Friday, June 25, 2010

Staying fit in France

Like any other country outside the US, many American trends have filtered in here and taken root. Strong root. Like McDonalds which the French affectionately call McDo and Starbucks which I am sorry to say is starting to spring up on every block like they do in the US. We do both fast food and coffee brilliantly so it is understandable that this country would import those two chains with such fervor. However, one of the things that the French have decided to keep uniquely theirs, is exercise. There really are no gyms to speak of here in Paris. Okay. Maybe a few. And while you might think that bringing the gym concept to a city full of people would be an easy sell, getting your exercise in an air-conditioned room full of machines upon which other people are also getting their exercise is simply not popular here. For me, this has been difficult. I have had to abruptly break my 6-day a week gym habit in the hopes that marching around the city with two children in tow all day might suffice. 

When you are here for  week's vacation that might be just good enough but when you are here for several months it is a different story. Like I mentioned earlier, there are gyms sprinkled throughout the city. Most of them are near the universities on the left bank and there are few exercise rooms attached to city pools. Membership and/or usage costs are exorbitant and then there is the issue of what to do with those two children I mentioned. My husband recently caved and joined a gym which is actually just an exercise room attached to a pool up near his office in Levellois. The membership to the gym is 200 euros/month for us foreigners but if you can prove you are here working for a company and get a letter from your doctor saying you are healthy enough to exercise, they will drop that rate to 125 euros/month. The big selling point, according to the Frenchman who took my husband on a tour of the gym, is that membership also grants you access to the spa which includes steam-rooms, saunas, and the solarium. For those of you unfamiliar with that last term, solariums are large areas of decking where people lay about on lounge chair recliners getting sun and are quite popular here.  The French love to tan. The more tan you get during the summer the better. Getting a seat in a solarium is like trying to elbow your way through a ski lodge a noon looking for a place to collapse and have your lunch. During this tour, my husband noticed that the the steam rooms and solarium were full of people relaxing but the gym was vacant. The upside is that he'll never have to wait for a machine.

So what does all this mean for me? Ride up to his office and drop the kids with him at work while I hit the gym for an hour? Possible, yes. Realistic, no. Do I already feel myself getting soft? Yes. Does that make me panic? A little. Plus the city of light is not the city of lite when it comes to food so I have gone to a store called Decathlon to purchase some weights, a ball and a mat. And I will have to get my exercise where ever I can. Like yesterday, we went to the Eiffel Tower. And we took the stairs.

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