DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — No headphones needed. The sound of waves serves as a playlist for hundreds of fit, sport loving Senegalese who swarm to the beach daily in Dakar.
It isn’t Muscle Beach in Venice, California. It’s Fann Beach in Senegal’s capital.
Workouts are usually done en masse, to chants and cheers. Hundreds of men and women pack tightly into groups to run and skip in simultaneous motion down Fann Beach every day after 5 p.m. Others join situp sessions or create solo workouts.
At any time of the day, along the beach routes, people are running, using trampolines, public equipment like barbells and chin-up bars or mother nature as the workout partner.
“Most people are very fit here. Senegalese like sport,” said Mor Diaw, 23, a student at the nearby Higher National Institute of Popular Education and Sports. “At the gym, you have to pay and it’s expensive. Here, it’s free.”
People have been exercising on the mustard-colored sands for at least 20 years. Last year, the city upgraded the equipment, according to trainer Mbake Gueye, who is paid by the city government.
Diaw has been coming to Fann Beach since 2011.
“It’s easier to run here than in the city. The breeze is nice and the air is clean,” said Diaw, who lines up plastic bottles in the sand and jumps between them, his shoes cast aside.
Karim Mbaye, a 25-year-old law student, does shoulder circles near the water. He digs a deep hole to optimize pushups. He gets a total body workout, and one he learned just watching others on the beach, he says, sweat running down his brow.
“I face the sea as I work out and I breathe in pure air,” he said smiling. “When I’m done and hot, I run into the water.”
Some wear workout clothes, and others wear jeans and polo shirts. Some have shoes, but most are barefoot, the easier way to work out in the soft sand that many say is preferable to the nearby concrete.
Many of men and women also run along the corniche, the stretch of highway running along the beach.
On a cliff above, poised over a stunning view of the beach, the waters of the Atlantic and an offshore island, the city has erected an outdoor public gym with equipment that uses body resistance, including pull up bars.
Women and men wait their turn.
Gueye, the trainer, suggests exercise routines. He later leads a group of runners, clustered together almost as close as sardines in a can, up and down the beach, through skips, hops and stretches.
“People come here to relieve stress and get healthy,” said Gueye, who is 47. He said diabetes has become a real issue in Senegal with all the juices people drink, the rice, pasta and sugary foods. Many doctors are recommending exercise to their patients.
Dioumayatou Ba, a 28-year-old lady who used to work as a tailor and is now unemployed, has been coming to this beach for about three years to do quad lifts on a metal machine. Men usually outnumber women here but that doesn’t bother Ba.
“We are at ease here,” she said before joining some 70 other people being led through a series of sit-ups near the shoreline.
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