My body ached from the sort of tiredness that only 24 hours without sleep can bring. Before me the Mediterranean Sea swooshed into the sand and then receded. It was early morning and, even though the sun hadn't risen yet, it was light out. The heat of day had yet to burn off the quiet of night, turn bodies out of bed and give them the energy of motion to transport themselves to the water's edge or on to the work out equipment next to me.
Locals come to these metal machines and push or pull their bodies against themselves. Resistance shapes them, designs their bodies according to their accord. When you get right down to it there are very few things humans need to live a good life. Health is one of these things.
In Tel Aviv space is a valuable asset. Like many old cities houses are stacked on top of each other. The only exception is near the beach where large hotel chains have taken up residence in their upward sprawling monstrosities of tourism. Which is ironic, because I can imagine some hotelier staring down at this beach from his penthouse suite and cursing at the blight of this workout equipment on the beautiful landscape.
The red and silver machines sit still and silent, watching the day awake. Soon young people concerned about their health or out of vanity will trickle down here like a small creek in mid-summer and shape their bodies. This is no muscle beach, but people make do with what they have.
Tel Aviv's gyms are interesting, but there is one thing you'll never find here...
The equipment is the sort of tools you'd find in a Rocky gym. It's tough equipment, not the nice, plastic, quiet machines we keep in our air conditioned twenty-four hour fitness centers. There is a bench slanting down at a fifteen degree angle with metal bars to hook in your feet. I've never used one like this before, but I know immediately it's a sit up machine.
Near that is a machine that looks kind of like a recumbent bike, but there are foot pedals and hand bars that work independently of each other and each have a pivot point near the center of the machine. Another machine looks like two stirrups mounted to a cross beam. Even though you're supposed to use it like an elliptical machine you can also push your hips forward and swing both legs forward and backward at the same time. It's way more fun, but much less practical.
Of course we can't forget the upper body. There is a chest press machine and several pull up bars stacked up next to each other, each other is two feet higher than the previous one. The chest press machine is a body weight machine, so when you push outwards you actually lift yourself into the air. Nearby is an arm press machine. It looks exactly the same as the chest press machine except your force is exerted upwards not outwards.
Others will run along this beach's edge, as I have done in the past, their quadriceps and calves burning from pushing through soft sand with bare feet. If they were smart they'd run right on the edge of wet and dry, feeling the occasional lap of cold water across hot feet and up ankles. This was a powerful incentive to keep moving. At the end, when one couldn't take another step forward, when sweat poured out of pores and muscles ached from exhaustion jumping into the cool water would wash away the pain and sweat of the activity and you'd exit feeling strong and powerful.
With time to burn I head to the water's edge. Behind me the city sneaks upon the sea, encroaching on the water, all fidgety and ready to expand forward. Hotel grow into the sky, using upward not outward space. Turning my back on it all I focus on the cold, wet sand beneath my feet. A slight breeze meanders off the water. There is always wind on the water. It curls around me and through my shirt, letting me feel its cold embrace on my skin.
Later on, after a much needed nap, I'll return to this beach and find this outdoor gym filled with people. There will be more people here than I've seen in most gyms stateside. Now that's ironic. We have the latest and greatest equipment, of which, we pay $60 a month to use, and yet, here, these people come down to the water's edge and sweat for free. While it may seem a plague upon the white sand and thrumming water this outdoor gym has dignity.
You'll never see a tourist here. Let's be serious, tourists don't go on vacation to take care of their bodies. They travel thousands of miles to these high-end, American hotels to drink and lay like beached whales on hot sand as the sun burns the skin off their bodies. If they wanted to work out they'd buy a gym membership stateside and never use it.
And that is kinda the point, isn't it. Putting up a gym for free, even though it has remnants of Rocky Balboa training equipment, takes away excuses. No one here says, “I have a gym membership” because no one here has a gym membership. They can't hide behind extemporaneous spending. If they want to work out they do. If they don't, they don't. But, the one thing they never do is buy a gym membership and then never use it.