May 1, 2010

The Colombian Gym Experience

Whenever I start to feel settled here, like Cali, Colombia really is a place I can call home, something new happens to make me appreciate the little things all over again.
After doing a lot of commuting this month to go to the gym in Kelsi's neighborhood I decided it was time to seek out something a little closer to home. I had seen a number of gyms in my neighborhood, but never really took it any further. This week after school I did some investigating and found one that seemed to suit my needs.
A mere two blocks from my house, this place is small, but the monthly fee of $70,000 pesos ($35 USD) is totally worth it for the convenience. They are open all weeknights and Saturdays too, which isn't as popular in Colombia as you would think. There are only about 10 bikes, 5 ellipticals and 3 treadmills in the place, but they offer classes like yoga, dance and spinning in addition, so what's not to love?
I went to the spin class on Monday night, where the instructor personally introduced himself to me and then we chatted before the class. During the class he introduced me to everyone else (since the class was only about 10 people) and made sure I felt welcome. What a change from gyms and rec centers where anonymity seems to be what people desire most. Then yesterday, as I was on the elliptical, one of the older men from the spin class came into the gym. I gave him a little wave to show I recognized him. He then proceeds to come over, shake my hand mid-run and chat me up! He remembers my name and asks how I like the place. Fascinating! I thoroughly enjoy the extent to which Colombians are so into making connections and forming relationships with others. Guaranteed I probably stick out like a sore thumb as the only non-Colombian in the place, but it was still nice that this guy remembered me.
Since being in Colombia I have been missing the consistency of being able to go to my college rec center whenever I wanted (open from 6 am to midnight) without having to pay a thing (outside tuition) and usually running into a friend or five. While Colombians are very concerned with their personal image, this does not always correspond to a need to stay physically fit. Working out in public, aka running outdoors, is not very popular. Therefore, I am hoping that by joining this gym I will feel a bit more like myself here. In the mean time, I am loving the warm welcome! :)
Happy Saturday!

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