Alice-Azania Jarvis: A free gym with no graffiti, gum or grime. Who could want more?

In The Red
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The Independent Online

The most exciting thing has happened. Just up the road – literally no more than 50 metres away from my flat – a free gym has opened. It's one of those ones that the Government has been providing in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics – the sort of thing I'd heard about, but never really thought would benefit me. Now, there it is, all shiny and new and free of charge – and I can't tell you how pleased I am.

For as long as I can remember I've been a gym-goer. It's boring, but true: I genuinely enjoy spending an hour on the treadmill, flicking through magazines, and nodding my head to my iPod. It makes exercise seem so much... well, less like exercise, I suppose.

Anyway, this time last year I stopped going, since I could no longer stomach (let alone afford) the £40 monthly fee I was having to fork out.

I joined a nearby(ish) leisure centre, briefly, but gave up on that too after a while. Since then, I've been making do with the odd jog along the river and my (very) limited range of exercise DVDs (actually, I've only done the latter about twice; there's something intolerably embarrassing about prancing around in your living room, even if no one is watching you, and especially if your living room is as tiny as mine, in which case thwacking your arms against the walls becomes a necessary part of the procedure). At any rate, it has all been most unsatisfactory.

So you can imagine my delight at getting the chance to rejoin a gym without having to pay membership fees. Admittedly, it isn't ideal: first of all, it's all outdoors which means that when it rains, it's not particularly appealing. Second, because it's free, it is immensely popular with teenage boys (though not, it would seem, because of its calorie-burning potential so much as its avoiding school-teachers and looking at girls potential).

Still, it's pretty impressive: there is a whole array of exercise equipment – everything I could need, really. It lacks a treadmill but when you're exercising outdoors, you might as well go for a run. And the most obvious obstacle – that the equipment would get vandalised, covered in chewing gum, graffiti and grime – doesn't seem to be a problem. In fact, the equipment is very much intact.

So, for the past fortnight, instead of lifting weights in a sweaty room surrounded by red-faced strangers, prancing around my living room, or hauling myself along the river on a run, I've been lifting weights in the picturesque surrounds of Victoria Park with no-one but my flatmate and a pair of ducks looking on. Who could ask for more?

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