There are plenty of ways to stay active while teaching in Korea. I’ve found this to be particularly true in Busan. Apart from it being a very walk able city (despite its vastness), there are outdoor and indoor outlets for workout activities. As a person who enjoys staying active, this characteristic is important to me of any place. As the days become warmer, I’m anticipating being outside more and exploring the very nearby mountains. But since I arrived in November, I’ve experienced a conventional gym, a bouldering gym, and a hot yoga studio. Keep reading for my thoughts on each!
When I first arrived in Korea I joined a gym which was a 12 minute walk away from my house. I utilized it for about four months, more so as a way to acclimate to my new life. Having a familiar element in your day can be very grounding, and for that reason, I really appreciated the gym. But honestly, it was not the best place to workout. While the very basic equipment was available, like free weights, ellipticals, treadmills, a pull-up bar, and a squat rack, the space was so tightly packed leaving barely any floor space left over for floor workouts, which are my favorite. Whenever I tried doing HIIT workouts I felt like I was in the way and I’d resign to biking. The floor was also pretty uneven and lumpy making it difficult to even squat or lift properly. Needless to say, I decided I wouldn’t renew my membership. However, this experience was just mine of the gym closest to me. I know that there are a few very good and multi-story gyms within Busan. I just am not willing to commute for half an hour each morning to workout.
In college I really enjoyed climbing, and luckily for me I made friends with people who were already members of a bouldering gym. I’m not ready to commit myself to a membership, but each time I’ve climbed there I’ve enjoyed it so much. I Especially like the owners of the gym who are a climbing couple along with their kids. They’re fantastic, accommodating people. My friend who climbs there consistently frequently goes outdoor rock climbing with them on Sundays and joins them for dinner a couple times a week. The membership price is comparable to that of gyms in the United States, so around $12 to $15. Also, I should emphasize this gym is just a bouldering gym, not a climbing gym, so no ropes. Shoes are provided but you have to pay extra for chalk.
Most recently, I’ve made the best decision to lean back into my yoga practice. I don’t know why, but I lost interest in practicing it for a few months, and I figured forcing myself to continue was counter intuitive. Plus, self-instruction is just a challenge in general. I decided to seek out a yoga studio and found a hot yoga studio a couple of metro stops away from where I live. I’ve always avoided hot yoga because more injuries can occur in heated spaces as you can forget your limits. But I absolutely love it now. I love the humidity and sweating. The yoga teachers are also superb. All the classes are in Korean, of course, which is even more telling of how expressively and helpfully they lead. Breathwork is crucial to this studio, which I love, and the teachers give amazing adjustments and corrections. I am quite happy with it, though it’s definitely pricier than the regular gym and bouldering gym. But if yoga is something that’s important to you, the price is fair.
If perhaps you don’t want to be an official member of any gym or activity, hiking and is a great free alternative. Korea is filled with mountains, along with numerous scenic bike paths. Along with biking and hiking, there are also many parks with free outdoor fitness stations where you can workout.
These are just my experiences with traditional ways of working out and/or stress-relieving. Fundamentally though, it comes down to personal preference. Right now, I enjoy yoga most. Other times I might feel like weightlifting until failure. In the summer, I’m certain I won’t be able to stay inside at all! Have fun with it and know that options are vast!
Linda Gaida was raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina and graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2016 with a degree in Romance Languages. While passionate about environmental studies and conservation, her interests now lean towards education! Her curiosities and studies have taken her to Romania, Portugal, Peru, India, and now South Korea, where she works as an English teacher for ChungDahm Learning in Busan. Deciding to teach abroad was an easy decision to make for Linda: while she gets to experience a culture foreign to her own, she is able to benefit the global society by teaching children English and helping them pursue their own ambitions. Linda is also interested in yoga, climbing, hiking, backpacking (anything involving movement), cooking and writing poetry.