VISUAL ESSAY

When car park becomes cardio park

By Shiraaz Mohamed 15 October 2020

Amber Crouse performs a ballet move known as the grand jeté. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

With eased lockdown restrictions, some group activities have found new locations outdoors — on vacant lots, on the beach, on pavements, in gardens and car parks.

Gyms and fitness clubs were forced to shut their doors during the pandemic lockdown. It was a time of change and innovation, with individual online training filling the gap for some fitness fans. But communal activities were missed and as soon as lockdown restrictions were eased, group exercise classes resumed.

For people still a tad Covid-wary, outdoor venues have been a breath of fresh air. For example, a coffee shop parking lot in the Pretoria suburb of Hazelwood has been hosting a “faced-paced” cardio aerobics session mixed with dance routines — called Carpark Cardio.

Comfort Mawela, who is blind in both eyes, travelled more than 50km from Mabopane to join the event. She enjoys these events and relies on help from other participants to keep up, as can be seen in this image. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)
Comfort Mawela, right, exercises with the help of another participant. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Under Level 1 regulations, people at gatherings must maintain a distance of 1.5m-2m from one another and wear a face mask — though an exception is made with vigorous exercise. Both indoor and outdoor public gyms must display a certificate declaring the maximum gathering size. Gyms are allowed to operate at 50% of normal capacity, with bookings required for group classes. All equipment and mats must be cleaned after use.

Milage Smith leads the group of fitness enthusiasts. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Carpark Cardio participant Dikgabiso Semuli said it was great to get out after months of lockdown.

“I did online sessions via YouTube and Zoom during lockdown, but I prefer face to face. It gives you the vibe and motivation. When you dial in online you can skip a class, but face to face with others you get that push to perform better.”

Spring has sprung and outdoor events are gaining popularity. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Student Shannon de Araujo said fellow exercisers helped “get your endorphins going”. Nicole Jones found the class invigorating: “Not seeing fellow fitness buffs during lockdown was depressing; fortunately that has changed.”

Dikgabiso Semuli makes some moves on her way to fitness. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)
An image taken from the top of a staircase shows the group as they dance their way to fitness. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)
Level 1 lockdown rules say every person attending a gathering should maintain a distance of at least 1.5m from one another.  (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Amber Crouse loved the shared vibe. “There is something about having people together — an energy that people share, having the live music, being outside under the sun, early morning, it’s completely different. You can’t get that online.” DM/ ML

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