Category Archives: Fitness on the Go

Playground Workout – Upper Body

Playground pushups – I sometimes wonder if my readers are concerned that I’ve included pushups in a number of my columns in the past, but then I remember that although I’ve been training steadily for almost 30 years, I still perform pushups during many of my workouts. With so many variations of the basic pushup, this functional activity is easily one of the top all-time exercises. When doing pushups in the playground, it’s not difficult to find a surface that allows for the appropriate level of difficulty. Just remember that the higher your hands are above your feet, the easier the movement. For stronger people, or advanced exercisers, you can even place your feet on an elevated surface so that they are higher than your hands for increased difficulty. Always maintain controlled movements and remember to engage your core muscles so that your body remains level and doesn’t sag through the middle. Try performing 2-3 sets to fatigue, with excellent alignment and control.

Horizontal pull-ups – Many people are challenged to perform a single full-body chin-up, let alone complete enough to make it a worthwhile exercise. This is why I have a lot of my clients work with a variation I call the horizontal pull-up. Just like pushups, there are numerous different combinations and variations that allow you to modify the difficulty depending upon your level of fitness. The angle of your body, the length of your legs and the width of your grip will all determine how hard or easy the movement is for you. In the version shown, Lorna actually has her feet as high as her hands, which makes this a challenging exercise, but we’ve bent her legs so she can actually pull herself up. Experimenting with these variables will allow you to find the right location and position that provides sufficient challenge for you. Ideally we’re looking for a position that will allow you to perform 2-3 sets of approximately 12-15 repetitions.

Bench dips – Although pushups and pull-ups work the major muscles of the chest and back, they also require a contribution by the shoulders and arms. This is part of the reason they’re such great exercises. Another excellent exercise that targets the triceps muscles on the back of the upper arm, is the bench dip. You’ve likely seen this before, and maybe even tried it, but I’m always amazed at how effective this exercise really is. The next time you’re at the playground, find a bench or step that is comfortable for your hands. Sit with your hips at the very front edge of the bench and place the heels of your hands on the front edge of the bench. Supporting your bodyweight with your arms, slide your hips forward off the bench, and begin to lower your body by bending your elbows. Be sure to keep your head and chest up as you raise and lower your body by bending your elbows, and avoid straining your shoulders by going too low. Perform 2-3 sets of roughly 15 repetitions. You can increase the difficulty by straightening your legs or lifting one foot from the ground.

Playground Series – Lower body workout

As we are well into the summer holidays and the weather is a bit more consistent, it’s clear that people are spending a lot more time outside. This involves increased activity, which is a very good thing, but maybe you can step it up even more? Whether you’re walking the dog, or just keeping the kids away from the television, try to find a local park or school with a nice playground.

The great thing about playgrounds is that they make for excellent workout environments. The bars, benches, platforms and swings are perfect for exercising while you keep an eye on the kids. It’s also a natural way to expose children to the concept of regular exercise and functional fitness. By modeling healthy behavior you can positively influence their impressionable young minds. This can go a long way toward helping them to develop a positive attitude about exercise.

When you’re working out in a playground, it’s important to be aware of some of the basic principles of training, like making sure the environment is safe before you start exercising. This includes being aware of where your kids and other playground users are playing. The last thing you want is a 6 year old on a rope swing crashing into you while you’re doing a set of squats!

Click the below photos for details on the individual exercises.

Make or Break – Staying fit on your holidays

With Spring Break coming soon, many people are planning a one or two-week escape to somewhere other than here. Most will be taking off to a tropical destination, while the rest are hitting the slopes to take advantage of the piles of new snow. Something I wonder is, how many will watch their fitness and their diet during the break?

It seems a bit finicky to be concerned about whether or not you maintain a fitness program during the break, but it’s not the one or two weeks that I’m concerned with. More importantly, the tendency to throw discipline and consistency out the window while on holidays contributes to a much greater likelihood of falling off the exercise wagon altogether, potentially taking months or years to get started again.

Being realistic, If you’re trading 8-hours at a sedentary desk job for long days on skis or a snowboard I’m not going to give you a hard time if you don’t get to the gym during your holiday. But, if you’re planning on racking up some serious hours by the pool, or at the beach, there should be a little extra time in there somewhere that you can exercise.

And remember, it doesn’t take a lot of extra time or effort to eat smaller portions of healthy food than it does to gorge on pizza, nachos, burgers and fries or fondue. By keeping an eye on the fuel you put into your body you’ll feel better and have more energy. This alone should be enough to help keep you on a healthier path during and after the break.

Following are a few strategies that can help you to maintain, or even improve, your health this Spring Break.

1-    Keep walking. No matter where you vacation, take advantage of the opportunity to stay on your feet and keep moving. Walk the beach in the mornings, or take an evening stroll with the family through the ski village. The focus is on being more active than you are in your regular routine at home.

2-    Plan your fuel. The timing of your days can often get twisted around when you get out of the work and school routines. The problem with this is that people end up skipping meals or eating large portions far too late at night. One of the best things you can do is to take a moment to plan the following day, deciding on a healthy breakfast for shortly after you rise, and eating balanced meals every 3-4 hours throughout the day, until bedtime.

3-    Stretch it out. Even though you might not be opting for a strenuous athletic adventure this Spring Break, you’re likely to be doing different activities than you would at home. This means you’ll be using different muscles, which can feel stiff and sore afterward. To manage this, make time to stretch regularly and stay loose. Fortunately beach resorts have higher ambient temperatures, which are good for keeping the body limber. Ski resorts have hot-tubs everywhere, and there’s no better place to stretch out at the end of an active day.

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4-    Watch the snack foods. When you’re not in your daily routine of work and life it’s very easy to find yourself grabbing snacks throughout the day. Whether it’s a handful of nuts, a few chips, a piece of fruit or a glass of juice, snacking between meals adds unnecessary calories and compromises the digestive process.

5-    Hydrate. When you’re skiing or beaching, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Personally I know I drink less water when I’m in cold climates, so I have to make a concentrated effort to bring water with me when I ski, and drink a big glass or two right at the end of the day. And there’s no doubt that the heat in tropical regions causes increased sweating and evaporation, quickly leading to dehydration.

6-    Maintain your muscle. If you are someone that exercises regularly, the last thing you want to do is lose ground because of a vacation. A simple program of push-ups, chin-ups, squats, lunges, etc can give your entire body a stimulus to maintain muscle mass, which will help keep your joints strong and your metabolism elevated. Large resistance bands, sometimes knows as safety toners, can be a great training tool. They’re versatile and lightweight, allowing you to perform dozens of effective exercises.

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7-    Party in moderation. A surefire way to make sure you don’t keep fit over the break is to get into the beer or cocktails heavily on the first day. By avoiding the tendency to ‘let loose’ and drink too much, you’ll feel better and stay sharp. If you appreciate this and are prepared with a strategy before the holiday begins, you’re less likely to have a boozy Spring Break.

8-    Have fun. Take advantage of free time to play hard and enjoy your health.

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Rob Williams is a kinesiologist, elite personal trainer and posture specialist. He has been practicing for 16 years and currently operates an exclusive private training studio Mixx Fitness Studio, with a team of 10 trainers, as well as a multi-disciplinary posture facility, Performance Posture Clinic. Rob is an accomplished writer and speaker in the fields of fitness, posture and nutrition, and can be contacted at Williams Health Group.