Public Exercisers

We’re witnessing a new phenomenon on our walks around Schiller Park these days:  the invasion of the public exerciser.

sumo-squatI’m not talking about joggers, or walkers, or even those comically determined power walkers.  I’m talking about people who have suddenly begun to use the park as their own special fitness facility.  They brace themselves on the park benches to do stiff-backed push-ups and extravagant leg lifts.  They lie down on the asphalt of the basketball court and make cycling motions with their legs, then stand up and perform a kind of fitful twisting dance down the length of the court.  They do a lot of squatting, display butt cracks, and duck walk around.  They wave their arms like helicopter rotors, raise their knees up to chest level, and hop, hop, hop.  They lean against the picnic tables and stretch.  Then they put their hands on the basketball hoop poles and stretch some more.  We’d better hope that they’re not contagious, because they’ve touched pretty much every object and surface in the park aside from the Schiller statue — and they’d probably use that, too, if there wasn’t a fence around it.

These people just came out of the woodwork as the weather finally warmed up.  I recognize that fitness clubs have been closed down for two months, and perhaps that’s where they used to do their preening.  But what I find interesting is that they do all of these highly visible — and probably consciously visible — exercises in public, when they could be doing every one of them in the privacy of their homes or in the privacy of their backyards.  They’re not trying to be discreet.  It’s pretty clear that they’re desperate for attention — and probably desperate, period.

Who’d have thought our pretty neighborhood park would also serve as an outdoor gymnasium for attention-seeking fitness fans?  It’s harmless, I suppose, but kind of annoying nevertheless.

Common Workout

Today as I was walking home I passed some kind of plus-sized exercise club on the east lawn of the Columbus Commons, getting ready to do some kind of group workout.  You’ll be surprised to learn that the sight offended me.

IMG_5279I’m all for exercise, but can’t it be done in the privacy of your own home, or in an enclosed space like a gym where the only other people exposed to your form-fitting exercise duds that really only look good on supermodels are the people who are paying monthly dues for that dubious privilege?  Apparently not!  No, these days people clearly feel a desperate need to exercise in public.  Whether it’s because they want to show off their exercise habits, or it’s because they’ve deceived themselves into thinking they look studly, or it’s because they believe the public element of the exercise will give them some added incentive to work just a little harder, random public acts of exercise are routinely inflicted upon innocent Americans.

This afternoon it’s the hefty group on the lawn of the Columbus Commons, wearing unflattering garb, grunting, groaning, and stretching the tensile resilience of Spandex to its maximum extent.  Tomorrow it’s a gang of shirtless male runners blithely spraying us with a halo of sweat and emanating a rank barnyard odor as they jog past on busy downtown streets during the lunch hour.  The day after it’s a woman in the airport waiting area doing self-conscious yoga poses and hoping that everyone watches her while she takes up more than her fair share of precious space at Gate C-26.

Do me a favor, will you?  Save your exercise for those private moments and leave the common public areas for the rest of us.