A weekend ago, my friend and I went for a jog up to the botanical gardens. Although not the season to see a bunch of plant life, there was a small forest of trees and an amazing view of some of the many mountains surrounding the city.
It also was scattered with a variety of playground equipment, clearly designed to encourage exercise in small children. Though each piece was clearly made in China, each sported a small plaque not only containing a name and instructions on how to use each piece, but also suggesting the intended buyer was probably not Tajikistan.
It all started with what I will call the Balancing Swinging Thingamjig. (This was before discovering the plaques.) Imagine a very small incomplete bridge of small, disconnected planks held together by chains that you must hold on to in order to cross. Not the sort of exciting safety hazard you would find on your average American elementary school playground.
We then found the “Leg Push”, a chair on which one sits and uses their legs to push off from the center pole, and the “Surfboard”, a moving plank on which one attempts to balance. For those looking to stretch out their arms, there were these two wheels for each arm to grab and spin in opposite directions like some sort of robot conducting a symphony. Next, we discovered what could only be described as an energy-efficient treadmill. It featured the same frame as a treadmill, but instead of a moving walkway, there was a line of rolling pins that allowed one to run in place and generate a noisy racquet. There were even some more familiar toys like monkey bars and swings.
Last but not least, we found the “Push Chair”. One sits on this red and yellow spangled contraption and through pulling their arms together, lifts up the seat on which they are sitting. Apparently, for those who have upper arm strength, it is a great chest muscle workout. It was on this “Push Chair”, that my friend decided that not only were these toys a great workout, but also that we were going to run a circuit.
“Twenty reps on each!” he yelled as he ran off towards the “Push Chair” to begin. And so the Playground Circuit commenced, or two Americans running around methodically playing on each toy while any and all Tajiks watched with confused expressions on their faces.
I soon became tired of this circuit and decided to swing while my friend finished another rep. As a connoisseur of swings, it was nothing too special; however, it was the first swing I have ever seen that featured instructions and an explanation. In broken English, there was a plaque that read that this equipment was good for encouraging flexibility in children and fostering the bravery. Finally, the meaning of swinging within the greater scheme of life was realized.
With a vow to return soon, we eventually jogged home, delighted to have discovered a fully equipped gym in our backyards.
NOTE: If there is a Part II, it will include pictures and a full video demonstration.