Hit the Jungle Gym: Workouts on the Playground

August 29, 2011

You’re sure to experience net gains if you play around Garfield Park, which features this massive metal and rope structure.

It’s back to school season! For kids, that means it’s time to hit the books. But for adults, it’s your chance to take over the playground. Goofing around on a jungle gym can do more than just exercise your inner child, according to Graham King, co-owner of Balance Gym. It can also help you play with your regular routine. “You’re free to set the rules and be creative,” he says. Here are three spots recommended for your next round of recess.

Garfield Park
3rd and South Carolina SE
Folks on Capitol Hill have a reputation for always acting like children, so there’s no reason to be embarrassed about climbing onto this park’s pyramid-shaped metal and rope structure. The connected cargo nets pose workout challenges you won’t find at most gyms, King says. “Ropes courses require pulling and pushing your own body weight,” he says. “These movements build practical strength, especially in the hands, that can combat office injuries like carpal tunnel.”

To get started, King suggests bringing back a critical childhood pastime — make believe. “Imagine that the ground is molten lava and climb a few times from one end of the course to the other without touching bottom,” he says. Or pretend to be a soldier shimmying over a fence into enemy territory. You won’t be the only one. “Marines often jog by and some will climb on the playground,” explains Friends of Garfield Park president Bill Phillips.

Fort Hunt National Park
Fort Hunt Rd. off the George Washington Pkwy
The park is named for an abandoned military base whose structures served as a secret interrogation site for German prisoners during World War II. Now, the multi-tiered fort serves as a concrete and brick obstacle course for anyone who wants to scramble up, leap off and tumble down. “It’s definitely something you don’t see in the city, ” says Jesse Woody, co-owner of Primal Fitness (Primal-Fitness.com), a D.C. gym that specializes in parkour, the art of moving quickly through any environment.

Take advantage of the unusual architecture of this parkour hot spot by crawling up inclines to test your balance, says King. Another option is the squat hop: Jump up a stair and land in a full squat. “Remember to start small,” King cautions. “No one just jumps off the top of a building.”

Montrose Park
R St. NW and Avon Lane
Even an old-school setup like this one in Georgetown can provide everything you need for a workout, King says. A whirl on the four-horse metal merry-go-round or even flying on a swing set can be killer conditioning. “If you don’t have the money to go to a gym, you can improvise an exercise out of nearly anything,” he says.

Next time you see a swing, plant your hands on the ground while your feet are suspended on the seat, and do a set of decline push-ups. The kids on neighboring swings might look at you funny, but that’s just because they still have so much to learn.

Written by Express contributor William Shubert

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