“I think you should write a blog about this”, he says while I bend down mumbling curse words. My leg and butt muscles are completely sore from yesterday.
“What?! About me being inflexible and in pain?”. It takes me an extra minute of whimpering, but I finally manage to pick up my bag from the floor. “No, about the classes you find while we are traveling the world”
Let me ask you, dear reader: Do you ever take a class abroad? Because I can really recommend it.
Let me share with you the what, why and how. Maybe it will inspire you to do the same.
Some people have the self discipline to find gyms wherever they go. I am no such person. Hell, I am not even a gym person. In my daily life at home in Amsterdam I drop in to Pilates, Zumba and Yoga classes that are aimed at senior citizens. They are close to my house, very affordable and most important: have the most positive and empowering atmosphere (“You can almost touch your toes. Way to go Laura!”)
But as you may have guessed from this website, I am now on a world tour. And I miss my weekly feel-good workout a lot. And with the best intentions, I just cannot get myself to actually do a Yoga with Adriene video on a regular basis. I respond so much better to a 3D person and a class of other participants.
Taking a class abroad is also a great way of living the life like locals do. It gives me experiences that I otherwise would never have had. I went to a big communist-style library to take a yoga class, discovered a Pilates studio in the back of a Spanish living room and got hugged by a sweaty German-Brazilian Zumba teacher. You cannot find that stuff on Tripadvisor.
But most importantly. It makes me happy. Life seems easier after moving my body. Every time I feel intimidated by this crazy idea of taking an unknown class with unknown people, I try to remember that.
On this tour my first class was a workout named ‘Finn Dance’. I wasn’t particularly sure what it entailed but it sounded like fun.
I walked in the room literally 1 minute after the starting time and I was clearly late. The room was filled with 25 ladies over 50 in bright pink and red outfits, so I felt right at home. Of course the only spot left in the room was next to the teacher, who instructed the Finnish folk dance steps in a joyful voice over her headset. In Finnish.
One hour later I was sweating. Not only from the dancing, but also from learning the steps by merely watching (and bluffing). Added bonuses to all this were the compliments from the teacher (“I didn’t even notice you don’t speak Finnish!”) and the relaxing sauna after.
Ever since the world tour started I have taken Zumba, Barre, Yoga, Pilates, Hiphop and Jazz Funk classes in German, Spanish, Polish, English, Finnish, Greek and Hinglish (Hindi mixed with English). Obviously, at first the idea of taking a class in a foreign language was very scary. What if I don’t get it?
But let’s be honest: when the class is in a language I do understand, there are plenty of times I cannot hear it over the music, or because I am too focused on feeling a warrior in the eponymous pose. And teachers are used to that. They tend to both say and show the instruction. Furthermore, the class is filled with people who can understand that language so I do a lot of observing my fellow students.
The only thing I need to cope with is that I am pos-si-bly not the best student of the class. Yeah, that is tough. But good for my perfectionism nonetheless.
At times when I was on time, I would let the teacher know that I don’t speak the language. I would however always emphasise that I learn by watching. Some of them were so kind to scatter English words here and there: “Very good”, “And repeat”, and one time “After this we will do [continues in native language]”. It’s the gesture that counts.
Okay I convinced you by now to give it a try, right?! Let me break down how I go about it.
As in many cases, search engines are your best friend. Before I go to a new place I look up the address of my accommodation and star it in Google Maps. Then I type “dance class near [address of accommodation]”. Or yoga. Or pilates.
I know that the chances of me actually going there, are directly linked to how long I have to travel for it. So I start from the accommodation I am at. When I then have found a few gyms or yoga studios, I go to their websites to see what their schedule looks like.
Now this is when the actual fun begins. Ever tried finding a schedule on a website written in Polish or full of Greek letters?! Yeah, that is some real detective work. Also here: translation websites are your friends. Or if you’re lucky: the ‘Translate this page’ pop up in your browser.
I always try to find out beforehand whether they have drop-in classes and their price: either through their website, social media or email. It gives me a tiny bit more accountability when I have been in contact with an actual human.
Just showing up at the venue has never been a problem: even in cases where the receptionist doesn’t speak English. They have always been in awe of a tourist joining their class.
Well, except for that time when the receptionist in Vienna wanted to charge € 20 for a Zumba class. Obviously I declined and walked out. All other times I paid a mere € 5 up until € 15 for a class of 1 to 1,5 hours. That -to me- is money well spent.
While travelling I never know how my week is going to look like, so I try to look up a bunch of classes. When I put them all in my calendar I also include the price so that I can bring the right amount of cash.
It is funny, I realised you really don’t need to bring much anyway. I don’t travel with proper workout shoes (hand luggage only, baby!), but all classes I have been to can be done bare feet or with sneakers. Other than that: yoga pants, top and a bottle of water. Done.
If you don’t have that rock hard self discipline to do push ups in your hotel room… Or you want to explore a city in a new way… Why don’t you give this a try?
I sure will again! (After I recovered from the Indian Jazz Funk Butt Muscle Ache Of The Century)