Before coming to France one of my biggest worries was that I wouldn’t make French friends. I am working as an English language assistant for my year abroad and unlike some of my friends who have chosen to study at French universities, I do not have the instant social network which comes with the ‘student life’.
To tackle this problem, I quickly bought a membership to a gym which provides fitness classes. Admittedly, I was not a huge fan of going to the gym back at home in England but in France I wanted a way to meet and hopefully make friends with some ‘locals’.
This gym membership has quickly become one of the best purchases I have made since arriving in France; the benefits of going to gym classes abroad are endless! Here is a summary of how they have helped me during my year abroad so far:
Fitness classes are a fun and sociable way to do exercise. There are many opportunities in class to talk to others: collecting your equipment, taking water breaks, pair work, giving others encouragement and discussing your enjoyment of the class at the end. You are all at the same class and so you all have something in common. Surprisingly, the anxiety about talking to new people seems to disappear when you are in your most red and sweaty state.
2. Having a routine
Moving abroad can be unsettling. You might feel disorientated or miss your home comforts. A great way to tackle this problem is to give your day some structure. For example, if after working or studying during the day you find yourself without anything to do on an evening, going to a fitness class gets you out of the house and means your evening has direction.
3. Stress busting
As mentioned above, moving abroad comes with its stresses. It is no secret that doing exercise releases happy hormones into your body and I am yet to leave one of my classes without a smile on my face. It also gives your brain some ‘time out’; it is very difficult to keep dwelling on your stresses when you are taking part in a fitness class.
4. Learning the language
Not so great at your imperative structures? Need to brush up on the names of body parts? Want to learn some local slang? Go to a gym class.
Fitness classes often use upbeat and motivating music and by regularly attending a class you will get to know the popular songs of the country you are living in. (This also gives you another conversation starter for new people!)
Can you think of more benefits of going to fitness classes abroad? What other activities could you do to get the same benefits?