By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WHAT THEY are doing may not exactly be new or out of the ordinary, but for people engaged in calisthenics, or “street workouts,” with the seeming “simplicity” of the activity comes a lifestyle-changing effect that they want to share with more people.
Simply put, calisthenics is a kind of workout that involves one’s own body weight. It comes from the Latin words “callos,” which means beauty, and “sthenos,” which means strength.
It has been said that legendary warriors like the Spartans made use of calisthenics as part of their training.
According to practitioners of the activity, it is basically a combination of athletics and gymnastics and is best done outdoors, hence, it has been referred to as well as a street workout.
It consists of moves that can be done on the floor and bars such as pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, dips, muscle-ups, sit-ups, squats and holds — human flag, front lever, back lever and planch.
Calisthenics has gone big in urban areas in the United States and in some Russian states through the years and is slowly gaining a foothold in other parts of the world, including the Philippines.
While calisthenics are not new in the local setting — almost everyone has done it as part of PE classes in grade and high school — the street workout in the “modern” sense is young in the Philippines.
“Here in the Philippines there are already a lot of street workout groups nationwide. Apart from Metro Manila, street workout groups are also present in the Visayas and Mindanao,” said Richard Mariano, head educator at the Philippine Street Workout and Calisthenics Association (PSWCA), in an interview as he described the extent of the reach of street workout in the country.
“In general, it has been having a resurgence now known as calisthenics, which is the technical term for it,” he added.
Mr. Mariano said that what they are doing is anchored more on repetitions and sets to develop and strengthen their body than making use of weights, commonly seen in gyms.
For Edmon Luna, co-founder of another street workout group, Street Workout Philippines (SWP), the activity is indeed a solid alternative to going to the gyms.
“Street workout is a good body weight exercise that serves as an alternative to going to gyms. If you have no time to go to gyms or no budget for memberships, this is the thing for you as one can do it practically anywhere for free,” Mr. Luna said.
Both men said that calisthenics, as a physical fitness activity, is in synch with Filipinos.
“Filipinos generally like being with friends, and calisthenics is an activity best done in groups,” said Mr. Mariano. “It fosters a sense of community, getting healthy with like-minded people,” he added.
“Body-wise, Filipinos are built for it. Being very creative also helps as we can add variations to some of the stuff to make it more fun,” Mr. Luna, for his part, said.
But while street workout in the country has been gaining traction in the last couple of years, Messrs. Mariano and Luna said more can still be done, especially in making the Philippines more “calisthenics-friendly” with the establishment of more areas for people to engage in it.
They say that besides places like Quezon City, Marikina, and Bonifacio Global City (BGC), there are not enough open areas to do calisthenics in the metro.
“Honestly, there are not a lot of facilities here right now. There are some but not as widespread as hoped. Which is why we are planning to write local governments to ask them to consider building street workout facilities on open areas in their locality to encourage people to do calisthenics,” Mr. Mariano, who is a professional trainer, said.
Engaging local government units is very important, added Mr. Luna, who do calisthenics in BGC.
“I hope the local governments will be more open to it and set areas for it. To promote the activity, people have to see it and learn it and open areas are the best place to do it,” he said.
ADDRESSING A NEED
This dearth in places to do street workout and a desire to further the pickup of the activity inspired the Sports and Recreational Training Arena (SPARTA) to allocate a space in its Mandaluyong City facility for a Calisthenics Academy.
“It’s part of SPARTA’s plan to incorporate more fitness centers to support every athlete’s needs. So I suggested that since we have a space here why don’t we put something low-cost and new like calisthenics,” said Ton Vergel de Dios, Sparta Calisthenics Academy’s consultant and designer, in a separate interview.
“The community is already there, although not as big yet as those of people going to the gyms. Which is why we decided to put up an academy because we want people to learn and not just do it and that’s the end of it. We teach what one needs to know so that they can do it in their homes and if possible share it to others,” he added.
As they set up the academy, Mr. Vergel de Dios said they put premium on having a facility that is of high standard and challenging to practitioners, and enlisted coaches with extensive knowledge in calisthenics.
“We really put much thought on the area — from the design of the bars to the boxes so they can have multiple variations of stuff. By so doing, we want the academy to increase the value of the people doing street workout and show what the activity is all about,” he said.
“ I’m very confident that the activity will eventually become a mainstream workout mode in the country. Calisthenics is the total package if one wants to get fit,” Mr. Luna said.
“Promotion of the activity is very important. It definitely complements the thrust of making fitness in general a part of the Filipinos’ lifestyle. It’s free, relatively easy once you get the hang of it and, of course, brings results,” Mr. Mariano, for his part, said.
For more information on the PSWCA and SWP, follow them on Facebook. The SPARTA Calisthenics Academy is located at 126 Pioneer St., Mandaluyong City.