MASTER CLASS: City parks are making it easier to get a real workout outdoors

Hannah Pinkston does Gator Chomp using her own band and the ladder bars in the AARP FitLot pavilion at Murray Park. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

All across America, community associations and municipalities are considering options to keep their populations healthy. The restrictions and requirements associated with indoor exercise appear to be tightening, creating an opportunity to enhance outdoor equipment.

This week, I'll share some of the more creative outdoor initiatives that communities have begun and will introduce an exercise that's designed specifically for this purpose.

Bentonville is among the community leaders in terms of new park developments and outdoor recreation opportunities. The Bentonville Parks & Recreation Department has six park projects in various stages of completion, each with clever features and activities for children and adults. Fishing, walking, team sports, biking, playgrounds, splash pads and dog walks are just a sample of the many activities available.

The Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department maintains 62 parks for the surrounding communities. You can find them using the city's interactive map.

War Memorial Park, Riverfront Park and Murray Park are some of my favorites. The rich history and natural beauty of Little Rock's park system continue to amaze residents and visitors alike.

Recently, Murray Park added a cool workout area complete with fitness equipment designed specifically for outdoor use. Over the next few weeks, I will highlight exercises that can be performed on the AARP FitLot playground at Murray Park.

This week's exercise is great for strengthening the upper body without lifting a single dumbbell or barbell. The Gator Chomp can be performed with a stretch band or TRX strap by simply using one's own body weight.

You would supply your own band to do this move in the park.

1. Attach your stretch band or TRX strap to the top rung of the playground "ladder." Grasp the handles and walk back from the ladder so that both arms are outstretched in front of you and the band is taut.

2. "Open" the gator's mouth by moving your hands away from each other. The left hand and arm will move up and the right hand and arm will move down.

3. Keep the band tight as you do this by leaning back slightly.

4. As the angle formed by your arms reaches 90 degrees, slowly reverse direction and return to the starting point.

5. Perform 12 repetitions, then switch directions so the right arm moves up and the left arm moves down.

The Gator Chomp takes a little practice to perfect, as the tendency is to allow slack to build up in the band during the lowering phase. The key is to maintain a consistently taut band throughout the movement and move slowly to prevent momentum, which interferes. But it's a fun way to enjoy the outdoor resources at Murray Park and provides a good upper back/shoulder workout along the way. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.