It’s a matter of which thing you’d rather stare down more.
Seventy-two weather-beaten concrete steps, right on the beach, connecting Point A to Point Be Afraid.
Or the fatties on the too-few Stairmaster machines at the local fitness center, while stuck in a line of too-tight Spandex.
Bless those gadgets with the LED panels, arrow buttons to change the speed and padded rails to act as a crutch for those who with a fear of heights, balance or actual stairs. But when there’s another “Sorry, Out of Order” sign taped to them, or germy gym rats who won’t adhere to the 30-minute rule, the rules change.
That’s it. No more shuffling in and amongst the other January resolutionists who lose the battle of time and money trying to use machine-made muscle builders.
We’re taking it outside. Welcome to our new 72-step program.
While we hesitate to reveal the location of our new workout facility – where the winter sun beats down on Avenue C off the Redondo Beach Esplanade – it’s really not that much of a secret. This beast stands out in broad daylight like a sadistic slip-n-slide, smiling wide to show all its teeth like a hungry land shark.
It must have been constructed way back when for far more utilitarian purposes. But anyone trying to lug fold-up chairs, strollers and umbrellas between the station wagon parked at the pigeon-stained coin meters down to the ocean waves below immediately see how impractical it was. Add to that a 45-degree slope that clearly adds to the degree of difficulty.
Instead of watching this feat of civil engineering go to waste, we choose it to reduce our waist line, through our own two feet.
There are enough other famously-known converted public workout staircases that exist free of charge around Southern California just like this. But thanks to Google searches that uncover their GPS location and five-star reviews, they’re harder to keep on the down low.
The stairs along 4th Street in Santa Monica have become “super crowded – dang!” and parking is “a bear.” Even those hidden in Rustic Canyon are maxed out by Type-A social climbers.
Echo Park’s switchbacks that lead to views of Elysian Park and downtown L.A. literally take your breath away – that, and the 423 steps that go with it.
Pacific Palisades, Griffith Park and the Hollywood Bowl aren’t off the beaten paths. Drake Stadium on the UCLA campus may get more foot traffic up and down its bleachers than on the track itself.
Sand Dune Park in Manhattan Beach, where the workout fiends include college and pro athletes, is an entirely other beast to master, when the local neighbors allow it to be open. That steep wall of finely machismo crushed rock simply grinds your soul as well as the soles of your feet. We’re not that stupid.
We’d even consider the ultimatum of those famous stairs in Silver Lake where Laurel and Hardy once lugged a piano up in “The Music Box” if we thought it wasn’t something of a tourist trap. Some day we will run them, and count the steps in the process.
This test of will we finally settled on was one we ignored too much in the past. It kept calling us back, taunting us to try it. Then spitting us out on previous attempts.
So we meet again.
This makes far too much sense for a sensory overload, beginning with all the fresh sea air to breathe. Run it later in the later in the afternoon, you end up witnessing some of the most miraculous views of a Southern California sunset that any God could create.
This is the place where heaven meets a hell of a physical challenge. Not in some four-sided, closed-in adult Gymboree.
There are a few limitations are to work around – joggers on cell phones, bikers on cell phones, amateur photographers using their cell phones to take pictures, and kids breaking loose like drunken midgets from parents on their cell phones.
But stay focused. Head down. Mind power locked in. Sprint up, counting by 10s. Easy walk back down. Lunge up two at a time, counting by fives. A slog jog back. Sidestep shuffle up, counting by twos.
Cry in pain. Repeat.
Weigh your options. This catechistic climb wins every time. Free and easy. Well, at least free.
And then, at the end of the day, it’s just a short run over to Pacific Coast Highway, at El Burrito Jr., for a post-workout tamale.
Step right up. You deserve it.