I’m running along the dirt path parallel to Tujunga Avenue at . It’s a perfect Wednesday evening and though summer is in full swing, the scene is, for the most part, the same regardless of the season.
There’s a soccer game at the north end of the park, just below Magnolia Boulevard. Further down, there’s an intense fitness boot camp session with over a dozen people running back and forth between orange cones.
“Go all the way around! Go all the way around!!” the drill sergeant repeatedly yells.
Nearby, there are a couple of men — one in army fatigue pants — practicing martial arts and twirling wooden poles as they carefully take their steps. In the lower area of the park, dog owners let their canines enjoy off-leash squirrel-chasing, while several one-on-one personal training lessons seem unbothered by the commotion around them.
The park recently expanded its fitness area and had its old, well-worn wood workout stations replaced by new modern ones this May, and I’m there to finally test my strength at the outdoor gym. The 15 newly-installed green-and-tan metal stations include pull-up bars, a sit-up bench, and seated leg press machines, among others.
I used to be a weekday evening regular at the park up until last fall. I go running there to get some fresh air (well, as fresh as it gets for a park next to the 170 Freeway) and check out what’s happening in the community. It beats running on a treadmill amidst two floors of sweating gym people — and, there’s no monthly membership fee to enjoy the park.
After one lap around the park, I stop at the equipment area and scope out the scene. There’s a kid swinging his lower body on the ab workout machine (though technically, the stations are for people 14 and up) as his mother uses the seated bench press. A few men, obviously into their daily fitness routines, are using the pull-up bars.
I do a quick once-around and check out a few of the machines with the workout instructions posted. It doesn’t seem difficult to get started, yet I can’t get myself to pretend to know what I’m doing and try one out. In an effort to procrastinate, I head back to the dirt path and run one more mile around.
This is another reason I don’t go to gyms — I can be awkward and self-conscious at times, and so I usually stick to the treadmill. I doubt anyone is watching me as I circle around the equipment again and read the metal sign listing the open-air gym’s rules. If anything, they’re probably thinking I’m either oddly curious or extremely suspicious as I take photos of a couple stations with my camera phone.
It’s nearing 8 p.m., which is my cue (and excuse) to head back home. A return visit is in order, I pledge to myself. Summer will be here for a bit longer, and all those images of bikinis and beaches and pool parties will undoubtedly encourage me to give the new NoHo Park outdoor gym another shot.