rope and have them chase each other through the middle as if it were tag. Or come up with your own variation.
Dodgeball. Everyone had a different experience of dodgeball growing up, and for some it wasn’t fun. This is a chance to set things right. Make sure this classic game using the soft Bender Ball is a friendly competition at the end of class. Encourage people to use the whole body—the entire kinetic chain of energy from their toes through their arms—when throwing the balls.
Cooldown (5–8 minutes)
Leave time to gradually bring heart rates down and allow people to transition from recess back to responsibility. Initially, let them walk around the room and then have them stay in one spot while you take them through a comprehensive, total-body stretch.
It’s rare that, as adults, we take the time to play. That, in addition to the conditioning benefits, is one reason this class is so great. Participants may not get a traditional fitness class, but they will have fun, and they’ll definitely get a good workout. Use your imagination and whatever tools bring up happy childhood memories—the smiles are worth it.