Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Fitness Stalkers of Buenos Aires?

Spending five to six months a year on the road makes it a challenge to stay in shape. At home in California, my favorite means of exercise is cycling, which I do several times a week for distances up to 35 miles (60 km or so) in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills. Being something of a loner in this regard, I’ve never gone to a gym but, just a block from our house in Oakland’s Temescal district, I can’t help but notice the presence of CrossFit, which has occupied part of a recycled carpet showroom for the last few years.
Every day, while walking the dog, I see CrossFitters sprinting up and down 41st Street in between punishing sessions at the weights and other exercises. More than a few people have branded it a cult that’s comparable to submitting to a permanent regime of Marine Corps basic training, but that isn’t what bothers me. Rather, I’m annoyed that (as the photograph above shows), they’ve described our neighborhood as part of Uptown rather than Temescal, presumably because nearby Uptown’s a bit edgier and hipper than middle-class Temescal (which was, admittedly, edgier and hipper when we bought our house in 1992).
CrossFit hasn’t been a major annoyance but, when I headed to Buenos Aires last winter, I had apparently underestimated the extent of its globalization. On my first walk from our Palermo apartment, I found that CrossFit had set up shop barely a block away, in a recently opened building that included the boutique-ish Hotel Casasur Bellini (pictured above), luxury flats, offices, and several cafés and restaurants at street level.
To be sure, there were plenty of stylish young Porteños getting their basic training, but what got my attention was that the locale called itself CrossFit Palermo Chico – after the conspicuously wealthy embassy row neighborhood across Avenida del Libertador. In that, they’re appealing to a different sort of snobbery than their Oakland counterpart – looking down upon their middle-class surroundings rather than dismissing them from below.

In Buenos Aires, whose monotonously flat terrain and vicious traffic make it largely unsuitable for the kind of cycling I prefer, I have to get most of my exercise by walking. I certainly can’t persuade myself to join a gym like CrossFit, especially when they appear to be stalking me across continents and, worse than that, deceiving their clients with misleading geography.

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