How to use a parcourse, from a pro!

There’s a parcourse on a part of the Rock Creek Parkway I run on – a series of beams and bars for stretching and resistance training that I usually run right past.  It’s kind of like a jungle gym…for adults who are in shape.  I’ve always been a little intimidated about the idea of trying it out alone, and was never even sure how to use them all, but accompanied by personal trainer Caitlin Witman (crwitman@gmail.com, if you’re looking for training services!) I was excited to jump in (literally, as I found out).

Caitlin is bubbly and passionate – you can tell she’s excited about what she’s teaching, and that she really knows her stuff.  She explains not just what to do in each exercise, but why and how they target muscles differently than the standard exercises you might be used to – kind of a “WhyExerciseWorks.” Obviously, I loved it.  And because she has a sports medicine background and has been training people for years, she’s able to see all kinds of potential in the equipment that most people can’t, so we went way past what the signs showed!  Here’s a tour through our use of each piece of equipment – try it out the next time you have a chance!

(Speaking of signs, there was one that the parcourse was closed due to the government shutdown.  So technically we were trespassing.  Whoops.  We were sure not to leave any trash, and would have politely departed at the request of an officer of the law!)

Here Caitlin uses a balance beam to do lunges with the back leg elevated on the bar – this forces you to transfer your weight completely into your standing leg and targets the deeper glutes in doing so!  Try it at home; you can really feel the difference! (Make sure knee doesn’t push out past your toe; keeping knee and ankle in a straight perpendicular line protects the joints.)845654930424284_a-ef3a0c14_nNNNUg_pm 

These hanging rings can be used to do a modified pull up – the further in front of you your feet are, the harder it is!IMAG2990

You can also use them to target abs by pulling your legs up – bend knees for easier, straighten legs in an L shape if you’re stronger!IMAG2991IMAG2992

Just hanging there is working all kinds of muscle groups!  Caitlin aims to get as many involved in each exercise as possible – efficient for time!IMAG2993

Here’s a twist on tricep dips – extending legs to be straight instead of bent at 90 degrees moves your center of gravity forward, which makes the muscles work harder.  Again, keep elbows over wrists and lower straight down, not back, to protect joint tendons!IMAG2998

These little bars are at 3 different heights, and can be used for tricep pushups – highest is easiest!IMAG3004

“You could do cardio in between each station to get a circuit workout in – jumping jacks, burpees, or sprinting a loop around the perimeter,” Caitlin noted.  Here, she describes and demonstrates how to use this incline bar to get your heart rate up and work hips and abs.

My turn!  You can see a huge difference in how her back looked compared to mine.  Also, in her ability to not fall halfway:

The pull-up bars (4 heights available!) always intimidate me the most.  I always figured if you can’t do a pull-up, there’s no way to practice without a band or counter weight – and I was wrong!  You can choose the lowest one and keep your feet on the ground, with hips lined up under wrists, to train the same muscles with less weight.IMAG3005

This thing is apparently for sit ups, but Caitlin used it to do traveling push ups!   IMAG3008IMAG3009

Last, instead of regular sit ups on the incline, you can do leg lifts – the key is to keep your whole spine glued to the bench when your butt is down (this means you’ll have to contract your abs to press the natural curve out of your lower back) and slowly lower back down one vertebrae at a time.  The slower, the better – eliminate momentum and let your muscles do all the WORK!PhotoGrid_1380820829793

Happy #WorkoutWednesday!  Which of these will you try at home?  Any favorites we didn’t try here?

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