In 2021, I completed a year of weekly workouts on my YouTube channel called Wildlife Wednesday. I had…SO MUCH fun creating those workouts (I especially loved my Pride in the Animal Kingdom workout and Dash for the Crash Rhino workout…and my Betty White Conservation Hero Workout…okay, I loved most of them!). So, for National Zookeeper Week, I’m continuing my daily blog posts by sharing a very special Wildlife Wednesday Workout dedicated to all the zookeepers, the real Zoo-makers, out there.
Making Fitness Fun and Enriching
Zookeepers are resourceful and creative. They are all about making life as enriching and engaging as possible for the animals, and the visitors. When I started creating my own workouts, I channeled my inner zookeeper and turned my workouts into fun and engaging playtime sessions. It’s my version of enrichment. When we’re having fun, it’s no longer a workout!
This is one of my favorite workouts to program because it does not feel like a workout. It’s a game. You do need a couple of items for the game. You will need a Memory game (I got all of my memory games from a thrift store for $1 each, cheapest workout equipment ever!). If you cannot find or don’t have a memory game, you can substitute a regular deck of cards, matching the clubs and spades together and the diamonds and hearts together (see in the demo photos below).
In addition to the game, you will also need a “zoo-maker”. I usually use my homemade medicine balls, but you can honestly use anything you have handy– dumbbells, a jolly-ball (enrichment toy for animals) or kong, even a plush stuffed animal. Making your own medicine ball is easy and cheap, and it saves items from going into a landfill, so it’s environmental as well. Get a deflated basketball, fill it with sand, cover it with duct tape, you’re ready to go.
All the other exercises are body weight, so you can do them anywhere– in your living room, in the park, heck, go have some fun at the zoo!
To play memory as a workout, shuffle the memory deck and deal out the cards facedown, just as though you were playing for real. I mean, you WILL play the game, we’re just going to make it more fun and challenging.
If you are playing with friends or family, take turns flipping two cards up. If the cards match, do that exercise. If the cards don’t match, you get to do a Zoo-maker! Grab your weight, medicine ball, or whatever object you wish to use. Place it on the floor in front of you. Put your hands on the floor, step or jump back into a plank position over the item. Do a push-up. If you are using a medicine ball, I perform the push-up with one hand on the ball and the other on the ground. Tap your shoulder, then do another push-up (switching hands on the medicine ball). Tap your other shoulder. Step or jump back to a near standing position, pick up your item and bring it to your chest, then press it overhead. Hold the item overhead and bend your elbows to bring the item just behind your head (called a skull-crusher). Bring item back to your chest. There’s your Zoo-maker!
Choose whatever animals you like, or pick from this suggested list:
Start in Child’s Pose- kneeling on the ground, bent over and arms reached up over your head. Shift your body to come up on all fours (hands and knees) and shift further to be in a kneeling plank. Perform a push-up on your knees, keeping your elbows tucked into your ribs. Come back up to all fours and shift your weight back to Child’s Pose.
Sit down on a mat with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, off the mat. Arms are raised straight out in front of you, pointing over the knees. Keeping curvature of your body, with knees bent, rock onto your back with arms over head and knees tucked in. Rock back to position, but use momentum of rocking to land on your feet in a low squat.
Also called a squat 180 jump, I like calling it monkeying ’round, because it feels more playful. Start in a squat, jump up into the air and twist 180 degrees and land facing the other direction. If squatting or jumping ain’t your thing, welcome to my world. Modify the squat to however low you can go, then simply step and pivot your body 180 degrees.
Stand with feet together and arms straight out in front of you. While jumping your feet apart, spread your arms apart. Jumping feet back together, bring arms in front in a clap.
Start in a plank position with hands under your shoulders and feet together. Jump both feet to one side, keeping your hands on the ground. Then hop back to center and jump both feet to the opposite side. Modify this exercise by coming onto an incline, like a bench or chair.
Stand with your legs wide apart. Place arms straight out from your side. Twist your hips to face your right leg. Bend at your hips and reach your right foot with your left hand. Your right hand should reach overhead to the sky. Unhinge to return to standing, and repeat the other side. Maintain a slow, controlled pace throughout movement.
Position yourself on all fours. Brace your core and keep your balance while lifting your right leg out behind you and up toward the sky. Bring knee toward chest and repeat the cycle with your right leg the number of repetitions. Once finished, then repeat the process with your left leg.
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on ground. With hands at your side, lean your body to the far right, reaching your fingers to your right foot. Return to starting position and lean to the far left, reaching your fingers to your left foot. Both sides equals one repetition
Stand upright with feet shoulder width apart. Bring your hands together clasped at your midsection (belly button level). Swing one knee up to meet your clasped hands (try not to bring hands down to meet the knee). When knee has returned to starting position, bring other knee up. Count completion of both sides as one repetition. If you want a more intense version, pick up the pace!
Play the game until all matches have been made, and all exercises have been performed. If you are the type who likes to compete, the person with the most matches is the “winner”, but honestly, you are ALL winners because you just completed a challenging and awesome workout!