It’s the plight of moms and dads everywhere: You start the day with every intention of working out, and yet, somewhere between kid pickups, sibling refereeing and finding the lost soccer cleat, your best intentions occasionally flame out. Timmie Brann gets it — and she has your fix for parents on-the-go: a playground workout.
As a mom of two young children in Long Beach, Calif., Brann spends a lot of time exactly where you might expect to find moms and dads of young, active kids — at the playground. While it’s tempting to catch up on work emails or Instagram while you half-watch your tots play on the swings and monkey bars, Brann uses her playground visits to move her bod. She gets a highly effective 20-minute playground workout that keeps her in peak condition and her kids get an ace example of what it means to take care of yourself as a parent. The best part? If your kids aren’t too busy running around like animals, they can join you in this circuit.
Brann is also the co-founder of the Rise Up Training (RUT) Camp in Long Beach and a member of the Spartan Pro team, but there’s no reason to be intimidated by her workout. Try the moves below — modifying them if you need to — and you’ll start swinging and sliding into even fiercer shape.
The Ultimate Playground Workout for Spartan Parents
WALKING LUNGES AND SQUATS
To get your quads and hamstrings in gear, pick an open spot in sight of your kids, and do 10 walking lunges one way and 10 the other, with 20 squats at each end. As you get stronger, add more lunges and squats. “The walking lunges and squats fire all of your lower body muscles, and I always hear racers telling me that their legs go out before their lungs,” Brann says. “So many people undertrain their legs, so it’s a huge priority for me when I get this quick playground workout in. I never leave out my legs—and they never fail me!”
BURPEES AND BONUS FROG LEAPS
With your lower-body warmed up, keep stoking the burn by alternating burpees and frog leaps, 6 of each. “Burpees are always in there. Always,” Brann says. Even a handful of this power move intensifies your warm up, but more is, well, more!
Related: Burpee Variations You Need to Know
MONKEY BAR PULL-UPS
Brann’s first move relies on that playground mainstay: Monkey bars. She moves from one bar to the next while executing a pull-up on each bar—strengthening her shoulders, increasing her mobility and chiseling her core in a toning trifecta.
Brann says it’s actually better to find shorter monkey bars that require you to tuck your knees to your chest to stay off the ground before you execute a pull-up. “The benefit to the short monkey bars is that knee-tuck, because you’re activating your core,” she says. “You can either try to just get across the monkey bars or, if you’re really working on your back and your upper-body strength, do those pull-ups on every bar. Pull-ups are a staple for me.”
TIME TO CLIMB
It’s practically a playground prerequisite: Just about every jungle gym has something kids (and you!) can climb to reach the second level of the structure. On Brann’s local playground that’s a traditional metal fire pole, which might look simple but offers a potent challenge for the upper body and arms.
“It’s just like a rope climb,” she says. “There’s a lot of brute strength in this one — wrapping your hands around the pole and using your grip, using your arms and shoulders to pull yourself up.”
JUMP — AND STICK THE LANDING
Once Brann is on the second level of the structure, she’ll find a place where she can safely jump off the ledge onto the ground 6-8 feet below. While this move might not seem like a must, trust: Big jumps like these are crucial to training your body to handle impact. (Just be sure to always scout the ground below to make sure you can land safely!
“I’ve seen so many people coming off walls in a Spartan race who injure their ankles or knees because we tend to focus on climbing obstacles and not safely coming off of them,” Brann says. “Bend your knees, land in a squat position, learn how to land safely.”
THREE’S THE MAGIC NUMBER
Brann spins through this entire circuit 3 times, for a 20-minute playground workout. “Working up a sweat, playing with your kids, having fun, being consistent with your workouts, that’s what’s important,” she says (notice, two-hour sweat sessions don’t necessarily make the cut). Stay mindful of your form and power through these moves with purpose. If you accomplish nothing else for the day other than keeping the kids from killing each other (which is, in itself, a lot), you’ll have crossed “kick-ass workout” off your list.