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'Playground for adults' boasts sunset views

Carman residents get in a workout in great outdoors

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Dale Warkentin (right) works out on the pull chair in the outdoor exercise park in Carman. Working out outdoors is far more exciting than running on a basement treadmill.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Dale Warkentin (right) works out on the pull chair in the outdoor exercise park in Carman. Working out outdoors is far more exciting than running on a basement treadmill. Photo Store

CARMAN -- Watching a sunset, or watching a baseball game in the distance, or just breathing in fresh air and listening to songbirds -- while working out.

That's the concept in Carman where people are discovering that while exercise is good, exercise and fresh air is better.

Carman has built one of the first outdoor gymnasiums in Manitoba. The exercise park has six different, non-automated workout machines, double-sided so up to 12 people can exercise at a time.

"It's like a playground for adults," said Dorothy Strachan, who, along with husband, Neil, spearheaded construction of the gymnasium in King's Park in Carman, 60 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg. "It can bring out the kid in you. Adults like to have fun, too," she said.

Manitoba has only one or two other exercise parks, including one in Gladstone. But the al fresco gyms could start to pop up very quickly judging by the experience in other provinces.

The Strachans first saw one while visiting Kelowna, B.C. They did some research and discovered exercise parks have sprouted up throughout B.C. and Alberta. The city of Red Deer, Alta., has 10 parks and a dozen exercise machines in each, said Strachan. She talked to Red Deer officials before deciding on their own outdoor gym.

Strachan has tried workout regimens before but found them wanting. Her treadmill at home, she said, "has become a very good place to hang laundry." But there's something energizing about exercising al fresco, she said. "I mean, I used to go to Curves but I got kind of bored with it. Being outdoors is different. I feel better when I work out outside," she said.

Strachan's not the only non-exerciser inspired by the outdoor gym. "I've never been on an exercise machine before," said Marge Warkentin. Not anymore. She and husband Dale will ride their bikes for 20 minutes, work out for another 20 to 25 minutes, then carry on with their biking.

"We use it as often as we can," said Dale, a retired pastor. The Warkentins arrive in the evening when the sun's starting to set.

"You're working out outdoors and watching a beautiful sunset, and then over there are baseball games (on two King's Park diamonds)," said Dale. "They say with seniors, it's never too late to recapture your former strength."

Neither is there a $40 a month or more charge to belong to an indoor gym club. The exercise park is free. There's also a social side. People stop and chat.

Town physiotherapist Joanne Gross, who contributed $3,000 to the project, will arrive by bike with her kids. "It's more appealing than staying inside. Once it's summer, you don't want to work out inside anymore," she said.

And when it's winter? That remains to be seen.

The outdoor exercise centre was installed last October and was blanketed with snow days later.

The machines all use a person's body weight for resistance. The park includes an air walker, a walking machine, a push chair (a bench press but you press you're own weight), a pull chair (you push up your weight), a leg stretcher and exercising bars.

The machines have clear instructions on how to use them and the benefits of each.

Gladstone installed its exercise park a little differently last summer, interspersing five exercise stations along the walking trail in Williams Park. Linda Crooks, on the board of the Gladstone Area Seniors Support Program, said outdoor gyms have been around for awhile. She's seen them in Palm Springs, Calif., Florida, Germany and in Australia.

The Carman gym was built with help from a $25,000 grant from the federal government. Carman's Active Living Centre oversees the gym. Local Kinsmen also helped.

The Strachans steered the project from their positions with Community Pathways, which is in charge of Carman's extensive walking trails.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2013 A16

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