Designing an outdoor ‘beach’ gym
In 2018 we designed an 800sqm ‘beach’ gym on the Adriatic Coast for the Porto Montenegro Yacht Club, situated in a non-tidal Bay with no actual beaches in sight. Here are some of the many lessons we learnt along the way from the experience.
Securing your beach gym’s perimeter
The 800sqm site, although just 50m from the water’s edge, was bordered on three sides by what was effectively a car park and was itself little more than a giant concrete slab, meaning our first challenge was how to combine a secure, budget-conscious perimeter fence with a degree of privacy for those using the future facility.
Our chosen solution was a series of 4x4 planks of wood finished with a deep varnish, positioned at 10cm intervals around the perimeter, sitting in a solid trough embedded beneath the concrete, providing cover to just above head height and ensuring the gaps were not large enough to pass through.
This meant light could enter the facility from all sides and passers by could still look in if they wanted to yet it also created the all important barrier between the gym itself and the outside world. Building and installing this fence alone eventually became a considerable slice of the overall budget however, alongside importing all the sand…
Flooring options for the beach gym
It was clear from the start that we would need to bring in either a lot of sand to create the new beach workout area on the existing concrete or, a more expensive and maintenance-heavy option, create a soil bed and lay turf on top. Artificial turf was only briefly considered but, as this was always intended to be a beach gym, sand was the owner’s preference.
It turns out, when creating a new beach, there are many different varieties of sand , each with its own colour, feel underfoot and, most importantly, price. Who knew!
Our first attempt gave us a dark coloured, fine sand that was immediately problematic and, for the beach gym’s owner, not up to standard. This then became our base layer and we brought in a lighter coloured but thicker granule sand to lay on top, changing the aesthetics of the space completely. In turn this meant a heavier feel underfoot after a lot of rain when the sand tends to retain the moisture.
Outdoor gym sound systems
We installed a series of six outdoor speakers mounted on the perimeter fencing, all connected to one central amplifier and an ipod. As an open-air facility, consideration had to be taken for possible noise pollution issues, given that there are various buildings related to the marina operations nearby. Music would also have to be turned off after 7pm due to the vicinity of the yachts and their guests in the marina.
Bespoke wood gym equipment
For the equipment, we supplied our own solid oak balance beam, push-up bars, A-frame pull-up beam and squat log, all made to our designs by a carpenter. We now prefer to have such bulky items made locally on-site to reduce transport costs. These are not complicated works of art, it’s mostly a case of finding the right type of wood, know what dimensions to cut, how to piece the elements together and then how to treat it and protect it from the weather.
A local metalworker created a set of three jump boxes for us, two parallette bars and a set of shelves for storing kettlebells and other equipment. These were a low-cost solution using local labour and materials.
Protecting gym equipment from the elements
In addition to the bespoke storage unit, we applied three layers of heavy-duty varnish onto each piece of oak equipment to protect it from the sunshine, wind and rain expected during the variable summer season.
We also coated the kettlebells in several layers of boat hull paint, with the help of a local chandlery / boat repair shop and took the opportunity to ‘brand’ them using the yacht club’s flag colours of white and navy blue.
One element that suffered heavily in the first year were the 5kg and 10kg eco-rubber weight plates we were using on the squat log, left out in the intense midday sun they crumpled like crisp pancakes - lesson learnt, it’s always better to invest in quality the first time!
Shaded gym training areas
An important consideration when designing any outdoor jungle gym or beach gym facility is the amount of shade on offer for those who wish to train during the day. Not everyone is comfortable in the direct sunshine and if the midday temperatures rise, there is a risk of those hours losing business as a result.
We recommend creating a shaded area around the perimeter of the facility, approximately 2m in depth, using a simple net system that does not catch the wind or require additional structural support. This too is a simple, cost-effective solution with a pleasing aesthetic result. It is also a worthwhile investment as it ensures there is always a shaded, cooler area to workout in, even when the sun is high.
Outdoor gym lighting
This particular facility is not open in the evenings so we did not need to add any floodlights or other lighting solution, however this would be an obvious way to extend the gym’s opening hours in hotter destinations such as the Middle-East where the evenings are cooler and far more suitable times to train outside.