I joined The Gym in February. The Gym is a low cost, 24 hour access gym located on Brighton seafront, next door to The Sealife Centre. Incidentally, it occupies a space that, twenty years ago, used to contain an indoor adventure playground for children called Pirates Deep (the link goes to a forum where Brighton football supporters remember having fun at Pirates Deep as kids; rather worryingly, they laugh about being violent so that’s a consideration I need to be aware of for my adventure playground). My son was a toddler then and, although parents weren’t supposed to climb over the playground with their children, I used to pretend Alex was stuck so that I could go on it too. The Gym is nothing like Pirates Deep; rather than fun (my idea of it anyway), it’s a place of serious work.
Utilising Eric S. Raymond’s number one principle in open source software building – “every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch” – to begin my project of deciding whether an adventure playground for grown ups is viable, I made a list of things I don’t like about The Gym. I go there because my goals are: to be able to move my body around freely and with enjoyment – so, to be able to run and jump on things (parkour is looking interesting); to be able to run away for a long time, if necessary (end of the world scenarios feed into this one (I also know how to suture after a dream where I removed two bullets from a man’s hip but couldn’t work out how to sew up the holes so when I woke I researched it)) so to build up stamina; to be able to do one chin up (my flatmate makes them look so effortless and I want to not be a weedy girl!); to fit into my old jeans comfortably (so I don’t have to buy new ones).
It’s just over a month since I joined The Gym and I haven’t been there in a week and a half. My last two exercise sessions have involved me riding my bicycle several miles and back, then at home doing press ups, sit ups, leg raises, glute bridges, tricep dips and Russian twists (with a heavy cooking pot instead of a med ball). It’s free and for most of the workout I get to see countryside or seaside. I’m considering quitting my membership. I would much rather go to a place where the equipment invites me to play and have fun, whilst working out. Wonder Land climbing frames, slides and other structures could be planned with fitness routes in mind (like bouldering, where there are easy, intermediate and hard routes) and with free play.
This is my itch with The Gym:
- ideological – more about how your body looks than feels (this is backed up by the posters advertising personal training to look good for the summer: “get a beach body!”)
- not conducive to making friends: people wear earphones, TVs are on with annoying mainstream music, people are ‘traumatising’ their bodies to get fit so the focus is on that, there’s one table with four chairs on the ground floor although chairs usually have towels on them
- not aesthetically pleasing – bunch of uniform machines in rows
- chore to go there (as a result of the above)
- it smells of mould
- £40 for a personal trainer to design a program
Therefore, an adventure playground for grown ups would be more inspiring: it would be fun whilst working out – circuits could still be designed but by the individual – information on hand to provide building blocks for individual programs (like lego). The internet can, of course, be used for this currently, but at Wonder Land, individuals can update the information as they become aware of the latest research, just like individuals adding patches to deal with bugs in the latest version of a Linux program.