Is your child insatiable when it comes to being lifted up in the air? Both my kids still love it although they are getting a little too big and heavy for it. To stay strong and keep up with my growing boys, I do quite a bit of upper body strength training using my own body weight (and theirs). For triceps, one of my favorites is table-top tricep dips because it doesn't require any props and I can include my children.
To intensify these simple dips, my sons (only one at a time) climb on top of me and pretends to be an airplane when I lift from the dip. I like to make him fly!
Here are two variations I do with my kids.
Standard Table-top Format: works your triceps and requires engagement of your abdominal muscles to keep the table-top form.
Note: your torso (and your child) will lower and lift as you bend and straighten your elbow. Make sure you're not lowering your body by flexing your hips more.
Single Leg Challenge: also works the glutes on both sides, and the hamstring of the supporting leg.
An alternative is to hold the single leg table-top position while squeezing your underarms and shoulder blades to activate your triceps. Try holding for 3 breathes (in and out) and then switch legs.
I love that I can do these anytime during the day and anywhere (on my kitchen floor, on a mat at home, at the playground).
Experiment and see what works for your body and your child. My sons sometimes like to lie down on my tummy for a little rest or lie back to "take flight". Other times, they like to play "London Bridge is Falling" where they try to go through the space under me as many times as they can before I fall down.
Try this several times a day (low reps) as part of play and bonding time with your child. Do it at least 3 days a week and see how you feel after a month.
When was the last time you swung around on the monkey bars? Recently, that's all I want to do when I get to the playground because my kids are now exploring and climbing the bigger play structures. My older son is just tall enough to reach some of the monkey bars. His younger brother tries to keep up. Both are eager to test their swinging, hanging and landing abilities.
Watching them, I couldn't help but get the bug to try the monkey bars myself one day, only to find myself letting go with defeat after swinging 1 or 2 bars forward. I felt a surge of envy and wonder as I watched some of the older kids swing effortlessly across. How is it that these kids can do this and I can't? Shouldn't I be stronger? Perhaps not. And strength isn't the whole story. Admittedly, I became a little obsessed with the monkey bars. Watching kids move naturally using their bodies to swing forward, I realized I needed more momentum rather than relying purely on upper body strength. After a few trials at the playground, I landed on with a sequence that starts with lower ab leg lifts to warm up because I needed my body to swing … like a monkey, of course.
1. Lower Ab Leg Lifts
Find any parallel bars that’s just wider than the width of your body such that your arms make a narrow upside V when you push yourself up with your feet off the ground. Arms straight, shoulders away from ears (think about squeezing your armpits).
2. Reverse Pull Ups - Lowering
Find a single bar on the playground, preferably one where your feet can still touch the ground when you grab onto the bar with your hands. Grip the bars with your fingers pointing towards you. Keep your hands about shoulder width or a little wider. Hop yourself off the ground while engaging your biceps and lats to bring your chin above the bar. Shoulders away from your ears.
3. Swing Like a Monkey
Find a monkey bar and get swinging. Just have fun and try different variations to get as far as you can. Below is just a few things I do to enjoy this more.
When I got across the monkey bar on that particular day when I tried this sequence, I truly felt like a kid again. A swell of happiness and confidence filled my chest as I landed on the platform on the other side from where I started. I imagine that's how kids feel when they accomplish something by themselves for the first time. We were all kids once and have had that experience. It's nice to bring it back once in a while, especially when it comes to moving our bodies. Now I want to keep trying to see if I can repeat it.
Next time you're at the playground, join your kids at the monkey bars and get swinging! Have fun!
Ever feel like you're weighed down by the demands of early parenthood? That's exactly how I feel. A wonderful life coach said to me, when my oldest was just 1 year old, that I was in the 'labor-intensive' years of parenting. She was exactly right and I'm still in it. My oldest just turned 6 and started 1st grade last week. He's more active than ever and growing stronger by the day. My youngest is 3 and still likes to cuddle and be carried a lot.
Having practiced Pilates for many years, my body feels the need to move in many ways everyday. However, running after my kids does not quite cut it. Yet, it is precisely this physically demanding stage of parenthood that makes my body ache when I skip my daily doses of varied movements in a few days. My body starts to feel stiff and weak - like the chi gets stuck and can't flow through in my movements - and I'm less capable, emotionally and physically, to engage in active play with my kids. To prevent this, over the past two years, I've developed the habit of doing a few stretches in the morning before I start the day. These simple stretches help keep me feel a little more flexible and lighter to tackle what's ahead.
Here are three quick stretches you can do standing, anywhere (I do them in my bathroom as part of my get-ready routine), in less than 5 minutes. You will feel more awake and ready for another day of playground hopping.
Arch and Curl
I always start with this exercise along with deep breathing. The movement works with the breath and provides a nice morning rhythm to wake up the body.
This is a great exercise to get the spine moving on a different plane and engage the core.
Spinal Articulation – Against the Wall
This is a great exercise for stretching your lumbar spine while engaging your arms and the lats for strength work.
Give these a try and add a little side-bend at the end and you're good to go!
Start with 2-3 times a week and work up to everyday. It takes time for these to become automatic, so be patient. After 30 days of consistent practice (at least 5 times a week), your body will crave for these stretches if you skip too many consecutive days.