Calgarians get their sweat on with free fitness classes, equipment

Jennifer Haywood is giving it her all on the last exercise her trainer is having her do in the sun — and she doesn't have to spend a dime.

City offers outdoor workouts with trainers, exercise bands, medicine balls, dumbbells

Jennifer Haywood says she's been really enjoying the mobile gyms. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Jennifer Haywood is giving it her all on the last exercise her trainer is having her do in the sun — and she doesn't have to spend a dime.

The new City of Calgary program brings mobile fitness structures to more communities. The pilot project is costing $60,000 and will run until the end of September.

"I'm strapped for cash because I've been laid off," Haywood said. "So this gets me out of the house. It's a free workout. I get my sweat on, I get my vitamin D, I get to socialize with other people."

At the same time, Bob Jonathan and his wife, who live nearby, are checking in with the trainer on site to ask questions about cool-downs and stretches.

The pair has been using the fitness equipment since it arrived in Southwood, placed right next to the library and playground nearby.

"Normally I'd go for a walk," Jonathan said. "When I hit 10,000 steps in a day, they say you've had a good day. Well, guess what? I could probably hit 10,000 steps by the time noon comes around today, and that's every day I'm down here." 

Bob Jonathan says he has been asking for help with stretches. (Helen Pike/CBC)

He said the only way to keep healthy is to keep fit on a regular basis.

Jonathan said even though the structure has only been in his neighbourhood for a couple weeks, word about the mobile gym has people from his and neighbouring communities testing out the equipment.

Gear moves around the city

The city already has 22 parks with outdoor fitness equipment available but Julie Guimond, the city's lead of environmental education, said they're testing three temporary locations as part of council's directive to make playgrounds accessible to more Calgarians.

The program also brings in a trunk full of other fitness goodies, such as exercise bands, mats for stretching, medicine balls, dumbbells and smaller pieces of equipment to explore.

A notice of motion, proposed by Coun. Druh Farrell in 2017, included directives to incorporate more accessible playground equipment and surfaces on new playgrounds, while looking into ways to retrofit older play areas with multi-age and multi-ability features.

Trainer helps

Guimond said the city's also using the temporary structures to gauge how much interest there is for outdoor fitness in different communities, while offering instruction from fitness experts to encourage people to use the equipment that can sometimes sit untouched. 

"We know that kids will play and climb on anything. But as adults, we need that permission to be able to use things," Guimond said. "We also think that we need to be an expert in something before we can use it."

In some instances, signage is enough to welcome people to use the equipment. but sometimes an instructor helps pique public interest.

Karlene Moore is a fitness trainer helping people learn the equipment. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Fitness trainer Karlene Moore said being there helps people understand how to use the equipment, but also helps people add variety to their workouts.

She said the model can also help parents prioritize workouts instead of having to juggle kids and fitness.

"This is great for the mum that comes out," she said. "You let your kid play, have a little workout, even if you just want to do it for 20 minutes. You don't have to do it for a full hour."

There's a structure at 924 Southland Drive S.W. until the end of July. In August the fitness structure will pop up at 40 Patterson Boulevard S.W.

Finally in September, the mobile equipment will be set up in McKenzie Towne at 15113 Prestwick Boulevard S.E.

Each pop-up has a rotation of fitness instructors on hand different days of the week to help guide your workout. Details are on the city's website.

Guimond said the city's tracking the results of the pilot and will use that information to keep working towards the goal of making parks more inclusive for all ages.

With files from Mike Symington.

About the Author

Helen Pike


Helen Pike joined CBC Calgary as a reporter in 2018 after spending four years working as a print journalist focusing on urban issues and municipal affairs. You can find her on Twitter @helenipike.