I’m a Dad, and I Have One Small Request for Playground Designers

playground designers
It wouldn’t take much for playground designers to work adult fitness into their plans.

This is a small request to playground designers from a dad doing his best to stay fit: Remember that adults spend a lot of time at the playgrounds you build, and we could also use a little something to burn some calories.

Every single day, I see some news headline screaming about the nation’s obesity rate. Which is odd, because I also can’t escape people on their way to Crossfit, hot yoga, pilates or whatever classes. A good chunk of those people are parents -- parents who happen to spend a lot of time watching their kids go wild on playgrounds.

There is no better way to help parents get fit (or fitter) than by making a few modest additions to your playgrounds. For example, the city of Mesa recently renovated Pioneer Park to the tune of more than $7 million. That’s money well-spent – it’s a terrific example of a playground and park that looks great and keeps kids occupied. It’s beautiful and modern and flat-out awesome.

playground designers
Not all parents are content to sit around – they’re training for Spartan and other obstacle course races. Maybe playground designers can help them out.

But how much more would it cost if the playground designers had put in some adult-sized pull-up bars and monkey bars? Maybe a bouldering wall? Or even just a simple rope-climbing station or three. Something tells me that would be just a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of the Pioneer Park overhaul. And these additions would promote and enhance functional fitness.

Let’s go back to the so-called "obesity epidemic." American sports culture isn’t really about participation – it’s all about passive watching. I don’t even know where to find the statistics, but I would bet that most of the time allotted for sports leagues at public parks goes to youth sports. The message here is clear: You play sports when you’re a kid, then you turn 21 and start going to "sports bars" to watch other people sports, and then you become a parent and never raise your heart rate past 100 again. Then researchers and public officials wag their collective finger at us while simultaneously taking zero substantive steps to address the problem.

Not even with something simple, like putting some adult-sized fitness apparatus (apparati? What’s the plural there?) on the playgrounds where we spend a good chunk of time with our kids. It’s a simple, low-key, relatively low-cost addition for playground designers. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as this adult playground … not that I would mind having this near me!

playground designers fitness adult
Races like this are great for functional fitness. And adult-sized obstacles are an easy addition to existing kids’ playgrounds.

Let’s think about the example that sets: If the kids see their parents cranking out pullups, box jumps, pushups and whatnot, staying physically active becomes their norm. We shift the thinking from the current "go to the gym because New Year’s resolutions to lose some of that fat" to "lifelong healthy lifestyle."

Remember, this doesn’t need to be extensive or expensive – but it can be, and I’m absolutely salivating over the GameTime Challenge Course. But even just a few small features could create a huge shift in the way we think of fitness. Over the past year, I’ve moved to chipping away at a few calories everywhere possible rather than just saving it for the gym, even if it’s just a few push-ups or turning a low wall or park bench into a box-jump station. I would be thrilled for a place where I could do a few things I can’t do at home, especially monkey bars and a rope-climbing station. I’m sure every parent who does Warrior Dash, Spartan, Tough Mudder or other obstacle course races would agree. Even parents who don’t get into that stuff could have some fun with these challenges.

So, playground designers, next time you plan a playground, remember that there are parents out there who could really use that time to get some exercise along with their kids. It’s already starting to happen in some cities – the expertise and desire are there. So get onboard!

The Warrior Dash – Everything You NEED to Know

The Warrior Dash brings a lot of people here to WanderingJustin.com. Or more accurately, questions about it. I’ve looked through your search terms and written something from the most-popular questions about the Warrior Dash. This expands on my earlier post and tells you what you need to know based on my own experience:

What Should I Wear to the Warrior Dash?

If you splashed out big bucks for some Lululemon gear, you’ll hate yourself for wearing it during a Warrior Dash. The mud and other obstacles will do some damage. Wear something old and ratty, but still functional. If you have a pair of running shoes that are on their last leg, send ‘em to Valhalla with one last mission in the Warrior Dash.

warrior dash
You’ll be nice and clean before you start the Warrior Dash …

Now, you can also choose the costume route – which some people love for adventure racing. The mud and various other obstacles will place it in serious danger. I’ve seen everything from dresses to unitards to Greco-Roman getups. I’d love to find some photos of people who have done something really original, so speak up if you know of anyone.

What’s a Good Time?

It depends. The fastest dudes finish in about 26 minutes, give or take. If you finish in 35 or less, I think you’re doing pretty well by any measure. Don’t get caught up too much in comparing yourself to others. Know where you stand, and just try to leave it all out on the course. It all depends on your lifestyle and any changes you may have made to it.

warrior dash
… and absolutely sloppy with the mud after. Dress accordingly

Can I Skip Obstacles?

I didn’t see anyone monitoring obstacles, so probably. But obstacles are the point of the Warrior Dash and just about any adventure race! Any able-bodied people who contemplate this option are lame-ass, 17 corndog-eating wheelbarrows of sadness. They’ll get horns and t-shirts, and will deserve neither.

Am I fit enough for the Warrior Dash?

If you can finish 5K race in about 35 minutes, I think you’re fit enough to run – not walk! – a Warrior Dash. Now, I get irate when people walk a Warrior Dash three abreast. If you can’t run the whole thing, at least be considerate and get to the right so faster people can pass you. I think organizers should get hardcore: Have a cutoff time to each obstacle. If you don’t make it, you get disqualified.

What to Bring

A towel. A travel bag (those soccer bags with the drawstrings are about perfect). A complete change of clothes. Some spending cash. A snack and a decent drink. You’re done. The Arizona edition had a bag check, which means others probably do, too. That’s where you should drop your bagful of gear while you race.


The Warrior Dash – Things to Know

warrior dash arizona
Spartans! Eat hearty, for tonight we dine on … MUD! (Yes, I know I’m mixing my warrior classes, what with the 300 reference and the faux-viking headgear.)


So who out there did the Warrior Dash? What did you think? Was it really "a hellish 3.4 miles" of running, obstacles and mud?

I took a shot, as you might guess. It’s too fun to be hellish – but it is challenging -- and quite a spectacle. I ran in the Arizona edition on May 1. It ran for two days in Florence, just southeast of Phoenix. (Find a Warrior Dash near you) Here are a few thoughts from being part of the 1:30 p.m. wave. Check these out, and let me know about your Warrior Dash experience!

  • Don’t wear anything you plan to wear again.  And if you sink a lot of time into some sort of costume, be willing to destroy it. And have it hinder your performance. Except for the dudes I saw running in dresses – they were fast, and looked well-practiced at running in dresses.
warrior dash arizona
Somebody needs a shower.
  • Run the second day. The first day will help organizers work some kinks out. On Saturday, the Arizona race only had one water station. The organizers wisely added a second for Sunday.
  • Bring towels and spare clothes. Don’t overlook this. A portable camp shower isn’t a bad idea, either.
  • There’s a very convenient bag check. Drop your spare clothes/towel/keys/whatnot off there. Run. Come back and get it. Save yourself a long slog to the car.
  • If you have time, enjoy the atmosphere. The electronic timing tag on your shoe gets you a free beer (though it’s beer fit for frat boys rather than warriors, so I skipped it).
warrior dash arizona
Hose before Bros: Participants get their sins -and slime- washed away with a Warrior Dash baptism.
  • I understand that not everybody is super-fit. I know that not everyone is charging hard for a good time. But please, people, this is not a Toys for Tots walk-a-thon. At least look like you’re trying. Jog bits of it. And do not, for the love of Odin, walk three abreast. Stay to the right and leave room for the faster people. Earn your plush Viking headgear! If you are not willing to get out of breath, sign up for something else.
  • There are lots of scantily clad fit people. Just sayin’.
  • We had to pay $10 to park. That was kind of grating.
  • Speaking of parking -- it smelled like the Rastafarian Army was camping near our parking spot. Both arriving and leaving, the smell of skunkiness filled the air.

So if you did it, would you do it again?

warrior dash arizona
Yes, I’m muddy. What of it?