Lunden Souza: No gym? Find a playground

Published: Friday, Sep. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am

When it comes to working out, a common belief is that you have to be in the gym to get in a quality workout. Or for others, repeating the same fitness DVD is their idea of making time for fitness.

A couple problems with both those notions are that not everyone has or can afford a gym membership, and doing the same DVD routine over and over can get boring. If you have read any of my previous columns, you know that I always talk about adherence. Who wants to adhere to a boring workout?

I am very blessed with a job that allows me to travel around the world and be exposed to a lot of different cultures, lifestyles and environments. One thing I have noticed is no matter where I go, there are always outdoor parks and playgrounds where people can hang out, take their kids and enjoy the fresh air.

I also have a lot of clients and friends who are constantly looking for ways to manage time and be able to get in a workout while also being a parent, so the park the perfect place to do both – work out and play with the kids.

This week I have a workout for the playground for all moms, dads or those who just want to mix it up with a new environment for fitness.

The first exercise is a declined push-up with your feet on a swing. For beginners, you can start with just one foot one the swing and one foot on the ground. For a more advanced challenge, engage your core and bring both knees together towards the gap in between your elbows and add an atomic crunch in between each push-up.

The second exercise is a triceps dip on a park bench. You can elevate one foot at a time for an added challenge, or even mix up the tempo (slow, medium, fast) to really make those triceps burn.

The third exercise is walking lunges. Most parks have sand or wood chips, and this unstable environment creates a whole new challenge for this exercise that you might already be used to. Remember to always engage your core and keep that chest up and shoulders pointing towards the sky.

The final exercise is inverted rows on a climbing bar. The important thing here is to have your entire body move as one. Tuck your tailbone under to eliminate a low back arch in order to perform the exercise properly. To increase the intensity of this workout, decrease the angle between your body and the ground but make sure to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears. No shrugging the shoulders just because you think you are working harder. Form is always the most important factor when working out.

Complete 15 to 20 repetitions of all four exercises and go for three rounds. If you really want to challenge yourself, run a lap around the playground or park in between each round. It’s not always easy to make time for a workout or to pay for a gym membership, but by simply making a trip to the park, you can not only work hard but play hard.

Lunden Souza, a Merced native, is a personal trainer, health and wellness coach and writer in Southern California. She can be reached at

Read more articles by Lunden Souza

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