Saturday, February 13, 2010

workin' out

If you want to stay in shape in Dakar, the first and most obvious option is to take up running.  After all, that's the way everybody else does it.  In the early morning (anywhere from 7 - 9am) and the late afternoon (after 5pm), you will see men running (yes, mostly just men) along almost every major roadway that has a sidewalk.  There's an occasional marathon-speedster, but it seems that the pace of running is more often a slow kind of jog.  A determined walker could easily overtake them.  This seems to go along with almost everything else that I've observed about life in Senegal: nobody hurries.

The men wear shorts and sneakers, and sometimes soccer gear, especially if they are on their way to a field or beach to participate in one of the enumerable football games that go on here once temperatures go down.  And the few times I've seen Senegalese women out exercising, they've been wearing pants or shorts that go to the knee--nothing above that.  Women also make up the majority of the walkers, not the runners, and they are often accompanied by a man.

And so I started running, too.  When I arrived, another student recommended that I run along La Corniche Ouest, a major highway on the western edge of Dakar.  The first time I did, I realized why: stunning views of the ocean, a steady breeze, a constant sidewalk, and the company of many other runners.  I get a fair amount on attention, since I'm white and wearing shorts.  Aside from looks, there are comments--either encouraging or flirtatious--that I never respond to as I puff past.

palm trees, cyclist (rare, sans helmet), shack, sea, and taxi along la Corniche

the Corniche is also home to Sea Plaza, an under-construction shopping center,
and the Radisson Blu (above, in the photo), a super-fancy hotel that my friends and I 
dream of spending the night in, if only for the hot showers.

There are even stations set up along la Corniche--basic concrete and some wooden and metal bars--to permit runners to do some musculation as well, like pull-ups and sit-ups.  Unfortunately, the Corniche also gets kind of boring.  In spite of being able to do crunches while looking out at Ile des Madeleines and waves crashing against black rocks, I decided to find something else, somewhere else.  (Also, air quality is can be not-so-great, and once or twice my chest hurt after a run.)

And so, about two weeks ago, I signed up for a membership at Gym Olympique, not far from home or the beach or the Bienvenue to Dakar sign that appeared in one of my earlier posts.  My guide book describes Gym Olympique as "state-of-the-art," and it's certainly well-equipped and well-maintained.  It's a complex that includes a fitness center, dance/yoga/spinning studio, tennis and squash courts, a club house, a game room, and a pool.  A membership is expensive, but worth it.

the front entrance to the gym--la salle de fitness is on the right

The clientele at Gym Olympique tends to be more mixed-race and monied than the general Dakar population.  Taxis wait outside, because those fitness-buffs who didn't drive their own cars to the gym can probably afford a taxi.  I'm close enough to walk home in 15 minutes, and so I always refuse the offers of "Taxi, madame?"

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