Thar’s Gold On That Thar Beach

I recently took a li’l trip to San Francisco in search of fitness gold (and a tour of Alcatraz.) Like any big city, it offered the usual fitness options one would expect including the so-called ‘judgement-free-zone’ of a certain FITNESS establishment that happens to be on a PLANET called earth, but it wouldn’t be polite for me to single ’em out by name, now would it?

Maybe I’ve been back in the swing of mid-west living for too long, but what really impressed me was the wide range of non-traditional fitness programming one could experience there.

As you can see from these pictures, there were kids being taught the fine art of burpees at school, a public playground kitted out with all kinds of pulling/pressing/balancing goodness for one to continue their training after leaving school. I also got to check out the Fitness Court – a “fresh air fitness platform for today’s urban America” (according to the National Fitness Campaign website) – I’d really like to see one of these in Grand Rapids. C’mon, Mayor Heartwell…whaddya’ say?

But the highlight… I mean the thing that made the whole trip worthwhile was a guy I’ll refer to simply as “The Russian”.  I didn’t speak to him, so I don’t actually know this guy’s ethnicity, but his actions just screamed of stereotypical, Soviet, ‘I must break you’-style training, so unless/until someone recognizes him and feels the urge to correct me on it, he will remain The Russian.

Before we get to the pictures, let me set the stage for you:  It’s cold and foggy, about 6pm; I’m hanging out on China Beach just west of the Golden Gate Bridge watching the dolphins and cargo ships go by. I notice a guy about 50 years old or so walk down the steps to the beach. I’m trying to hold my Leupold 10×42 binoculars steady to get a good view of the police boat tying up to a cargo ship before it enters the bay. Out of the corner of my eye, it’d seem The Russian is removing some article of clothing over by the rocks about 40 yards away.

While it’d be completely and socially unacceptable for me to watch if we were in a west-Michigan locker room, this is San Fran-f’king-cisco and we’re on a public beach, so I turn to see what’s going on and The Russian has stripped down to his tighty-whities – only they were neither tight, nor white… More like droopy and gray (50 shades?)

I just chuckled to myself and returned to my cargo-ship spotting.

Tourist’s curiosity must have got the better of me…as I was leaving the beach to go back to my rental car, I looked back to see what kind of no-good The Russian was up to and quickly realized he wasn’t just another weirdo who drifted too far from the Haight-Ashbury district… No, this man was here to DO WORK!

I was instantly ashamed for even thinking this guy was some sort of west coast freak and noticed my childlike giggles had turned to silent respect and admiration. Hell, I couldn’t leave NOW. I had to see what I could learn from this guy!

Lunges, squats, pushups, triceps extensions and biceps curls (NO squat rack required) – all with nothing more than a couple football-sized rocks he pulled from a pile on the beach.

The Russian’s big finale – or at least the final thing I saw before he started thinking maybe I was the freak on the beach – was a walk into the Pacific Ocean. He only went about mid-shin deep before stopping in the cold water. It appeared he was doing some deep breathing exercises. I can only imagine what was going through his mind…

“…these weak Americans… with their fancy gyms and $10/month membership dues…where nobody is allowed to grunt or show off their muscles…I must break them.”


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