In the book “Play,” psychiatrist Stuart Brown writes: “Play is the purest expression of love.” When you watch a kid at play, it’s like watching joy in action. The sacrifices that adults associate with a “good workout” (lots of sweat, fatigue, jumping up and down) are not yet viewed as work. This may be why adult playgrounds are making a big splash in both Canada and the US.
An adult playground, if you want to be grown-up about it, is essentially an outdoor gym. The Playground Guys in Alberta, Canada have opened up their market to include playgrounds for the 18 and older set. This is great for those on a budget because these facilities are often free to visit, although you may have to wait your turn for the monkey bars during peak hours. But regardless of how you slice it, waiting for a go on the jungle gym is infinitely better than waiting for an obnoxious meathead to relinquish the treadmill.
Adult playgrounds are built for adult sized bodies (go figure), whereas most traditional playgrounds are most certainly not. Although there are no swings in most adult playgrounds, these spaces will instantly remind you of recess. There are metal racks for sit-ups, chin-up bars and sleek modern colors. The hope is that this will take the dread out of going to the gym and make it, well, fun.
If you’re not lucky enough to live in a city that has hopped on the progressive fitness bandwagon, rest assured there are other options. Fitness does not have to be relegated to a realm of fluorescent lighting and furrowed brows. When given permission, most adults will gravitate towards fun. Here are five ways to get your play on, no membership required:
1. Get out the sidewalk chalk: Whether you are drawing court lines for field hockey or creating a giant game of hopscotch, sidewalk chalk can act as your gateway to a slew of fun-filled exercises. Most children’s games will strengthen your bones and give your core a fabulous workout. Clean up is easy, and the next day you have all the fun of drafting a new world before you even break a sweat.
2. Swing your way to fitness: As long as you don’t elbow a child out of the way, a good swing is great way to burn some serious calories (an estimate is 100 calories per 20 minutes). It will help you to feel less like a responsibility-riddled adult, and more like the cool kid you are at heart. You can also use the seat for some TRX-style training, or you can do your own aerial yoga by balancing on the seat (make sure it is sturdy!).
3. Go to a water park: You will be outside all day, but no lazy river for you. Run up the steps on the way to the slide, and keep your core engaged as you slide down. An amazing day of cardio burning has never been so invigorating!
4. Take yourself to the park: The park is filled with challenges, from rocks to balance on to hills to climb. Try to see it as a child would. The child would not ruminate on the beauty of the flowers, he or she would explore on foot for hours.
5. Use the weather to your advantage. Ride a bike a long distance to get popsicles in the summer. Rake some leaves and jump in them in the fall. Have a snowball fight in the winter. Each season provides fresh opportunities to re-invent your play and be grateful that you’re still spry enough to enjoy it.
Why make fitness work when it doesn’t have to be? Embrace simplicity, your life is complicated enough. There are times when it is best not to stand by your serious-side; sometimes you just have to have fun. If you’re in need of some inspiration, look to the little ones themselves. They can surely teach you a thing or two about play.