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Fitness Boot Camps May Get The Boot In Santa Monica, Calif.

Jan 15, 2013
Originally published on January 16, 2013 1:10 pm

If you haven't been to Palisades Park — the famous oceanfront park in Santa Monica, Calif. — chances are you have seen its swaying palm trees and sweeping ocean vistas in movies and commercials.

Running up the wooden stairs that plunge to the beach is the workout to do in this city where it seems like you have to be fit to fit in. In fact, most early mornings before work hours, this park seems more like an outdoor gym than anything else, with running clubs, weight training and kickboxing classes.

But it appears that even in Southern California, the fitness craze has its limits. The city of Santa Monica is considering a crackdown on the yoga teachers and fitness coaches who have come to dominate the park.

The Outdoor Workout

Angela Parker is one of those professional fitness trainers who coaches at Palisades Park.

Parker, who owns Body Inspired Fitness in Santa Monica, says her clients don't want to be inside a gym.

"People flock here from all over the world and from all over this country because of the weather, and part of that is because people want to be outdoors," she says. "We want to live a green lifestyle, and that involves not using machines — it involves being outside."

New Regulations?

But the problem is that some exercise enthusiasts bring machines and all sorts of gear to parks like these.

"Massage tables, weight equipment, even little spinning bikes we've seen in the park," says Karen Ginsberg, the city's director of community and cultural services.

Ginsberg says she wonders why trainers can't just take advantage of the huge beaches nearby.

"Santa Monica State Beach is probably one of the widest beaches on the California coast. It has plenty of space for group activities," she says.

Ginsberg is writing a slate of new regulations that could include levying higher fees on trainers, or a flat 15 percent tax on private fitness companies that operate in public spaces. The Santa Monica City Council may even consider banning classes altogether from Palisades Park.

That would suit residents like Marek Probosz just fine. He was out on a recent afternoon kicking a soccer ball with his son.

"It belongs to us, it belongs to the public," he says. "It doesn't belong to a corporation or organization which thinks, 'Oh that's great, the city made it for us, we can sell it and use it for a property.' "

Probosz says residents who come to enjoy this narrow strip of green above the ocean are being crowded out by trainers and exercise boot camps.

The Santa Monica Lifestyle

This is Santa Monica, however, where the city's motto, populus felix in urbe felici, Latin for "fortunate people in a fortunate land," translates into fitness and living a healthy lifestyle.

"I'm over 30 and I feel like I'm 17 or 18, I have energy all day long," says Lindsey Stair. She lives by Palisades Park and drags herself out of bed before work most mornings to make a 6:30 class.

"It helps me at work all day," she says. "People tell me I have an energy, and it all comes from coming to this boot camp and being around these really cool people. It just changed my life for sure."

Stair says it's also changed the culture of parks, which she says used to be unsafe. The fitness classes and all the joggers are now outnumbering the homeless — another thing Santa Monica is well-known for.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. It appears that even in Southern California, the fitness craze has its limits. The city of Santa Monica is considering a crackdown on yoga teachers and fitness coaches who are taking up a lot of space in the city's famous oceanfront park. NPR's Kirk Siegler takes us there.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: If you haven't been to Palisades Park in Santa Monica, chances are you've still seen its swaying palm trees and sweeping ocean vistas in movies and commercials. Running up the wooden stairs that plunge to the beach is the workout to do in this city where it seems like you have to be fit to fit in. In fact, most mornings, this park is more outdoor gym than park.

ANGELA PARKER: As fast as you can to the map; please make sure feet are forward. Please be aware of other people, as fast as you can go. Nice, well done.

SIEGLER: Running clubs, weight training, kickboxing, this park is dominated by professional fitness trainers like Angela Parker, coaching clients.

PARKER: We're going to do 20 circles in one direction, 20 circles in the other. You will wake up tomorrow and have an ass you can bounce a quarter off of. Are you ready?

SIEGLER: Parker, who owns Body Inspired group fitness here in town, says her clients don't want to be inside a gym. And who can blame them?

PARKER: People flock here from all over the world and from all over this country because of the weather, and part of that is because people want to be outdoors. We want to live a green lifestyle, and that involves not using machines. It involves being outside.

SIEGLER: But the problem is some trainers bring machines and, frankly, all sorts of gear to parks like this.

KAREN GINSBERG: Massage tables, weight equipment, even little spinning bikes we've seen in the park.

SIEGLER: Karen Ginsberg is director of community and cultural services for the city of Santa Monica. She wonders why trainers can't just take advantage of the huge beaches nearby.

GINSBERG: Santa Monica State Beach is probably one of the widest beaches on the California coast. It has plenty of space for group activities.

SIEGLER: Ginsberg is writing a slate of new regulations that could include levying higher fees on trainers or a flat 15 percent tax on private fitness companies that operate in public spaces. The Santa Monica City Council may even consider banning classes all together from Palisades Park. That would suit residents like Marek Probosz just fine. He was out on a recent afternoon kicking a soccer ball with his son.

MAREK PROBOSZ: It belongs to us, it belongs to the public. It doesn't belong to a corporation or organization which thinks, oh, that's great, the city made it for us, we can sell it and use it as a property.

SIEGLER: Probosz says residents who come to enjoy this narrow strip of green above the ocean are being crowded out by trainers and boot camps.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Now, take a deep breath and relax. All right, great job, you guys. Have a great day. I'll see you on Wednesday.

SIEGLER: But in the end, this is Santa Monica. The city's own motto, translated from Latin, "fortunate people in a fortunate land," the fitness and living a healthy lifestyle is considered a community good here.

LINDSEY STAIR: I'm over 30 and I feel like I'm 17 or 18, I have energy all day long.

SIEGLER: Lindsey Stair lives near Palisades Park and drags herself out of bed before work most mornings to make a 6:30 class.

STAIR: It helps me at work all day. People tell me I have like an energy, and it all comes from coming to this boot camp and being around these really cool people. It just changed my life for sure.

SIEGLER: Stair says it's also changed the parks themselves, which she says used to be unsafe. The fitness classes and all the joggers now outnumber the homeless, another thing Santa Monica is well-known for. Kirk Siegler, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.