A Community Works Out
John S. Simms Park in Bellflower, Calif.
By Dave Ramont
On a Saturday afternoon, a young dad works out on an upper-body machine while keeping an eye on his son riding on a BMX bike nearby. Two grandparents enjoy an adjacent ski machine with its low-impact cardio and stretching activity. And in a different corner of the fitness area, a trainer counts her reps on CrossFit-style apparatus.
Thanks to the Ultimate Outdoor Fitness Experience from Greenfields Outdoor Fitness, this scenario has become a reality for the residents of Bellflower, Calif., a city of nearly 78,000 people in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles.
John S. Simms Park, the location of the recently installed gym, boasts 30 units that can accommodate more than 60 users. The gym has already attracted thousands of users to the park in its first few months.
The focus on the Ultimate Outdoor Fitness Experience is not only fitness, but also community-building and inclusion. The 13-person Cross Fitness Rig, including such activities as dips, sit-ups, pull-ups and a ball toss, for example, attracts park-goers at higher fitness levels. Just steps away, adjustable steppers offer basic cardio to those who are simply looking to increase their activity levels. Multifunctional upper-body machines in another part of the outdoor gym accommodate wheelchair users on the same footprint as the able-bodied. These units and many more combine to create a highly inclusive fitness experience for the whole community.
Local resident Eugene Bruce relies on a wheelchair for mobility. A former gardener, he developed knee problems and gained weight as a result of his newly sedentary lifestyle. But upon discovering the gym, Bruce has made it his mission to work out every chance he gets.
"I wanted to have exercise equipment, but that was out of the question, financially … I started coming over here, and I look around and—Oh! Look at all this awesome equipment! Every day it isn't raining and the weather's good, I'm here. And I enjoy working out," he said.
Anthony Codemo, who used to play basketball on the weekend on the nearby courts, broke his leg recently and wasn't able to participate. He still frequents the park, but for now, his focus is on maintaining his upper-body strength on the adjustable shoulder press, vertical press, arm curl and other apparatuses.
Shirley Garcia is also a devotee; she works out at the gym for an hour every other day. "I like it—I'm glad they put it here," she said. "I am diabetic, so I need to get my weight down. This is close to the house, and I don't have to drag a lot of kids to the gym."
The park provides a prime example of the capability of outdoor gyms to transform unused areas into dynamic, community-building outdoor environments: Previously, the space contained a rarely used structure housing shuffleboard courts. The derelict building had become a hideout for those engaged in negative activities such as drug and alcohol abuse. Once the building was torn down and the fitness equipment installed, the negative elements vanished, replaced by individuals from diverse backgrounds pursuing healthier lifestyles together.
Bellflower resident Tina Wang performs stretches on one of the units, surveying her elderly parents who are also exercising nearly. "My parents are from China," she said. "They can't drive, but we live two blocks away, so they come here every day. They feel like this park was built for them."
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