A Saturday Morning At The Park Gym
The last 3 days have been humid and raining. Today dawned mostly clear, drier, a beautiful Spring day. It could just be me projecting, but it seemed like the people, their demeanor, pace, courtesy, expressions – they are different on the weekend, especially today, a beautiful Spring day.
I jogged up the broad limestone stairs (swept daily) to the hill/mountaintop tea houses, tiled squares, temple area, and ‘exercise equipment’. Like every day, the area had many people, 40 to 80 years old, dancing, doing tai chi, walking, looking. Today there were more people. There were some with their bird cages, sometimes up to 4 basketball-size cages, each with one yellow and green chickadee-sized bird. They take them on a morning walk, hanging them high in trees while they drink tea and socialize.
There were many men in the exercise equipment area. They had fashioned a clothes line, and each man’s first ritual was to walk to the clothes line and hang his coat. A few guys were on the pullup bar and parallel/dip bars. Possibly they used to be gymnasts, or they just do this kind of exercise regularly, because they were surprisingly strong and skilled. They could do several pullups, swing about and dip on the parallel bars, all with surprising core stability. They wanted me to come over and do pullups, so I did a set. I mimed the motion for a ‘muscle up’ and gestured, “Can you?” They understood, and a 55- or 60-year-old thin fellow jumped up to the bar and actually snapped out a couple muscle ups.
Any time one of the guys did a solid set on the pullup or parallel bars I would exclaim and walk forward to shake their hand. Thumbs up. They’re fit and strong and working out, and I love it. They understood my appreciation for fitness and appreciation for them as people, and they reflected the enthusiasm and humanity back toward me.
Another Day At The Public Park-Gym
Per the usual, I was of great entertainment and curiosity, doing my 600 jump ropes and 100 burpees.
The men gathered and discussed me or my presence or strength or body, or whatever was the topic of the moment. Once they realize I can’t understand them, it actually seems to attract more people – they know they won’t be engaged, I don’t look too scary, they can just watch and laugh and share witty comments, as if they were watching a movie.
I finished my workout and stood there, dirty from burpees and with sweat dripping down my face. Eventually one of the Chinese onlookers said, “Cheeena,” and pointed at himself. I looked at him quizzically, and he pointed at another man, said “Cheeena”, then another man and said it again. “Ohhh!” I said in understanding, then, “Mei Guo.” This drew some surprised laughs, that I could speak a few words of Mandarin. “Ahh! US!” one of them said, and there were thumbs up and head nods all around.
It’s just men being men. People are just people. It’s the same scenes and personalities and individuals and groups you see at a US gym. There are people moving gently and watching the hard-charging fitness enthusiasts. There are people moving gently and intimidated or offended by the hard-charging fitness enthusiasts. There are socializers, groupies, solos. Women come over and jest and get laughs from all. Other side of the world, but people are just people.
And Another Day At The Public Park-Gym
I appropriated a 25-pound granite block and brought it over to the ‘exercise equipment’ area. Several hundred squats, step ups and overhead lunges later, I had everyone attention. I don’t think anybody had seen someone use a ‘weight’ before. I grabbed a middle-aged rotund onlooker, leaning against the pullup bars, and explained in English and gestures that he would hold the block on my back while I did pushups. Now a Chinese character had entered the scene, automatically giving everyone else permission to feel invited. I stepped off to the side after my pushups, and the granite block ‘weight’ became to object of attention. The block was straight arm dead lifted by an old man. Another old man tried to curl it and chuckled. A third took it away and demonstrated a more proper curl. All chuckles and good fun.
The rotund character, a 5’6” 250-pound feller, indicated the massive stone bench. It was a simple 3-piece bench of thick stone slabs, seemingly held together with just gravity. He could speak halting English, and he communicated that he wanted me to deadlift the end of the stone bench.
“Nah man, looks pretty heavy.”
“YES! You go!”
“Alrighty, whatever, sure pal.”
So I get my hands underneath the 8-inch thick slab, get my back, knees and hips aligned and push my feet powerfully into the ground. No budge.
“Ahh!” the big man appreciates but is mildly disappointed by my effort, and he gestures for me to move aside. He centers himself at the end of the bench, drops his hips, holds his breath and lifts! He successfully deadlifts the end of the stone slab, then he sets it back down and swaggers away, testosterone surging and looking rather pleased.
I shook his hand, “Good, very good! You are strong!”
“Thank you," he says. Then, "You. You work out more. More exercise. You exercise more!”
And One More Day At The Public Park-Gym - Swinging In The Rain
Today I woke earlyish and ran stairs, did pullups and hand stand pushups. It was a demanding workout, but air conditioning was provided by a steady, slight drizzle.
I was done with the main workout and was warming-down, playing around, swinging my legs on the playground ‘elliptical’ machine when it started to properly rain. It was time to go. I was still steaming hot, but it was raining hard and cold, so it was time to go. I held up, though, because a most curious company had joined me.
I continued for 5 minutes more, swinging the legs on the park elliptical machine, laughing with the umbrella toting lady on the neighbor elliptical, as we got rained on and she sang forth Chinese opera, high, loud and proud.