In Daegu, finding a gym in your neighborhood won’t be a problem. One of the nice things about the population density and hustling urban lifestyle here is accessibility. I can walk out the front door of my apartment and within a 5 minute walk, be surrounded by a dozen different restaurants from which to choose. Taxis are easier and cheaper to find. Public transport in general is easy to utilize.
So, when it came to picking out a gym to join, there was no problem finding one within walking distance of my house. Gyms in Korea are like gyms back in the States in some basic regards. There’s mom-n-pop style gyms which occupy usually one or two floors of a larger retail building or the snazzy, sparkling, mega franchise gyms.
I joined a mom-n-pop gym (okay, truth-be-told, it IS a franchise, but doesn’t feel like it). The normal rate for my gym is 120,000 KRW for 3 months. That’s about $35/month. Gym hours are 6am to 10pm on the weekdays, and flip flop to 10am-6pm on Saturday. Closed Sundays and holidays.
There’s a mega gym in my neighborhood too called Gym Mania. Their base rate is 500,000 KRW for 3 months. That’s a *significant* difference, obviously. It’s not a price I would pay back home, nor here. Now, the mega gym is nice. Really nice. Super clean, great new equipment, sexy staff, and offers a variety of classes and training seminars. Still. $150/month is not something I can ever imagine being in my budget. Here’s a look at a subway ad for the mega gym (called Gym Mania), offering discounts for students who recently passed their exams here in Daegu:
In Korea, conveying your activities to the general public is an important standard of culture. If you’re going hiking for the day, it is normal to adorn *full* hiking gear, even if it’s just a Sunday jaunt up a hillside. If you’re going swimming, swimsuit, goggles and a cap are worn–even if you don’t know how to swim laps. Outward appearance and wearing activity/age-appropriate uniforms here are incredibly important.
So, when you waltz into a gym, there will be t-shirts and shorts for you to change into. Uniform t-shirts and shorts of course (called 운동복). The gyms I have seen usually have a long row of treadmills. Most Koreans I’ve seen consider walking exercise. This is common among older people back in the USA, but even twenty/thirty-somethings seem to consider paced-treadmill walking as exercise. You’ll see weight machines and free weights. No different than back in the US. The staff is always helpful and knowledgeable. And, if you don’t know some of the terminology for weightlifting or muscle groups in Korean, don’t fear! Chances are, they are the same words. 덤벨 is still “dumbell” in Korean!
One thing I don’t care much for with regard to the gyms here is that a lot of people seem to go to the gym to socialize. I’ve seen older guys spend more time talking to each other than actually getting sweaty. Maybe it was like that back home, but I don’t think it’s quite the same. Sometimes when the other guys approach me, I make it clear that I’ll talk after my workout, when I’m cooling down. This is when headphones are vital.
Oh, and I’m not wearing the uniform of the gym here. The shirts and shorts tend to be a little too short and a little too tight for non-Koreans. Or maybe my bulging muscles are just too big. ; )
When looking for a gym in Korea, it’s best to look for this Hangeul: 헬스 that is the word “health” written in Korean letters. See that on the side of a building and you’re in the right place. Go in, sign a paper with your contact info, and pay for your membership fee. Get assigned a locker, make an ajjushi friend, and you’re set! Enjoy!