If staying fit and active is one your goals and priorities while enjoying your life in Korea then there are many options to meet your personal needs. From lifting weights and yoga classes at a local gym to cycling along the Han River, Korea has great ways to have fun and socialize while breaking a sweat. I will go into some more detail about some of your options to remain active, healthy, and looking your best while still enjoying the exciting nightlife, delicious food, and relaxing drinks.
Hitting the Gym
As a ChungDahm teacher living abroad there is bound to be a gym right around the corner whether you live in artsy Hongdae, ritzy Gangnam, or the coastal waters of Busan. Depending on the gym and location, there are usually membership options to suit your needs that can range from one year to one day. Membership prices vary, but generally there is a discount for paying in cash upfront with many gyms offering foreigner discounts. Korean gyms tend to lean more heavily in favour of treadmills than weight machines and free weights, so don’t be surprised to see larger sections of cardio equipment. Most gyms have complimentary gym uniforms or clothes, towel service, water, and lockers with keys (no need to even bring your own lock). One thing I learned the hard way is to take off your shoes when entering the locker room. No outside shoes are allowed in the locker room or changing room, and I got some strange looks when I came in with my shoes. Otherwise, gyms in Korea have modern equipment which will certainly meet your specific workout needs.
Outdoor Equipment, Fields and Running Tracks
Another option to keep fit without spending a dime is to make use of the numerous outdoor gyms or fitness zones you can see situated along the Han River, across local parks, and around many high-rise buildings. The equipment are sufficient to provide some basic level of resistance and body weight resistance but not enough for those looking to get in a workout that requires high levels of adjustable resistance. A lot of the equipment can allow for more free flowing body movements like the elliptical machine and body weight resistance movements like pullups, chinups and dips.
For the ChungDahm teacher looking to do some running or sprints, there are many soccer fields and running tracks available for public use. Many of these facilities are open for public use after school hours when elementary, middle, and high school students are done for the day. You can do sprints on the track, run the stadium stairs, or practice your soccer skills on the open field.
Cycling the Han River
The Han River is iconic to Seoul and offers extensive biking paths where you have the option of using your own bike, renting from 1 of 12 kiosks, or accessing a free bike at a self-serve location inside the Hangang Park System. For rental bikes the rates are as follows: singles are 3,000 won/hour; tandems are 6,000 won/hour, and full-day single rentals are 15,000 won. The Han River bicycle route is 56 km and takes approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes to complete. The route goes against the stream of the river without any upward slopes and is very wide allowing for a leisurely cycling path. Whatever pace you decide to ride please remember to enjoy the landscape, the 25 bridges on the river, the gorgeous skyline, and colorful cruise ships and yachts on the water.
Taekwondo and Self-Defense
Taekwondo "the way of the foot and fist" offers a great opportunity for a ChungDahm teacher living abroad to keep fit, learn the national sport of Korea and practice discipline and self-defense. This traditional martial art combines combat with sport and exercise but focuses more on defensive techniques rather than offensive because of the taekwondo spirit of respecting peace and justice. Not only will you develop your physical ability, strength and skills, but you will also gain mental strength and discipline to help you in all areas of life. To learn more about taekwondo check out http://www.worldtaekwondo.org
Another type of self-defense is Krav Maga “contact combat” which is a military self-defence and fighting system developed for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli security forces. This is a tactical mixed-martial art/combative and self-defense system that combines judo, jujitsu, aikido and boxing. It is a hybrid martial art that focuses on putting an end to a confrontation in the most efficient and effective manner without regard to the opponents well-being. If interested in this for of self-defense be sure to check out Krav Maga Federation Korea http://www.kmfkorea.com which has locations in Itaewon, Bucheon and Pyeongtaek.
There you have it. Now go out there and enjoy all the great ways to get and stay fit in Korea.
Brian Lee began his second stint teaching in Korea for ChungDahm Learning in February 2018. He previously taught at the Main Mokdong branch back in 2013 and is currently placed at the Mokdong2 branch. He enjoyed his first time so much that he decided to come back for a second time in order to continue exploring and experiencing all that Korea has to offer. Brian is a native of Canada where he graduated from both the University of Toronto and York University.