14 February 2012
This article, which was published on Friday February 3rd, 2012, in the Irish Examiner FeelGood supplement, reports on the popularity of our recently installed Outdoor Gyms throughout Cork.
"It's a fantastic public amenity and the machines are being used by people of all ages..." - Derry Canty, Fine Gael councillor, Ballincollig.
"The equipment seems to be in use constantly and it is really gratifying to get the very positive comments from users..." - Andrew Coleman, chairperson, Bandon Amenity and Recreation Committee.
"Public feedback is very positive.....I have seen people of all ages using the equipment - the one in Carrigaline is very popular with second-level students for instance, while in Ballincollig a lot of young mothers enjoy it, or people out walking...." - Vincent Florish, Assistant Engineer, Cork. Co. Council.
"I incorporate the machines into my walk. It's a routine. First I do a round on the equipment as a warm-up. I count to 100 on each of them and then take off on my walk...." - Marie Beamish, Ballincollig.
The Irish Examiner (FeelGood section) - Friday, February 3rd, 2012 (text of article below picture).
by Ailin Quinlan
There's a grand stretch in the evening. Or at any time of the day. Ailin Quinlan chats with people enjoying exercise at the free tone zones springing up all over Ireland.
Twice a week - more if he can find the time - Derry Canty gets away from it all to enjoy a gym workout in his local town park.
He particularly likes the Shoulder Builder and the Twister - part of the equipment at the new outdoor Tone Zone recently installed amid the lush greenery of Ballincollig Regional Park in Co. Cork.
The Shoulder Builder is excellent for the shoulders and the elbows, while the Twister can do wonders for your waist and thigh muscles says the enthusiastic painter and decorator - but there are several other pieces of equipment at the facility.
"It's a fantastic public amenity and the machines are being used by people of all ages. It's something you might see on the continent in public parks and you'd ask why can't we have that in Ireland. And now we do.
"I tend to come down here in the evenings or at lunchtime. You can walk in a full circle around the Park and do the machines as well. I come here twice a week or so, just to fit in a bit of exercise. It's a world of its own down here.
"There's no-one queuing up behind you telling you to get off the machine and you can do things in your own time. It's different to an ordinary gym - you can do the workout and then go for your walk and enjoy the fresh air."
One morning recently when he came down to the gym, he found every machine full. "People seem to be coming here before work, as well as during lunchtime and in the evenings."
Now in his 60s, Canty, a Fine Gael councillor, is just one of many local residents now using the Regional Park's new leisure equipment. The outdoor gym at Ballincollig is among 50 such facilities installed around the country before Christmas under a special grant for outdoor sports-related activities from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
From Cork to Dublin and from Galway to Tipperary, Wexford and Monaghan, people all over the country are now enjoying the opportunity to have a fresh-air workout.
In Cork, outdoor gyms have already been installed in the towns of Fermoy, mallow, Youghal, Ballincollig, Passage West, Bandon, Dunmanway, Bantry and Schull, while Carrigaline was the local pioneer in this area - its Tone Zone opened last May and was spearheaded by the Carrigaline Active Retirement Association with the support of Cork County Council and a number of businesses and other organisations.
It's been five years since the opening of Ireland's first Tone Zone in Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath - the idea came initially from President Mary McAleese who was interested to see adults of all ages exercising in public parks and open spaces during a state visit to China.
China has about 100,000 tone zones, and open-air public exercise facilities have become popular in European countries such as Germany and Spain in recent years.
Costing about €16.500, each of the Irish facilities boasts around seven pieces of equipment, which work different muscles of the body: the arms and legs, the hips, shoulders, waist and thigh.
Vincent Florish, assistant engineer with Cork County Council oversaw the installation of several outdoor gyms. "It's not heavy equipment," he says. "It’s for casual, everyday use at all fitness levels. There's the Twister for exercising the hips, for example, and the Surfboard - which is like a scissors - for exercising the waist and thighs. The idea is that when people are out walking they can work out a few extra muscles.
"We position them on walkways and often at the beginning of a walkway, for example in the Regional Park in Ballincollig and in Passage West."
The idea, he says, is to allow people to warm up before doing their walk.
Bandon's Tone Zone opened just before Christmas - and has already attracted a loyal following.
"The equipment seems to be in use constantly and it is really gratifying to get the very positive comments from users," says Andrew Coleman, chairperson of the town's Amenity and Recreation Committee. "The outdoor gym is mainly used by people who incorporate it into their daily walk at lunchtime or in the evening, and some people seem to be using in the morning as well. They seem to get most use at weekends".
However, while the equipment is very straightforward, it might be worth thinking about some simple training before starting, suggests Eamon Timmons of Age Action:
"They are designed in such a way that they are simple pieces of machinery but you need to know how to warm up slowly.
"You'd certainly get the benefits of you had a beginners' class in a community. Many local authorities have local authority gyms - and even in the first few months it would be beneficial to have a little instruction which would provide ideas and tips."
The current countrywide network of Tone Zones came around as a result of funding which became available from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in the latter half of 2011.
The Department provided a comprehensive list of suggested facilities and projects for which the money could be used - everything from the refurbishment and fit-out of sports halls to multi-use games areas, flood lighting to outdoor gyms.
Cork County Council opted to spend the money on the outdoor gym, partly because of the huge popularity of the Carrigaline facility, but also partly because the amenity could be installed by the December 10 deadline, says Florish.
It turned out to be an extremely good decision. "Public feedback is very positive," he says, adding that the machines seem to be in regular use and to date there has been no vandalism.
"I have seen people of all ages using the equipment - the one in Carrigaline is very popular with second-level students for instance, while in Ballincollig a lot of young mothers enjoy it, or people out walking."
If funding becomes available for more outdoor gyms in the future, he says, Cork County Council would certainly like to avail of it. "Outdoor gyms are very popular and a number of communities have indicated that they would like one, so if funding becomes available again, we would consider putting more outdoor gyms in towns around the country."
In some cases, communities in areas such as Blarney and Whitechurch have even installed the equipment on their own initiative in new playgrounds.
"The idea is that when the kids are on the swings and the slides, their parents can enjoy the adult outdoor equipment."
Marie Beamish, a mother of three adult children, lives less than 10 minutes' walk from her nearest outdoor gym - and she makes regular use of it.
Most mornings, she walks from her home to the Regional Park in Ballincollig to enjoy a workout in the open air and a long refreshing walk through the leafy environs of the park.
"This morning I was working out on the Shoulder Builder - I incorporate the machines into my walk. It's a routine. First I do a round on the equipment as a warm-up. I count to 100 on each of them and then take off on my walk.
"I like the Cross Trainer, the Twister and the Shoulder Builder - these are the only ones I use.
"I walk for about 50 minutes, but more at the weekends. I do it most days of the week and I really enjoy it.
"At first, people would look at you and make comments but now I think they're really catching on. Last week there were quite a few people using them.
"They're a great idea if you aren't a gym person. A lot of people couldn't afford gym fees. I think this is something that will become popular - people are becoming more health conscious and you can use these as much as you like. It's good exercise and the machines are set in concrete and very solid.
"My husband Richard is retiring in February and I imagine that we'll use them together once he retires - he enjoys exercise quite a lot too and we walk every weekend."
WALK TALL: Local residents such as Marie Beamish and Derry Canty are enthusiastic advocates for the gym equipment at Ballincollig Regional Park in Co. Cork. Picture: Denis Scannell