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Try a Workout at the Park

Discover how to mix strength and cardio for an effective outdoor workout.

Workout at the Park

With summer long days and warm weather, it’s great to take exercise outdoors and workout at the park. The only “equipment” you’ll need is whatever’s available at your local park! Try a format alternating high-intensity cardio with lower-intensity body-weight resistance. (Of course, keep in mind your fitness level and any limitations you may have.)

Before exercising, survey your chosen park with the following questions in mind:

  • Does it have a walking/running path?
  • Are there open areas (grassy or paved)?
  • How many secured benches and/or picnic tables are there?
  • Is there a playground with swings and monkey bars?

Once you have this information, you can plug any of the following activities into your program design in whichever order you choose. Be sure to add a full-body, dynamic warmup and cooldown/stretch, and use music to motivate yourself!

Angela Yochum, MEd, founder of GFIT Education LLC, an ACE-certified group fitness instructor and director, and an English and Physical Education Teacher, provides suggestions on how to put together a safe, effective workout at the park.

Walking/Running Path

A good path makes circuit training an easy option for a park workout. Choose three to five secured benches or picnic tables spaced along the path to serve as strength checkpoints.

Sample exercises include

  • lap one: pushup 10x–15x (inclined on bench or from ground)
  • lap two: squat 10x–15x
  • lap three: triceps dip 10x–15x (hands on bench/table)
  • lap four: stationary lunge 10x–15x per leg

See also: Outdoor Workouts Without Equipment

Open-Space Workout at the Park

Select an area that’s away from other park-goers and appears clean (no mud) and safe (no divots or holes). You can do an “every-minute-on-the-minute” section or a ladder shuttle for a fun challenge.

Every Minute on the Minute

Set your stopwatch or phone to alert you every minute. After each minute, switch exercises.

You can alternate higher-intensity cardio movements with lower-intensity strength exercises. Choose a reasonable amount of reps per exercise you can do in a minute, building in some recovery time.

Try these 10 sample moves, all starting at the top of the minute (10 minutes)

  • burpee: 12x–20x
  • pushup: 10x–20x
  • jump squat (modify as needed): 15x–20x
  • standing side crunch (with same-side knee lift): 12x–15x per side
  • mountain climber: 40x–50x
  • stationary lunge: 12x–15x per side
  • skater: 30x–40x
  • single-leg deadlift: 8x–10x per side
  • high-knee skip: 30x–40x
  • high plank with knee drive: 30x–40x

Ladder Shuttle

This workout becomes progressively more challenging as it unfolds. Mark a straight out-and-back distance where you will run or walk, stop and do the designated exercise, then get back to the starting point and repeat.

Here is a sample ladder shuttle activity that takes 3–5 minutes:

  • Run 20 yards; squat 1x.
  • Run back to start; squat 2x.
  • Run 20 yards; squat 3x.
  • Run back to start; squat 4x.
  • Run 20 yards; squat 5x.
  • Run back to start; squat 6x.
  • Run 20 yards; squat 7x.
  • Run back to start; squat 8x.
  • Run 20 yards; squat 9x.
  • Run back to start; squat 10x. 

Play-Structure Moves

If it doesn’t affect park patrons, you can incorporate swings and monkey bars as stand-alone exercises or as part of a larger workout. Before you begin, determine which pieces of play structure equipment you’d like to use, and test that they’ll be safe and secure.

Try this sample play-structure activity. It takes 6 minutes: 45 seconds strength/15 seconds to transition, plus 30 seconds cardio between stations.

  • Swing plank: Do high plank with feet in swing; draw knees to chest.
  • Lunge right: Place R foot on ground, left foot behind in swing and lunge.
  • Swing lunge L.
  • Monkey bars incline pullup: With wide hand grip, feet out in front, pull body toward structure.

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