Just Hit Play

A weekly series where you’ll find a handful of songs to add to your workout playlist.

Ghostland Observatory — No Place For Me

Shoutout to the boys from Austin, TX here. Ok so they might seem a little crazy…

A) They’re based out of Austin


B) They like laser lights a lot


C) Their drummer looks like this


I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics to this song mean, but I just try to think about a dark time or place in my life and how I want to get as far away from that as possible, and that gets me going. Crank this one up loud.


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis — Wings

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at Sasquatch 2011

Making his second appearance on JHP, this one goes back before he was all over the radio. The cool thing about Macklemore is he’s good for a fun, jump up and down anthem type song, and he’s also good to give you a social commentary song.

Wings is about the addictive nature of collecting shoes and the pressure kids feel to have the best kicks in school. The song has rises and falls with slower, dramatic phrases followed by Macklemore getting angry a la Eminem or Lil Wayne (his idol, I think). The video is really well done, and of course shows off his town of Seattle. I dig the Spike Lee Nike references, too.


I’ve got to cut it short this week, but I’ll be back next Monday with more songs for your workout playlist. Until then, be well.


How Long Should Your Daily Workout Last?

For awhile now, the Surgeon General’s recommendation and the general consensus has said 30 minutes a day. That, in turn, sparked the question among researchers and those in the health/fitness profession: can this be broken down into two 15 minute sessions or three 10 minute sessions? And what are the subsequent health and performance ramifications of 1 vs. 2 vs. 3 sessions per day? Well, it seems we are still trying to answer that question.

A recent column in the Well section of the NYT, citing several different studies, basically said the benefits of shorter bouts that add up to 30 minutes are either inconclusive or negligible, when compared to the “traditional” single 30 minute bout.


So for those of you out there wanting some resolution to this — wanting to know the most effective route to better health or a faster mile time or more fat loss or _________ — sorry, but it sounds like there isn’t a definitive answer yet. And there may not be for some time (or ever).

My advice: just do whatever works for you, given your daily schedule and your preference. If you like to break it up into smaller chunks or use those federally mandated 15 minute work breaks to exercise, go for it. If you find it easier to just knock it out in one fell swoop before or after work, go for it. Whatever brings you peace of mind or whatever your schedule dictates — do that.

Whatever you do, give it your all. Be well out there…

Workout Without Borders

I promise to move past the literal “playground” meme that I’ve been on lately, but I first had to pass on this video. This is some really cool, yet really advanced stuff.

The first time through, I was too in awe of the difficulty and beauty of what they were doing. The second time I watched, the “big picture” came into focus. What I hope you take away from the video is the power that fitness possesses to transform lives — giving people passion and a purpose.

Some really great messages that apply to all aspects and levels of exercise and fitness are spread throughout the video…

Be your own inspiration

Compete against yourself…be stronger than the person you were yesterday

Let the creativity flow

Failing is part of the process…don’t give up

Axioms like this seem pretty lame when they’re on a poster in your school counselor’s office or in your work’s break room. When you see them in action — spoken by people like us, that have struggled and fought and found success — there’s nothing lame about them.

Share, comment, pass it on. Live without borders. Be well.

Playground Workout Part IV: Intermediate/Advanced

If you took a look at the Beginner post and think you’d like some more challenging exercises, read on my friend…

I’ve clumped intermediate and advanced into one post for one main reason.

— Once you reach that average to slightly above average level of fitness, there is a huge range of ability levels


— It’s safe to say you have a pretty solid knowledge base in terms of knowing the types and frequency of workouts you need to continue to improve.

So I’ll keep this post a little shorter, a little sweeter, and just pass along some good videos I found on Youtube that show a nice variety of exercises, as well as explain some of the science behind why this type of a workout can be just as or more effective than what you can accomplish in a gym or workout class.

Again, employ that H.I.I.T. principle that was explained back in Part I of the series.

Video #1

Here’s a nice video a couple made showing some cool playground exercises for both a fit man and a fit woman. If you start watching and think, “oh geez maybe I should go back to that beginner post!”, don’t worry. Often, they’ll start out with an advanced version before they modify. Take a look; its a good primer for the post, and we’ll talk below.

This must have been an impromptu video, otherwise how do you forget your shoes! They’re Hawaiian islanders so I guess that’s a decent excuse. Ok a couple notes:

— The leg work at around the 3:55 mark is really good stuff — challenging, which is what you need if you want to see gains

— If you think your muscles are getting too adapted to the standard tricep dip, then try what you see at the 6:20 mark

— The plyometric work the wife does at the 8:00 mark is a great example of modifying at several different levels

Videos #2 and 3

Rob Riches is a fitness professional, personal trainer, fitness model — you name it, he does it. He did a couple videos for Prozis Nutrition on playground workouts that I think you’ll find more than worth your time:

— What I probably like more than anything else is the way he thoroughly and clearly explains the physiological reasoning behind what he does. For someone intermediate to advanced, if you can pick up bits and pieces here and there about exercise science, you’ll be that much better at planning a really effective, meaningful workout for your body

— I appreciated that he incorporated some cardio (which you should, too) in the video with his hill sprints. Odds are, there is some type of man-made or natural area around your playground that is conducive to getting in some cardio, without requiring you to leave the playground (and leave sight of any children you took with you)

— The towel modifications that require activating the stabilization muscles is a great way to increase the difficulty to, say, a typical pullup

— Maybe its the Prozis sponsoring of the video, but the video time he takes to emphasize hydration and a recovery drink is more than deserved. Living in the dry heat,sun, and elevation of Reno, I’ve experienced first-hand how quickly the body can become dehydrated. Also, those that live in a more humid climate lose a ton of moisture through perspiration. Like Rob advises in the video, hydrate before, during, and after a workout; also, research a protein-based recovery drink that meets your exercise goals, and take it 15-45 minutes after your workout.


If you want to pose a question or add a comment, I’d love to get a conversation going on this topic.

There are plenty more “playground workout” videos on Youtube and other blogs, so there is no shortage of ideas and information for you.

Take what you like, mix it up, work hard, and work smart.

Go find that playground and, as always, be well out there.

Playground Workout Part III: Beginner

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

If you’re new to exercising in general, then this post is for you. You’ll still want to read part I  to understand how hard and for how long you’ll be working out. Yes, this means even if you’re a beginner, I’d recommend using the H.I.I.T. method.  In order to reach those improvements and gains in your body and your overall level of fitness, you’re going to have to work hard and work smart.

Just remember: do your absolute best, modify when you need to, and listen to your body.

I found a couple “beginner” videos for examples of exercises that meet your current ability level, as well as ways to modify basic playground workout exercises:

The first video is done by a fitness professional with a high quality video production, but I really like the “homemade” quality of the 2nd video. The exercise examples are broken up by a narrative portion with the woman speaking openly and honestly about why she started working out at the playground and why it really is a great way to sneak in a workout.


As a beginner, these are the bodyweight exercises, broken down by muscle group, that you should be attempting on your local playground:

CHEST: Standard (body horizontal to the ground) or incline (upper body higher than lower body) pushups. The closer to horizontal, the more energy and strength you’ll need. In other words, standard pushup (off knees) = hardest, standard pushup (on knees) = harder, incline pushup = easier, wall push-ups = easiest.

** A good rule of thumb for pushups is this: if you can complete 2-3 sets of 15 reps each, its time to graduate to the next pushup difficulty level!***

For wall pushups, any stable, vertical surface on the playground structure will do; for an incline pushup, find either a lower step on a play structure or a park bench/chair.

BACK: To work your back, you’ll need to find some type of pulling exercise that fits your ability level. I’ve got three suggestions for a modified pull-up in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest:

1. Buy a single resistance band (the thicker the band, the higher the resistance), throw it over a high bar or monkey bar, and with a straight (not rounded) back and a tight core, perform a modified pull-up.

In the starting position, your arms should be fully extended and you should feel plenty of tension (i.e. resistance) from the band. Make sure to pull the bands as far down and as close to your body while pinching your shoulder blades together (imagine having to squeeze an orange in the middle of your back).


Most playgrounds have some sort of lowered horizontal bar. Make sure you pay attention to the form in this video, though!

3. If there is a horizontal bar or a set of monkey bars that you can grab with outstretched arms AND your feet still on the ground, do a jump-assist pull-up. With this, you’re bending your knees and jumping to help propel you through the pull-up motion. You still need to get your chin above the bar (if possible), but you’re allowed to land after each rep and use the jump assist for as many reps as you need it.

As with all of these exercises, doing a version that’s too EASY for you won’t give you any results or allow you to progress, and doing a version that’s too HARD for you will likely result in an injury. Take the time to get to know your body — listen to it and stay within your limitations.

— LEGS: It doesn’t get much better than simple squats and lunges.

HOWEVAAHH…before you go running off to your playground, please please watch these quick videos below, because proper form is so, so important for these exercises.

For squats:

For lunges:

I love the variations in the video below — stationary lunges and holding onto a pole or handle for balance — for beginners.

Since the legs are such a large muscle group, you might want to add a 3rd type of leg exercise to your repertoire. That would be the step-up. Find a stable step or platform (possibly one with a handle if needed) that’s about 10-14″ off of the ground. Step up onto the surface with one leg, then bringing the other leg up. When you alternate which leg you step up, and conversely, step down with, you’re able to work both the quadriceps and the hamstrings on BOTH legs.

For an added bonus to the step-up, when both feet are together on top of the step, pause and perform a calf raise, pushing up onto your toes and then lowering back down.

For a lot of people everyone, the leg exercises aren’t as much fun or as rewarding per se as the upper body stuff, but done with a H.I.I.T., you’re gonna burn fat and tone up quick.


You can get creative here — using whatever your playground and surrounding park area give you to work with — so I’ll just throw out a few suggestions that I think would be ability-appropriate:

Planks — make sure your body makes a flat plane, keep your core tight, and remember to breathe!

Running/Jogging/Sprint Intervals — walk/jog for 30 seconds and run/sprint for 10 seconds

Swing crisscross — great use of playground equipment; sit on a swing seat, recline 45 degrees back, with legs extended slightly separate them into a V shape then alternate crossing right over left then left over right

Mountain climbers — cardio AND core work? Ugh. Really, though, this is a great exercise and you get to choose the pace of climbing that works for you.


Next up in the series: a playground workout for those at an average to above average fitness level! So stay tuned and, as always, be well.