Miss the Gym? Head to Your Local Park

If you’re like most people, you’ve really embraced home workouts these days. But sometimes you just want a change of scenery. That’s where your local park can come in. With loads of features and tons of space, they can be the perfect place to work up a sweat when you’re feeling not-so-inspired at home. Just make sure you take a few precautions while you’re there, like keeping your distance from others and sanitizing your hands after touching any shared equipment that may be available. Ready to get moving? Here’s how to use some of the most common features you’ll find in a park:

Bench. These seats can be used for so much more than taking a load off. Katie Peters, owner of Underground Training in New York, recommends doing step-ups on them. Step on to the bench with your right foot, stand and drive your left knee up, then step down with left foot and right. Keep going, alternating which foot you start with. 

You can also use the bench for incline push-ups (put your hands on the bench instead of on the ground), triceps dips (doing them with bent knees is easier, straight legs is harder), or split squats (stand facing away from the bench. Take a large step forward, then lift your right leg behind you, and place your right foot on the seat of the bench. Bend your left knee and lower your body until your knee is roughly 90 degrees. Pause. Then push strongly through your left foot to return to standing. Repeat for reps the switch sides.) 

One other bench move loved by Dannah Bollig, personal trainer and creator of the DE Method: high plank knee drives. Hold a high plank with your hands on the bench and feet on the ground, then drive your right knee up to your chest followed by your left knee.

Tree. Bollig says that solid surfaces like a tree trunk or pole holding up a basketball hoop can be great for wall sits. With your back against the tree, lower your body down until your knees are bent 90 degrees, feet under your knees. Hold for 30 seconds (it’s harder than it sounds!).

Swings. Many gyms have something called a TRX, which is a suspension system that lets you do some pretty crazy moves. “The swing can basically do the same thing,” says Peters. If swings are available to you, try a standing rollout: Holding the swing with both hands, tighten your abs, and keep your chest up with your gaze straight ahead. Pushing your weight into the swing and keeping your feet in place, slowly lean forward. In a slow, controlled movement, guide the swing above your head with straight arms. 

Monkey bars. If you can use these to do a pull-up, great! But that’s a pretty advanced move, so you can also try just hanging as long as you can in a pull-up position (elbows bent, chin above the bar). If the monkey bars are low enough, give jumping pull-ups a shot. This is when you hold on to the bar with your feet on the ground, then jump as high as you can and try to get your chin over the bar (or as close to it as possible). Alternately, try chin-ups—with your palms facing you instead of facing away for pull-ups—or eccentric pull-ups to help build strength. 

Stairs or hills. These can both be used for something called lateral walks. “Face sideways and walk up the stairs or hill, then back down, before doing it facing the other direction,” says Peters. They are also the perfect spot to end your workout. “It’s great to do a cardio finisher, where you go really hard for three or four minutes,” says Peters. Her suggestion: Sprint up the hill, then jog back down, and repeat for a few minutes to go out with a bang.

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