Exercise is a Crime

Only in L.A. could you get arrested for doing a sit-up in public

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This news item brought back fond memories of the weirdness that is Los Angeles and its approach to fitness. I used to think the idea of valet parking at the gym kinda took the cake when it came to insanity. Up until then it was the running trail worn into the median running down San Vincente as it rolls from Brentwood to Santa Monica—why would anyone willingly poison there lungs by running down the middle of a boulevard used by thousands of cars an hour?

Now, police in Santa Monica are arresting fitness fans who regularly descend on yet another median, sometimes with exercise benches, physio balls, and other equipment. I don’t get the attraction of working out in road medians in the first place. Are these people so freakin’ vain that they want to show off to people driving by? What’s wrong with rubbing it in to people hanging out in a park? But I digress. The fine is $158 for doing push-ups on public property.

Turns out the neighborhood is a getting ticked off by the hordes of heavy breathers running up and down the stairs that lead to Santa Monica Canyon, some starting as early as 4 in the morning, watching them urinate on their meticulously landscaped yards, and listening to them hacking up spit all over the place. I can understand the frustration. It’s like dealing with lazy dog owners who let their dogs do their thing and won’t pick it up. And the home owners are invoking that ready rationale for killing off anything they don’t like, “It’s driving down property values..”

On the otherhand, I have to believe that the homeowners in the area are being a bit over the top. People have been exercising on those stairs and in that area for well over two decades. It’s not like the spandex crowd appeared overnight. What’s the attraction to this city-built StairMaster? It’s within spitting distance to the ocean. The air is clean, never too hot or cold, and it’s a chance to exercise outside instead of the gym (Although, I do think hearing someone pounding out sit-ups outside your house at 4 A.M. is a bit ridiculous. Everyone deserves some peace and quiet when sleeping in their own home.) To me it’s like living next to a school and complaining that the kids are being too loud during recess and the pitch of the bell is driving you nuts. Um, the school was there when you moved in. What did you expect?

Who knows how this will shake out, but I do hope that some compromise can be reached. It’d be a shame to drive away the exercisers and force them to spring for a gym. That just seems wrong for a SoCal state of mind.

Fitness buffs fight back after being muscled out of Santa Monica neighborhood (LA Times)

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