Playground Fitness | Eclectic Cake: Playground Fitness

Friday, 6 March 2015

Playground Fitness

Nothing makes my soul sing more than being active outside. What could be better than drinking in lungs of fresh air, admiring views and exploring with the sun (or even rain) beating down on you? It's a pleasure to be able to call running or cycling outside training when, actually, being outside feels entirely like play. But what about strength training? Besides the odd bootcamp class, it seems we're destined to get stronger indoors, whilst desperately daydreaming of light breezes and bird twitters. It's something all us runners need to do but it feels very serious and, as spring approaches, you stand to miss all the good weather.


Well, not anymore. The brilliant Fiona Doggett has compiled an outdoor fitness trail, mapping the best outdoor workout areas in London. They all offer equipment that you can hang, swing, balance and jump on, allowing you to work any muscle you wish all in the glorious outdoors. The best part? They're all completely free!


So far there are 13 outdoor workout areas on the map, each with a rating out of ten and suggestions of how to use the equipment. Brilliantly, each review also includes the nearest cafe for that post-workout cake stop.


You'd be forgiven for previously walking past these fitness areas, as they look suspiciously like playgrounds but that's essentially what they are. Strength training should be fun and playful, just like running or cycling. Turning a park into your gym will bring out your inner child and you'll be playing in no time, not even realising you're working hard.


I tested the theory at the Parliament Hill Fields park, one of the top rated spots on the map. As suggested by Fiona, I dragged some friends for a run across Hampstead Heath before we found our playground nicely warmed up. We were a little bemused by some of the equipment, so we got creative (another benefit of being outside in a fun and relaxed environment) and climbed over and under the eight stations on offer.


Our favourite obstacle was the monkey bars. A familiar piece of park equipment from our childhoods, and much harder than we remembered! The frame offered all sorts of challenges from pull-ups to swinging along the bars. We even added a little competition by hanging on the bars for as long as possible whilst facing each other, one on each end of the frame.


We spent just a few minutes playing but this mini session added something extra to our run, not just a pause for breath, but valuable strength training. Achey muscled the next day, we could feel that we'd been worked but don't remember trying very hard. Success! A strength session that's so fun you don't even know you're doing it!


Check out the Outdoor Fitness Trails map, here.

8 comments :

  1. Love this! Such a great idea. Personally I find money bars near impossible as an adult!

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    1. Isn't it just! There's lots of ways to progress – try hanging, holding for longer and longer, then eventually try reaching. You'll be amazed how quickly you improve!

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  2. I wanna play!!!! And look at you with your pull ups, amazing stuff!

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    1. Come and play! Next time you're in London we should definitely hunt out a playground.

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  3. So so perfect! I keep saying why doesn't anyone make playgrounds for adults!!

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    1. Tell me about it! I was so happy to find these spots.

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  4. Hi Jen - thanks for the post and kind words about the Muddy Plimsolls fitness trails map. When it comes to traversing the monkey bars, I recommend my clients keep a tight core, raise the knees go forward on the swing. Hope it helps!

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    1. Thanks for the tips, Jason. I'll definitely keep that in mind when I give it another go.

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