City as Gym: Reclaim Recess

Jenna Scatena | January 1, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

19 Slide Ride (Suffer Meter: 4, Beast Mode) Playgrounds provide unpredictable and dynamic urban workouts. Going down a slide might be fun, but climbing up one in a crab crawl is straight-up brutal. So is lying facedown and climbing using only arm strength by clutching the handrail, being sure to engage your shoulders and activate your back muscles. Once you’ve mastered the individual playground elements at a place like St. Mary’s Playground in Bernal Heights, turn the entire park into an obstacle course, army-crawling to get from station to station. —Carey Rockland, Personal Trainer

20 Spiderman Scramble (Suffer Meter: 2, Workin' It) You should be able to rule all the primal movements—squatting, crawling, climbing—a challenge in our modern world, which isn’t designed for them. Playgrounds provide a solution. For climbing, scaling the spiderweb nets is actually crazy hard as an adult because you’re heavier. A good one to start with is at the new Waterfront Playground at Sue Bierman Park. Just gripping the rope ignites muscles, increasing grip strength, and pulling yourself up a wobbly net is great for your forearms— which, if you’re a desk jockey like most San Franciscans, are weak. —Morales

21 Tarzan Hang (Suffer Meter: 3, Ass-Kicker) If you haven't used a playground since you were a kid, start with the monkey bar evolution at a place like Julius Kahn Playground in the Presidio. First, hang for one minute to build up grip strength. When that becomes easy, progress to hanging knee raises. Eventually, use the monkey bars as you did when you were a kid—swinging from bar to bar builds back and shoulder strength—or do jump pull-ups, or even crawl on top of the bars for an extra challenge. —Bianchi

22 Swinging Suspensions (Suffer Meter: 2, Workin' It) Don’t want to drag a TRX band through the city? You can rig a swing for an ad lib suspension workout, using your body as the weight. To do a pike, an intense core exercise, place your ankles in the swing seat and your palms on the ground in push-up position, then pull your hips up into down-dog. Moscone Park is a good choice. Using playground equipment lets adults get playful and brings them back to childhood recess, but don’t interfere with the real kids’ playtime—go before or after hours, or bring the little ones. —Possing

23 Springboard Jumps (Suffer Meter: 1, Cakewalk) Many playgrounds (Helen Diller and Lafayette, to name a couple) have installed Crayola-colored padding on the ground, which gives adults a cushy surface for floor work like leg lifts and crunches. Use it for anything that you’d typically use a mat for— push-ups, or forearm plank, or exercises where hips or bones touch the ground. It’s also bouncy—which is great for explosive movements like burpies. —Possing

24 Tunnel Torpedoes (Suffer Meter: 3, Ass-Kicker) Do a military crawl through a tunnel for a full-body exercise. You don’t have to do it for long to feel its effects—it will work your shoulders, back, legs, and core. It’s a great agility exercise because most people aren’t used to moving on the ground— moving in unfamiliar ways improves overall movement skills. Find a tunnel that’s substantially longer than your body, like at Potrero Playground. Lying facedown, place your forearms on the ground and keep your body in a line. With your toes curled under, gripping the floor, use your legs and elbows alternately to draw yourself forward through the tunnel until you reach the end. —Rockland

Veer off-road: Trails and trees over treadmills and weights (Exercises 1-6)
Take back the streets: That’s not a bike rack, it’s an ab machine (Exercises 7-12)
Stairways to hell: Gaining power is literally an uphill battle (Exercises 13-18)
Reclaim Recess: Playgrounds make the best obstacle courses (Exercises 19-24)
Kick up some sand: The beach as resistance band (Exercises 25-30)
Boot Camps Unlimited: All the trainers in one place

Originally published in the January 2014 issue of San Francisco

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