You can do a great circuit routine to benefit your fitness level outdoors at the park. Begin by walking, biking or running to the park as a warm-up. Do some triceps dips on a park bench. (10 to 20 is a good number). Try “step-ups” on the bench next. Step one foot up on the bench, bring the other one up to meet it then step down. Try 10 – 20 reps with one leg leading then switch to the other leg. Do some “mountain climbers” next. These are done from a “high plank” position with hands on the bench, elbows straight and the body in a diagonal line from head to toe. Alternate bringing one bent knee in towards the body, keeping the hips down and the abs engaged. Again 10 to 20 reps on each leg is good. Repeat the circuit then go for a short run.
Circuit two could start with some push-ups. These can be done on the grass or using a bench. They are most effective when done from the toes but do what you can to get proper form. Technique always trumps repetitions. If there is a curb nearby try some squats with one foot on the curb and the other on the ground. Switch legs after 10 or 20 reps. A low, held plank can round out this circuit. This would be with the forearms on the ground or bench, hands together, elbows apart. Keep a flat back, shoulder blades pulled together slightly and abs engaged. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat this circuit of push-ups, curb squats, and held plank then run again.
The “monkey bars” at the park are a great place to try some chin-ups, or some hanging ab exercises such as straight leg double knee raises or bent knee cross-over lifts. These body weight exercises aren’t exactly easy and they sure do improve your strength. Begin a third circuit with some (or even just one) chin-ups. Move to side plank with knee tucks on the grass or on a bench. This is done from a sideways position with the forearm on the ground, elbow directly in line with the shoulder. Engage the muscles between the shoulder blades to protect the shoulder joint. Keep the hips up. Raise the top leg and do 10 -20 bent knee towards the shoulder knee tucks. Continue the circuit with two footed jumps from the ground forward or sideways onto the curb. Round this circuit off with some hanging ab exercises on the bars. Repeat the circuit of chin-ups, side plank knee tucks, two footed curb jumps and monkey bar abs. Then, you know the drill, go for a run.
Once you get familiar with the exercises and feel like you need to step up the intensity, try training the “Tabata” way. Pick 4 favourite exercises. Step-ups, triceps dips, curb squats or jumps and mountain climbers for example. Do as many reps of one exercise as you can in 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, repeat the same exercise 8 times in total. Don’t run between circuits but rest for one full minute before moving on to the next exercise. After 8 tabata rounds of 4 different exercises you are done (in more ways than one if you did it correctly!) Incorporate a cool-down and stretch. “Play” at the park weekly and track your progress. No doubt you will see improvement! Have fun at the park and keep fit!