Park benches? What? Well, I'm on vacation in Ireland and park benches have been coming in pretty handy for my workouts. I fully expect my butt, back, abs and arms to remain vacation-lazy resistant the entire time I'm here. That said, here is full disclosure: the optimum word is "vacation," not "workout." Add in jet lag, two children, family time and a new camera that's begging to take pictures of an amazing country and the purpose of exercise is simply to maintain where I am and keep the blood flowing! Short, sweet and showered.
Park benches and a brisk 30-minute walk or jog are a great way to stay in shape and feel less-than-sluggish while away from home and out of your routine. Here are three quick exercises I did this morning while out and about.
**For those of you who want to know what NOT to do while on vacation...see the bottom of this post**
As simple as it sounds. Step up and down. Start with your left leg firmly planted on the bench, then step up, drawing your right knee to your chest. Step down while keeping your left leg on the bench and repeat 10 - 15 times before alternating legs. Tip: keep your hands on your hips or at your side; keep your knees over your toes, put most of your body weight on your heel (vs ball of foot).
While lying on your back, rest your calves on the bench. Lace your hands behind your head, but don't push your head forward. While pulling your abdominal muscles to your spine, crunch toward your knees, relax back down, crunch toward your right knee, relax back down, then crunch toward your left knee and relax back down. Repeat this series ten times. Tip: Rather than pushing your head/neck toward your knees, think of drawing your shoulders or chest toward your knees. Keep your gaze over the top of your knees, rather than down. The key is getting your abs to do the work while using your hands to support your neck.
Place your hands on the bench and plank your body out keeping your back straight and in a neutral position (you shouldn't be sagging, but your hips shouldn't be pushed up either). With your hands just outside of shoulder-width, drop down into a push up position, then push up. Repeat 10 - 15 times. Tip: draw your abs in toward your spine.
Feeling good? Repeat this two or three times and call it a day. Well done. Now go relax and enjoy your day.
**What NOT to do...**
A few days after arriving I was feeling a little tight and needed to get out for a late night jog. I was out for about 20 minutes and saw a set of hurdles in the park in front of me. They were fixed hurdles and one of many "obstacles" or stations the park features. They were probably only two feet off the ground, and most definitely something my five-year-old could have conquered. As I approached the hurdles, I thought "why not?" So I went through the set of hurdles - feeling a little sloppy. I turned around and attempted a second pass. As I approached the second hurdle, the headphones for my iPod got in my way. I tried to push them out of the way. Unfortunately, the lack of attention to my stellar hurdle technique suffered and I ended up catching my toe on the end of the hurdle. It was a complete blessing that I didn't fly into the next hurdle, but thanks to the gravel I was running on, I managed to hit the ground (quite hard) on my hands and knees - sliding about three feet. I quickly stood up, walked another ten feet to the spot my iPod landed, picked it up and looked to see if anyone was around. Whew! No one in sight. I did manage to muster up the courage to go through the hurdles two more times - without a fall.
The moral of the story...if you're feeling tight, and you haven't run hurdles since high school - approach them gingerly. If you don't, buy a good box of bandages and prepare for your significant other to laugh in your face when you get back home.