Santa Monica police are cracking down on sit-ups in public places

If you have a hankering to start doing sit-ups in Santa Monica, California in a public place, think again. It doesn’t matter if you grunt when you do a sit-up, or rise smoothly with the greatest of ease. There is a ban on such behavior.

Not all public places are affected by the ban on public displays of Pilate’s-like exercises, however. It’s also not for all types of exercise. If you are jogging, running, pushing a stroller or hopping forward on one foot (I added the last one), you are free to get fit.

The ban is only for staying in one place exercises–and only on grassy meridians medians. Being that folks in Santa Monica are such exercise hounds, residents who live around traffic meridians where these calisthenic lovers congregate finally became sick and tired of the commotion and complained.

People who exercise on meridians are not all that quiet –and they litter. Recently, police officers have been stopping people who crouch down for a squat thrust or even a calf stretch. Pick up a barbell and you’re in trouble. If the person who is exercising doesn’t amble away quietly, he or she could be fined up to $158. Of course, considering that Santa Monica is filled with gobs of beautiful people some homeowners who live around the meridians have not minded watching the exercisers one bit and are feeling some disappointment that their early morning entertainment has dwindled.

Because of the meridian exercise ban, people have been using the sides of the streets for their stretching routines. Be on the lookout if you’re driving in a vicinity of a meridian. It would be horrible to hit someone. You might find the most people near the corner of Fourth Street and Adelaide Drive. That’s where the most problematic meridian is located according to this article in The New York Times. That’s where I read about the ban.

There is a court date in January to determine if the ban is legal. The photo was taken at Waikiki Beach, Hawaii where you can do sit ups until the cows come home if you want to.

Daily deal – Garmin Forerunner 301 wrist mounted GPS unit with heart rate monitor

Yeah, I know what you are thinking – “oh please not another GPS unit”. This product is different though; it is a wrist mounted GPS unit with a built in heart rate monitor.

With the Garmin Forerunner 301, you can track your performance at a very detailed level. The Forerunner captures your heart rate (when you wear the included waistband), plus it stores your GPS location. The GPS location can be used to calculate your lap time, lap speed, distance and even how many calories you burned. Think of it as a super accurate pedometer. Once you are done working out, you can connect the unit to your PC and download your performance, plus it can display a “breadcrumb” track, showing where you ran.

The Garmin Forerunner contains a rechargeable battery, with enough juice to keep the device powered for 14 hours. It is also waterproof, so you’ll be able to take it out for a jog in bad weather. If you regularly jog in the dark, then you can even use the built in backlight to keep an eye on your progress.

The Forerunner 301 is perfect for fast paced jogs, but also if you just want an idea how far you have walked on your sightseeing trip. Included in the package is the Forerunner, the heart rate waistband, an AC charger, USB cable for connecting the device to your computer, a CD-ROM with the Forerunner software and of course a selection of user manuals.

The Garmin Forerunner used to retail for $227, but it can be yours for just $99.99 from, and since it is over $25, it ships for free with “super saver shipping”.

To avoid confusion; this device is NOT capable of directing you through traffic, or navigating you. It does not contain any maps, and the GPS is only used to track your performance. Do not purchase this device if you are looking for a portable product that can help guide you home when you are lost.

Tours on the Run

One of my favorite ways experience a new place is by going for a jog. I love not having a map or a plan, just tying on my shoes and meandering along. I’ve had memorable runs in Tuscany as well as Ireland and France. Suffering from annoying jet lag in Asia motivated me to get out at dawn in China, Vietnam and Thailand. Asia is buzzing at first light, and in Shenzhen as well as Hanoi people gathered in parks for exercise routines that ranged from flag dancing to tai chi to something that seriously resembled jazzercise. These runs always felt a little bit magical, like I was privy to sights other tourists didn’t get to see. I also never felt like the usual conspicuous tourist, but just seemed to melt into the landscape with all the other early-rising exercisers.

I love running as a way to get to know a place so much that I’ve been planning to write a post about it for a while now. And then today I came across the website for City Running Tours, which offers guided jogs in New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Personalized tours are led by a guide who takes you on a nice long run and points things out along the way. Runs start at $60 for the first 6 miles, and are $6 per person per mile after that. Besides the guided tour, you also get a t-shirt and a souvenir photo.

I’m not a huge fan of guided activities, but this is the type of tour I would totally take part in. I have to try really hard to get all my exercise in while on the road (especially in countries where transportation is cheap and the air quality bad, like India), and an early morning jog with other travelers seems like a great way to wake up, burn some calories, and do some sightseeing.


A Canadian In Beijing: Movement of Movement

My preferred exercise is running. I usually try to run about three times a week, but I must admit that I’m usually satisfied with twice a week coupled with lots of walking. When I get a bike, I’m sure that cycling will replace a lot of the walking that I’ve been doing. Still, I admit to craving the open country roads and woodland paths for running that I’m so lucky to have at home in Canada.

Here at the Beijing Language and Culture University, there is a huge fitness center equipped with a mondo track, swimming pool, weight facilities, and much more. There is also an outdoor workout area, which is like a public gym that is permanently fastened to the cement. There are stairmasters and rowing machines and various other gadgets available for public use.

In response to the National Physical Fitness Program established in 1995, these parks were put in place to provide more people access to public health-building facilities. Did you know that Chinese people live longer on average than North Americans and currently the oldest living person resides in China? Well, there’s some impetus if you’re looking for fitness motivation! (By the way, she’s reportedly been a vegetarian her whole life.)

Well, whatever their original motivation, I think the parks are fantastic and I took a tour of one yesterday and tried all the machines like a giggling kid. It was a like a fun-park for adults with no ticket price and I loved how brightly coloured everything was. Maybe to make working out a more sunny experience? Whatever gets the public to move, I suppose.

The university also has courts for every kind of team sport including (but not limited to) badminton, racket ball, volleyball and basketball. “Western” sports are extremely popular in China and I can see the proof of that every day.

My building sits right next to the basketball courts. There are seven full basketball courts all stretching horizontally in a row just outside my window. That makes fourteen basketball nets, or fourteen possible simultaneous half-court games at any given time. Every day, the courts are packed starting from six in the morning until past midnight, even without any lighting after dusk! Those who play into the night do so by the secondhand light from the adjacent pathway, which amounts to barely any light at all. I’m always amazed by the diehards who play in the near dark. Now that’s dedication.

I’ve had to become quite familiar with the bounce, bounce, bounce sound of basketballs in motion. In fact, I can finally sleep through it and this is a huge accomplishment after two weeks! Someone asked me why, as a musician, I would have trouble with the sound. They said, “Isn’t it like a drum?”

Uhm, quick answer? No.

Unless, of course, the drummer has no sense of timing and rhythm! It’s more like the sound of. . . basketballs.

Constant basketballs.

Oh well, at least it keeps me inspired to stay in shape! The drone of sports being enjoyed just outside my window definitely prompts my own activity. And, it’s hard to begrudge a sound for being a sound. Sound is my business, after all.

So, I’ve been using the track a few times a week. Every morning from about 5:30am onwards, the walkway between the basketball courts and the track is filled with scattered elderly folks doing Tai Chi.

I walk first between basketball games and then through the graceful movements of the Tai Chi practitioners, all the while trying to see through my morning fog. When I arrive at the track (three minutes from my door), I deposit my water bottle on the side and then take my place among the spinning humans who look like dice of varying speeds on a giant roulette wheel.

At 6:15am, the track is filled with people running or walking, always counter-clockwise. Some are even walking or running backwards (why?) and most are wearing jeans and not workout clothes. Very few wear proper running shoes and I find myself worrying about their feet and the impact on their knees.

The center of the track, which is also the soccer field, is filled first by the university guards, two of whom I recognize as those who helped me carry my stuff the first day. The full battalion (what are they called in a group anyway?) are in full uniform while thick in a game of soccer for about twenty minutes as their mandatory daily exercise. Then, the soccer field is usually taken over by another group exercise. On this day, it was a group of women who were working on keeping what looked like a tennis ball balanced on some sort of paddle. I have no idea what sport this is for. Do you?

All in all, I only do ten laps, which is about a twenty-five minute run (4km) for me, and I am by far the longest distance runner I have yet to encounter. Everyone else works out for half the time and I wonder if they know something I don’t related to air quality and/or blood flow as per Chinese herbal medicine or something?!

And speaking of flow, I really believe in changing directions, too, when running on a track. Too much time spent counter-clockwise puts an imbalanced strain on your limbs and muscles. (Thanks to April Boultbee, my marathon running friend and Few’ll Ignite Sound‘s savior, for this bit of info!)

Today, I finally decide that I am going to take the plunge and just run on the far outside lane in a clockwise direction to avoid the oncoming human dice. I get so many strange looks that I nearly re-join the counter-clockwise current out of embarrassment. Still, I talk myself into pushing on and doing half of my run against the flow. Afterwards, I feel better in my body, despite feeling shy and all-the-more foreign than I already am.

Being a non-Chinese person here gives me some leeway to be “weird” and I’ve generally been open to that flexibility!

After my run, I weave my way back through the Tai Chi and the basketball games to my building and my shower. It’s a great way to start the day and even though I miss my quiet, solitary, countryside running, I feel like I’m part of some sort of Chinese fitness movement here; a movement of movement.

Sign me up.