Middle School

4 min Read

The Great Outdoors

Who needs a gym membership when you can circuit train at your local park

Tired of chasing your kids around the playground? If you’ve played your last game of tag, here’s a fun way to enjoy the park while instilling in your family a love of fitness: turn a playground into an obstacle course of physical challenges. “The best way to encourage your kids to be active is to be active with them,” says Toronto mom and fitness programming expert Janet Omstead, who with Kym Grippo co-founded LifeSports Inc. (lifesports.ca).

Stay hydrated when exercising“Our goal is to make fitness fun and not just about team sports, which aren’t for every kid,” says Janet. Lack of fitness is a growing problem for Canadian children. Less than half of preschoolers are getting regular physical activity, says the 2010 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, from Active Healthy Kids Canada. The picture doesn’t improve as kids age. Only 12 percent of our children and youth are getting the recommended 90 minutes a day. ParentsCanada asked Janet and Kym, both certified personal trainers, to create a circuit of activities that can be adapted to most playgrounds. Start slowly and don’t push your body beyond what’s comfortable. If you have any concerns about starting an exercise program, see your doctor.

Try doing each exercise with your child for 30 seconds, then rest for twice as long. Emphasize form over the number of repetitions. Repeat the circuit two to three times for a total body workout. Eventually you can work your way up to 60-second exercise blocks. We put mom Loretta Whiskeyjack, daughters Kaila, 10, and Shiyan, 6, through the LifeSports paces. Friend Conor Alexander, 9, got a workout too.

Circuit 1 - the great outdoors

START your workout with 2–5 minutes of activity such as a light jog, skipping or walking along a low beam or ledge.

★ PRO TIP: Engage all your muscles!
★ FOCUS AREA: Balance and core (torso)

Circuit 2 - the great outdoors

Sit on the edge of a bench, feet hip-width apart. Stand up. Slowly sit down towards the edge of the bench keeping back straight. Stand up just before your seat touches the bench.

★ PRO TIP: Keep your knees in line with your ankles.
★ FOCUS AREA: Lower body, core

Circuit 3 - the great outdoors

With your feet on the ground and your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, extend the body into a straight line. Bend elbows to lower chest towards the bar. Push back up.

★ PRO TIP: Keep your abdominals contracted to protect your back.
★ FOCUS AREA: Upper body, core

Circuit 4 - the great outdoors

Sit on the seat of the swing and hold both ropes. Lean torso back holding the ropes with straight arms. Extend legs out parallel to the ground. Slowly bring knees in towards the chest then extend legs back out.

★ PRO TIP: Don’t lean too far back!


Place one foot on a bench. Step up bringing the other foot to meet the bench. Pause. Carefully step back down to the ground. Repeat same side or alternate legs.

★ PRO TIP: Step up with your weight on your heel, and keep your knee at a 90°-angle.
★ FOCUS AREA: Lower body, core

Incline pull-ups

Hold a chest-height bar with straight arms. Walk feet forward with legs straight, so that you’re on a 45°-angle looking up at the bar. Slowly pull up to the bar, leading with your chest and keeping back straight. Slowly lower back down.

★ PRO TIP: Keep your abdominals contracted to protect your back.
★ FOCUS AREA: Upper body

Leg lifts

Hang from a high bar and raise legs either in a tuck or pike position, then lower legs. Don’t let them touch the ground!

★ PRO TIP: Try not to swing. Staying still helps isolate the muscles.
★ FOCUS AREA: Total body


Hop over a bench, then use your arms and legs to ‘army’ crawl under.

★ PRO TIP: Watch your head and butt and don’t race.
★ FOCUS AREA: Cardio, total body

Circuit 9 - the great outdoors

Hang from the bars with palms towards you and knees bent at 90 degrees. With help from your partner, pull up until your chin is above the bar. Slowly lower yourself down.

★ PRO TIP: Don’t let your back arch.
★ FOCUS AREA: Upper body, core

Tricep dips

Place hands by your hips and grip the edge of the beam. With your knees bent, walk your feet out so that your butt comes off the bench. Bend elbows and lower your butt towards the ground. Slowly push back up.

★ PRO TIP: Keep elbows straight
behind you, not to the side.
★ FOCUS AREA: Upper body

Published June 2010

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