by Trung Hieu
Sweating it out on parallel bars in Thong Nhat Park, Pham Bao Trung, an IT professional in Ha Noi, says the park is like a close friend to him.
"I often run several rounds in the park on my weekends.
"As the park now has some gym equipment, I spend more time here, about 30 minutes every day.
"Exercising makes me tired but I feel very relaxed after it. It seems all my worries flow out with the sweat," he says smiling.
Working out in fitness centres and using their equipment is always a "luxury" thing even for city dwellers. It often costs several hundred thousand dong a month, making it a not-so-reasonable deal for most people.
As a number of cities install gym equipment in public places such as parks and pavements for people to practise for free, many people have turned over a new leaf and started dedicating time to fitness and sport.
Almost every street corner, residential quarter and park in Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea, China and Singapore, have simple sport machines and they always find takers at any given time.
Though Viet Nam has been a bit slower than the other countries, such public gyms have come up in many large cities in the country now.
In HCM City, more than 60 simple gym equipment have been installed for residents on Hoang Sa-Truong Sa Road along the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe canal. Earlier, the city set up equipment in District 1, District 3, Phu Nhuan, Binh Thanh, and Tan Binh districts.
In Ha Noi, gym equipment have been installed in many residential areas, in parks and around lakes.
Gym equipment near Ngoc Khanh Lake in Ha Noi are linked with a water filtering equipment so that power generated during practising can be used to clean water.
HCM City and Ha Noi are not alone. Sport equipment appeared in provinces such as Quang Ngai and Dong Thap, as well as Quy Nhon, Nha Trang, and Vung Tau cities in recent years.
Nguyen Ngoc Hang at Thanh Cong Street (Ha Noi) recalls that the day some gym equipment were installed in Ngoc Khanh Lake Park, her family members were very excited.
"Earlier, I ran several rounds along the lake, all alone. Today, my whole family practise on the equipment: my husband practises on parallel bars, my son on the bicycle equipment, and I take abdominal exercises. It is very joyful; moreover, all of us have become healthier."
Hang adds that she also urged her neighbours to practise with them.
"When there are many people waiting for equipment, some of them go for a run while waiting their turn. The equipment here are so helpful," she notes.
Nguyen Hai Cuong from Kham Thien Street says that in the past, sport activities in Thong Nhat Park were limited to running and morning exercises. "However, ever since the park installed gym equipment, it has become more crowded here. Many people come here to work out and do spinning, jogging, and other exercises for waist. The park is now like an open, airy sport club."
As people have started working out in the afternoon and evening hours, many social evils have reduced, he says, explaining that bad elements such as drug users and traffickers often like deserted areas; and parks are now healthier places, which they choose to avoid.
It's great, he adds.
Public gyms in the parks commonly have six basic equipment: two for jogging, a set of parallel bars, an equipment for arms and shoulders, one for waist, and one for back and belly. And they have many takers.
Each day, from early morning till 9-10am, equipment are always engaged. They find enthusiasts even in the afternoon till late evening, he notes.
Tran Phong Do, a retired athlete, advises that although public gym equipment are for free, people should not overuse them.
"As these facilities are for free, many people often practise too much. It is not good, as they might hurt their muscles.
"People should consider their health condition first. They should avoid the risk of trauma and start their workouts with warmups, such as jogging, before hitting gym machines.
"One should begin with slow motions first and gradually increase speed. Don't rest for more than two minutes between exercises," he emphasises.
Public gyms have raised the number of people taking exercises, and they are not just middle-aged people and the elderly, but many young people, children, and even white-collar professionals.
Nguyen Mai Khanh who works out in Thanh Cong Park cannot stop appreciating the park's gym equipment.
"In the past years, I only walked around my street. But, since the park installed gym machines for free, I arrive here every day. Exercising here is comfortable, with open air and many friends."
Khanh wishes the park will add more equipment, as people often have to wait for their turn.
She also has an advice: practising gym may not be difficult, but it requires patience.
"Each day, one needs to work out for 30 to 45 minutes, so one needs to be focused. Only with focus can we achieve good results. One should not be careless and avoid taking long rests or talk much while working out," she adds. — VNS