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‘There’s something freeing about exercising badly in public’: The case for working out in the park

This year has turned one Time Out writer into an insufferable outdoor exerciser – and she thinks you should be one too.

Written by
Kate Lloyd

You know all those awful people who took up running during lockdown? I am one of them. I also started circuit training in the park near my flat. One time I even found myself there at 6am. It was just me and a guy grunting through a CrossFit session on a bit of a cordoned-off climbing frame.

CrossFit guy and I aren’t alone. Over the past few months I’ve seen the green spaces near me become dense with joggers, cyclists, kick-boxers, HIIT trainers and yoga stretchers. And these aren’t just competent exercisers like CrossFit guy – ones with perfect squat form, a Gymshark set for every day of the week and a playlist titled ‘songs for chest-blasting to’. They’re red-faced, faded-promotional-T-shirt-clad wobblers, like me. And they seem to be having a good time.

There are some obvious reasons why. Being out in nature is good, endorphins are also good, moving around keeps you warm enough to stay outside when the drizzle starts and there’s something freeing about exercising badly in public and not caring what anyone thinks.

It’s more than that, though. Over the past few months everything in our lives has become so controlled (what with social-distancing measures, lockdown restrictions and being scared of a deadly virus). It’s rare to feel free to embrace chaos or find a new community. When you work out in the park, this returns.

Yes, there are some cons. I never knew how many men were wannabe PTs until strangers started giving me feedback on my park moves. (You keep doing you, lads.) And bumping into a crush when your face is red and wet with sweat is really not a vibe.

But the pros far outweigh them. An outside workout delivers all the mayhem of proper normal life. You’re interrupted by dogs. Kids stare at you. Old people stop to chat about how they used to be really fit in their youth. And – as sad as this sounds – it makes me feel properly alive in the same way I would on a date or in a club before. So I will keep doing it until the day comes where I can keep up with CrossFit guy. Or at least until it gets really cold…

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