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Enter Stage Left

Having a fit on both coasts

Marina Green Fitness Court (Photo: courtesy www.lacasa.org)

I wish they all could be California girls,” rhapsodized the Beach Boys in 1965.

My brown hair and less-than-hard body notwithstanding, they got their wish as far as I’m concerned, because now I am one. And I remain awed by the California glow the Beach Boys sang of.

Most everyone here has it, no matter the gender or age. In San Francisco, this might have to do with our many hills, or maybe because there are Pilates studios everywhere that people actually use. Whatever the reason, I began to write about S.F.’s physical prowess in this column shortly after moving here (see July 2011’s “Enter Stage Left: Unto These Hills, Richard Simmons”).

Adding to that miniscule body of literature, I’d like to praise a new blue wrinkle on the local landscape: the National Fitness Campaign’s Fitness Court, open to the public 24/7, at Webster Street and Marina Boulevard. It’s amazing: located along a perfectly flat Marina sidewalk, you can drop down – at no cost, except to your dignity – and give the world your version of 100 pushups. Or strengthen your core, define your biceps, and perfect a deep lunge in broad daylight, under the scrutiny of no one but your own super ego. The National Fitness Campaign promises you an innovative, robust workout program, and they’ve designed a bright blue plastic area filled with sleek equipment to fulfill that promise.

A body-conscious person’s Town Square, if you will.

The National Fitness Campaign’s goal is to turn “open public spaces into community resources for health and fitness.” They have already opened courts in thousands of cities
across America.

Have they dared one in New York City? “Open space” and “NYC” are two mutually exclusive concepts, but I began to imagine how they could use what is there to bring their “seven movements in seven minutes” to those 8 million exhausted bodies. Could New Yorkers be persuaded to push, pull, bend, squat, test their agility, and increase upper body strength amidst their whirling lives? Heck yeah! They do that every morning on the subway. Allow me to be specific:

No. 1: CORE – If you don’t start your NYC day by sucking in your stomach and keeping it sucked in, you will never be able to fit into the one-size-too-small fashions you are peer-pressured to buy to impress all the other New Yorkers.

No. 2: SQUAT – You will often feel conscience-stricken enough to physically lower yourself to put money into a homeless person’s cardboard coffee cup. Executed properly, this act of giving will firm up those thigh muscles. There are lots of homeless in NYC, and they all live on sidewalks that lead to your workplace, no matter where that is.

No. 3: PUSH – All you have to do is walk down 5th Avenue at noon, especially during peak tourist months, and you’ll be forced to do more pushing than you ever thought necessary in a civilized society.

No. 4: LUNGE – This is a tricky one, because there is the possibility of serious injury: when you see that empty seat on a downtown bus, the only way to get to it before that 6-year-old does is to energetically lunge and get there first. The danger comes from the child’s mother, who feels her child deserves that seat more than you do. They are wrong, you are right.
So lunge!

No. 5: PULL – On that same bus, the overhead cord (to let the driver know your stop is next) never works. So all that useless pulling is good for your biceps. Hanging on to subway straps achieves much the same goal. The straps are now metal and are as unforgiving as any
personal trainer.

No. 6: AGILITY – Just try to get a cab on Sixth Avenue sometime. Anytime, actually. Agility is an asset.

And No. 7: BEND – You have to do a lot of that just to live in New York City.

So there are public ways to stay fit in my old city, but I much prefer the Marina’s outdoorsy, by-the-bay fitness oasis.

I love the bright blue color, too. In NYC, it would all be a dirty grey.

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