Happy Monday to you and a warm welcome to all of you who are just joining us. Thank you so much to all of you who watched our House Hunters International “Where are they now?” episode and reported back to let us know that you loved it. We had a lot of fun making the episode and we promise to let you know if it goes online for those of you who live outside the US or do not have access to it.
I have been thinking a lot about how to start this week. January is the time when the most number of people sign up for gym memberships, so I am guessing that quite a few of you have thought about joining one (or maybe you have resolved to absolutely not frequent one!) I have hesitated to write about fitness altogether, mainly because I have had three kids and it’s not like I’m a super skinny blond bombshell, but it’s January and the experiences I have had over the years trying to stay fit abroad have been nothing short of… well, let’s just say, it’s been interesting!
After arriving in Spain at 22 with a baby, I knew I wanted to join a gym but I was terrified that my Spanish skills would not be sufficient enough to get me through a class. I waited six months until I found a friend who would go with me. It was in the heat of July with temperatures easily over 100° F. We waited until 5 in the evening, which meant it was still around 100°! I hoped for air conditioning, which made my friend laugh, so I kept my hope for a fan to myself. After arriving at the gym, my fears of language misinterpretations began to dissipate as my fear of suffocation increased wildly. The room was concrete with two small windows, which could not be opened for fear of catching a cold. (A cold? Seriously? I was worried about dying of the heat and my Spanish friends were worried that they might get a sore throat?!) There were no fans for the same reason and the door remained shut throughout the workout. I got closer to Jesus during that workout. Too close.
When we moved to Morocco I was determined to stay fit. Going to the gym was like therapy for me. It kept me sane and after moving to Africa, I was going to need all the help I could get! So, I signed up to take my first class. Much like Spain, it was tucked into a first floor of a dark, unlit building, except this time I was the only one there to take the class. The instructor was late and after 15 minutes of being barked at by the instructor who stood in front of my with her arms crossed and yelled at me in French (a language I do not speak) two more girls showed up for the class. It would have been great, except they didn’t do most of the moves, and left 15 minutes before the class ended… which left me alone doing some really weird exercises that I had never seen before and doubt I ever will again.
So, obviously I didn’t go back to that gym! But I still wanted to be fit. It was a real struggle. It was not appropriate or even safe for a woman to be out running on the streets, so I did my best with some videos at home. Just before we moved I got so excited because a new gym was coming to town which offered my very favorite classes by Les Mills. Even though I was leaving soon, I hoped to attend a few classes, so I went for a tour. The Gym was gorgeous. There was air conditioning (as in REAL air conditioning and not the kind where the room feels like the heat has been displaced momentarily only to return to it’s original position.) I was hopeful. Then I was escorted to the women’s side of the gym. Yes, folks. The sexes were segregated. The women’s side was very small with some nice equipment being held up by a few women dressed in sweatpants and head scarves. There was a small closet like room with a few stationary cycles and that was about it. Apparently the sauna was the appeal for the women’s side of the gym. The guys; however, got a much bigger room and all of the “manly” classes such as Body Pump and Body Combat. I cannot verify the information, though, because as a woman I was not allowed even a peek in.
When we moved to Denmark, I was, again, terrified to take classes in a completely foreign language, but I was determined because I was tired of having to use ridiculous amounts of Bounty Bars and Coke Zero to cope with life abroad.
I would love to be able to go more, but my experiences staying fit abroad have certainly made me more grateful for the gym I have here in Denmark, especially since it offers my favorite Les Mills classes. It feels like a gift to me, especially after struggling through three years in Morocco where I had so little freedom and opportunity as a woman to stay fit.
As an expat, it can be a real challenge to cope with new cultural fitness norms. The main thing is to keep trying and no matter what country you live in, find something that you enjoy. Maybe your new country or town will offer an activity that you never even knew about and will absolutely love!
I bet some of you have had some pretty crazy experiences at gyms. There certainly seems to be a “gym culture” all of it’s own no matter what country you live in! So, tell me! Do you have a funny story from trying to say fit?