Jungle Gym: Exercise in the Open Air
It’s about 9:30 on a Tuesday morning. Not only am I out of bed but I’ve also eaten breakfast, gotten dressed and am (big breath) exercising. It’s an unusually warm May morning and I’m running laps around the skate park in Parque Centenario as Freddie Faull, founder of Jungle Gym, shouts out the changing exercises – run backwards, knees up, feet touching your bum. A curious crowd of 15 year olds begin to congregate in the bleachers and I’m reminded of a time in my own life when I had nothing better to do than wake and bake. As he suits me up with boxing gloves, he looks at me half-serious half-smirking and tells me to make sure to give the kids a good show. And in one quick session, he accomplished something I’ve been trying to do my entire life – make exercise fun.
Freddie didn’t come to Argentina to convert people like me to a healthier lifestyle. Originally from London, he decided to give up his job as a wine adviser at Tesco to gain some hands-on experience in the wineries of Mendoza. He laid over in Buenos Aires for a crash course in Spanish before heading east to the Andes to start the next phase of his growing career in the wine industry.
“I had contacts with the wineries in Mendoza, and thought that I’d be able to find a job on the production side. But all that I could find was office work, and I swore to myself that I’d never do that again.”
Mendoza clearly wasn’t the answer Freddie was looking for, but moving back to London wasn’t part of the plan either. He booked a ticket back to Buenos Aires and started networking with different sommeliers, tastemakers and wine bars in hopes of securing a job in the local wine industry. During the job search, a hobby back home began to seem like a more viable profession in Buenos Aires.
“I started thinking back to when I was working in London. Every morning people would talk about what bottle they’d tried the night before, and I would just stay silent because I was more excited by the smoothie I’d had after my workout than a glass of wine.”
He began applying his years of training as a boxer to give calisthenics and boxing classes on the side. His schedule quickly grew from one to five classes a day, and his desire to balance a professional double life as wine connoisseur and fitness instructor began to lean heavily towards the latter. He began to see fitness less as a personal hobby and more as a full-time job, and thus Jungle Gym was born.
The philosophy behind Jungle Gym is to learn to exercise without having to join an expensive gym. And, as the name implies, to have fun doing it. Freddie teaches anywhere his students ask him to as long as it’s outside a gym – in parks and playgrounds, in parking garages, or on a client’s rooftop or garden.
“Outside is one big gym. I want to teach people to use their environment to train instead of joining an expensive gym that’s loud and overcrowded. I teach people to use whatever is around them, kids playgrounds, scaffolding, bars installed in parks around the city, anything.”
Having just dropped out of a membership of a pricey gym that blasted what had to be a Creamfields soundtrack all day every day, and where the trainers were more concerned with their biceps than my routine, I can relate. Having a partner that helps you along the way, notices your progress and encourages you to push yourself harder is a plus, and doing everything in the fresh air is better than doing a perfect set of deadlifts with a shiny set of barbells.
I’ve been converted.
And it seems as if Freddie has too. He’s enrolled in boxing and gymnastics classes to improve his own teaching, as well as scoped out the best parks around the city. The immediate plan is to remain in Buenos Aires for the next two years to continue learning Spanish, and take advantage of the expat niche while he gets familiar with fitness as a full-time job.
“The dream is to open up a street gym somewhere in South America or Europe. An open air space with the essentials – bars, a boxing ring, some heavy bags, with music playing and a juice bar to hang out a bit afterwards. I want people to exercise with a view instead of staring at mirrors and televisions.”
‘And the world could do with a few less gym selfies’, I thought to myself.
If you’re interested in taking calisthenics or boxing classes with Freddie, you can send him a message through the Jungle Gym Facebook page.