If you haven’t lived and taught English in Korea for long, you quickly realize how important one’s appearance is. Beauty and fashion go hand-in-hand here. Korea is one of the top consumers for make-up/beauty products for both men and women. Unfortunately, buying all of these things can add up quickly and hurt your wallet. Luckily, if you live in Seoul, you can take advantage of the Han River, surrounding mountains, and numerous parks nearby to stay in shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Here are some places where you can workout while living on a budget in Korea.
Han River - One of the most popular ways to stay in shape by working out on a budget in Seoul is to exercise along the Han River. The Han River separates Northern and Southern Seoul and runs over 21 kilometers from the eastern part of Seoul (Cheonho) to its western part (Yeouido). Along the way, there is a lot of FREE workout equipment that you can use. Early in the morning and late into the evening, you can see people working out by taking advantage of the equipment. Also, in many of the major subway stations near the river, you can rent bicycles (singles and doubles) from 1,000-3,000 won/hour. It is a great way to soak up the sun during the spring time. If you are north of the river, Ttukseom Resort is one of the most popular spots to go to. There are numerous basketball courts, bicycles ramps, and even its own rock climbing center. Furthermore, in different areas of the Han River, there are swimming pools where you can take a dip for only 5,000 won. Just remember to wear a swimming cap or they will not allow you to jump in.
Mountain Hiking - Around Seoul alone, there are about 12 mountains that range from easy to difficult. Some of the easiest courses would be Achasan (east side), Asan (west side), and Inwangsan (central Seoul). As you climb each one, although they are fairly easy, there are outdoor gyms where you can get your additional sweat on. Many of these are free or are only 1,000 won to use. Many of the outdoor gyms have weight machines and barbells. Also, there are stretching stations and different styles of gymnastic bars and rings to use. Usually there is at least one attendant there who can help spot if you do plan on lifting. Another nice thing that I have come to notice is that there are clean streams of water that you can drink. Typically located at the base of the mountain, many people will fill up their empty bottles there. Also, some of the mountains, as you climb towards the top, have solar cell phone charging stations. It is so technologically advanced here!
Major Parks - Some of the major parks around Seoul include Olympic Park (east side), Seoul Forest (central) and World Cup Park (west side). Many of these parks have areas where you can play some of Korea’s most popular sports like badminton and soccer. There are also some running/jogging paths at these parks. But one of my favorite things about these parks is something called the acupuncture path. You must be barefoot when walking on these paths. You will walk on top of different size and shaped stones cemented into the ground and they will definitely make you grimace. Although it is very painful, at the end of the path, you will feel like a fresh rush of blood has gone through your leg veins!
In reality, you don’t need to be extremely rich to be able to be healthy in Korea. The one thing that I really like about it here is there are so many outdoor activities that you can do that are relatively inexpensive. There weren't these opportunities when I was living in America. So when you are teaching abroad here in Korea, it is best to take advantage of all of them!
After working for five years in banking, Marc decided that it was time for a change before he got too old. He left the stress from his 9-5 job to do something new and different. After coming to Korea with a group of buddies, he landed in the Gangdong Branch in Eastern Seoul. When he's not teaching and doing head instructor duties, he is out about traveling Korea, looking for the new, old, and undiscovered places to visit. Follow him on Twitter @geonmakku and on Instagram @geonmakku for the latest happenings in South Korea.