While Santa Monica’s status as the yoga capital of the world is definitely debatable, one thing is certain — the city by the sea encourages its residents to be physically fit. From low-cost volleyball and swimming classes to investments in bicycle infrastructure and open space, City Hall has made it more convenient for residents to get healthy without having to sign up for an expensive gym membership.
But it’s not just City Hall that makes Santa Monica a haven for the trimmed and toned. The pleasant weather and inspiring views entice people to put down the potato chips (baked of course) and get off the couch.
That is partly the reason why so many fitness trainers have set up shop in our parks and on the beach. Who wants to grunt and gasp in a stuffy workout study when you can burn those calories with refreshing ocean breezes keeping you cool?
With the increased numbers of trainers, boot camps and “Mommy and Me” classes have come more opportunities for locals to get in shape and improve their lives, which is wonderful.
However, it has also caused friction. Some have complained about being disturbed in their beds as trainers channel their inner drill sergeants and shout words of encouragement at their red-faced clients. Others have said they feel there is less room available for them to enjoy the public spaces as trainers have set up equipment like yoga mats, dumbbells and thick ropes. That equipment is also doing damage to the grass, light posts and park benches, city officials said.
Then there are concerns about liability since some of these trainers may be operating without a proper business license or insurance. Could City Hall be sued if someone enrolled in one of these fitness classes rolls an ankle after tripping on a tree root while doing a drill in Palisades Park?
And if these trainers are operating without approval from City Hall, it’s unlikely that they are paying fees or taxes, which means residents and business owners are footing the bill for these trainers to operate without a proper studio or gym.
City officials want to regulate these fitness classes and possibly ban certain types of exercise equipment, and the Daily Press believes the City Council should let them. There’s precedent.
Elected officials banned the use of exercise equipment in the medians on Fourth Street near the Adelaide Drive stairs in 2010 after residents raised concerns about the noise, traffic and trash generated by these workouts.
Surf camps, street performers, taxis, restaurants and other businesses are regulated, and so should personal trainers.
That said, it needs to be done in a way that is fair for all. That means no outright ban on trainers or fitness classes, but rather an open permit process that would limit the number of people allowed to participate in each class, set up designated areas where these classes could take place and at what times and set up a fee structure so that the wear and tear can be partially covered by those trainers who are profiting off of Santa Monica’s well-maintained public spaces.
This should not be viewed as a form of punishment for those entrepreneurs who want to make a living getting people in shape. The Daily Press supports small businesses and wants City Hall to make it easier for them to thrive, which is why we called for changes to the Municipal Code to allow more signage so that shops and restaurants can advertise sales and meal specials.
This should be viewed as a way to better manage our open space so that all can enjoy it, including those residents who are enrolled in boot camps or workout with their trainers in the parks. They pay taxes too and should be allowed to have one-on-one instruction without their trainers having to get a permit. New rules should only apply to the larger groups. The last thing we would want is for city officials ticketing friends who do squats together.
We believe that the majority of people who are enrolled in these fitness classes are locals. Therefore they should have a right to use the park too. But to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity, monitoring and regulating needs to occur. City Hall is on the right track. Let’s just make sure it doesn’t go too far.