Free fitness is a walk in the park in St. Petersburg

Confessions of an amateur athlete: Finding Fitness Zones at a local park.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve walked by a park in the Bay area and noticed a new addition in recent years: a cluster of what appears to be various types of workout equipment. I've driven by this stuff a million times before; only recently have I actually been curious enough to try and figure out what they're actually for. 

We are lucky enough to live in the best city on the planet (or at least in the country): St. Petersburg was voted #1 Fittest Metro in Florida and #27 in the United States. I see stingrays, dolphins and manatees regularly on my waterfront runs downtown. If watching an osprey catch a fish as flocks of pelicans soar overhead isn’t enough to motivate you to get outside and run/walk/rollerblade/take a spin on one of those godforsaken Segways, I don’t know what the hell is.

At a nearby park one recent afternoon, my wife Steph and I decided to check out the odd-looking machines. We went to Campbell Park for a close-up look. As we walked, I didn’t really recognize what any of the contraptions were, other than the pull-up bars.

click to enlarge Quad machine in outdoor Fitness Zone - Steph Waechter
Steph Waechter
Quad machine in outdoor Fitness Zone

Upon closer inspection, what we found is actually pretty awesome — these awkward-appearing machines are actually calisthenics equipment. Together with a national conservation organization, the City of St. Pete has built these “Fitness Zones” in parks throughout the city. The pieces are simple. They don’t need electricity, and are built to withstand Florida heat and thunderstorms for many years to come.

click to enlarge Fitness Zone rules - Resie Waechter
Resie Waechter
Fitness Zone rules

Steph and I tested out the various elements in the Fitness Zone and were surprised at how challenging they can be. Each of the exercise machines challenges participants to use their body weight in various movements — simple, yet effective. 

Soon enough, several kids from the playground next to us wandered over. Curious themselves, they jumped on the equipment and began to work out next to us. The kids were laughing the entire time — maybe because they were having a blast; possibly because Steph and I were huffing and puffing while they had barely broken a sweat. Either way, their laughter is contagious and Steph and I couldn't help but join in on the fun. 

click to enlarge Elliptical in outdoor Fitness Zone - Steph Waechter
Steph Waechter
Elliptical in outdoor Fitness Zone

As we wrapped up our workout session, a family approached and began to work out. Several members hopped on the calisthenics with ease. Grandfather, father and son were joined by sisters and family friends in a sweat sesh. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

The more technologically advanced our society grows, the easier it gets to stay indoors and on the couch. By installing various Fitness Zones in parks across the city, St. Pete makes it easy for its residents to stay fit. 

The ultimate goal St. Pete has in mind is to improve the health of locals, and with new rentable bike shares, an annual Fit City 5K and outdoor calisthenics equipment, the city's doing a fantastic job. No longer available is the common excuse of a gym membership being too expensive. Today, getting fit is a walk in the park.

Many Pinellas cities have Fitness Zones — get a complete list here