Playground Workout Part I: What, How, and Why?

This is a short series of posts regarding the ins and out, hows and whys of performing workouts at your local playground. 

For my first post, I want to take you to the playground.

“You mean your virtual Wellness Playground that I read about here, right?”

No, I mean an actual playground.

“Woah, woah, woah…what?”

Hang in there, I’ll explain.

Like I mentioned in that linked post on my concept of a Wellness Playground, I get really excited about finding ways for fitness to be fun, free (or cheap), and easily modified to reach a lot of ability levels. And, lately, one of my favorite examples of this “fitness at its finest” has been the playground workout.


Just about every playground you’ll encounter has all of the apparatuses (aparati?) needed to complete a full-body, circuit training style workout.

You might live near a, shall we say, well-appointed playground like the one in the affluent suburb of Redmond, WA seen below:

redmond, wa

Grass Lawn Park

Or your local playground might look something more like this basic setup from a post-Katrina New Orleans park:

Basic playground in post-Katrina New Orleans

Basic playground in post-Katrina New Orleans

Either way, as long the weather cooperates, you feel safe enough, and your local playground has even a basic play structure, you will be able to get a great workout in.


As I mentioned above, your playground most likely has all you need to complete a full-body workout; meaning you will be working all of your major muscle groups: chest, back, legs, arms, and core.

The big answer to the “how”, regardless of fitness level, is with a H.I.I.T. (high intensity interval training) circuit course. This is a very popular and effective method of exercise — the same kind of thing you would pay a personal trainer or a bootcamp instructor hundreds of dollars for.


Let’s break that down in case any of those terms are unfamiliar to you.

High intensity training is a tried and true form of training that demands you to give a high intensity effort (sustained heart rate in your target heart rate zone or slightly above). But don’t worry, the second part of the acronym — the intervals — will get you up to that intensity level without a problem.

Interval training is the second half of the H.I.I.T. acronym. You’ll be doing brief bouts of high intensity work, with short rest periods sandwiched in between. Work, rest, work, rest, work, rest. You get it.

***Typically the work to rest time ratio is 2:1 (although this can vary depending on who you ask or the type of workout). For a single exercise you’ll be doing 30-40 seconds at maximum intensity/maximum reps, followed by 10-20 seconds of rest.***

Because the work is so intense and the rest so brief, H.I.I.T. workouts can be as short as 10 minutes and won’t be any longer than 40-60 minutes.

Circuit training is simply a series of exercises, in which each exercise focuses on a different muscle group.


As you can see in the picture above, going from left to right, we’ve got a women doing some sprint work it looks like (cardio), a man doing some type of plyometric jump exercise (legs), someone on the bench doing either a press or a tricep extension (arms), some kettle ball squat-type exercise (legs, and maybe back), and a woman doing decline pushups on the stability ball (chest).

After whatever the prescribed time of work, they will have a short rest, then rotate to the next exercise. Once they’ve done each exercise once, the circuit is complete. Depending on the length of the overall workout, they’ll finish anywhere from 1 to maybe 4 or 5 full, complete circuits.

You’ll apply the same concept to your playground workout. Also, it’s worth pointing out that you can (and probably should) have several exercises that work the same muscle group (e.g. squats and lunges, both working your legs). However, make sure to alternate muscle groups in your circuit (e.g. core, legs, chest, core, legs, back is good!;  core, core, chest, back, back, legs is not so good!) to allow the muscles to rest and recover.

The exact answer to “how” — the difficulty of the exercises — really depends on your current level of fitness, so stay tuned because in the next few installments of this series I will be doing a walkthrough for beginners, those at an intermediate level, and those looking for an advanced playground workout.

For now, just remember:





Sunset and abandoned playground at North Shore Beach.  Salton Sea.

Because you can get the same results on the playground FOR FREE, ON YOUR OWN TIME, WITH A WORKOUT YOU DESIGNED that people pay hundreds of dollars for with a gym membership or personal trainer to get told what to do and when to do it. Hey, I get that its not for everyone. Some people need to have that guilt of paying monthly fees as motivation to workout, or they like the workout instructor approach.

But, if you are self-motivated and you are tired of throwing money away every month, I hope you give this a try. With all of the information being passed around out there, so many of the secrets of the fitness industry that were long held within by professionals are now coming out.

Take it and use it.

As always, post a question or comment.

Be well, and go find your playground!


4 thoughts on “Playground Workout Part I: What, How, and Why?

  1. Pingback: PLAYGROUND WORKOUT PART II: TIPS | Wellness Playground

  2. Pingback: Playground Workout Part III: Beginner | Wellness Playground

  3. Pingback: Playground Workout Part IV: Intermediate/Advanced | Wellness Playground

  4. Pingback: App Review: Max Capacity Training | Wellness Playground

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