TAPIF | Staying fit while living abroad
The past few months have been full of moments where I’ve thought to myself, “I really wished I’d thought of/known about that last year!”
You, my friends, get to profit off of my missed opportunities.
Aside from climbing beffrois and taking long walks across town to Auchan, here are a few ideas for staying fit while living abroad, with little to no equipment, and from least to most expensive:
Fitness apps or training programs
Because of frequent vacations, it can be easier to stick to short term challenges that won’t be disrupted by a huge change in routine. One thing that worked well last year was Couch to 5k (C25k).
This is technically 9 weeks, but I liked having the flexibility of something that could be done a few days a week after class or when it wasn’t freezing and rainy outside.
There was a track that was about a 15-minute walk from my house and close to where another assistant lived, so I had the added bonus of a running buddy/accountability partner (and occasional stops for a baguette on the way home…). I’d sometimes run on a trail by the canal to mix things up.
At least where I was, it didn’t really snow, so it was easy to be outside even in the winter. This was also just a great way to explore new spots in town.
Equipment needed: Shoes.
Ok, this is one of those things that seems super obvious but that I didn’t really think about until after I got home. Workout videos are great, especially ones that don’t require equipment (ex: Insanity). Yoga works well too.
Equipment needed: Depends on the program, sometimes nothing.
It may be difficult to invest in tons of machinery for just a few months away, but there are some lightweight pieces of equipment that can fit in a suitcase, like resistance bands and kayak bags.
Some assistants signed up for fitness classes in town, which cost 70-80 euros for the seven months we were there. Apparently the classes weren’t very strenuous, but it seemed “better than nothing.” If you’re the kind of person that prefers the social aspect and routine of a class, that can be an option.
While fitness apps and programs are great, I found that I was actually fitter while living abroad even without trying, and there were a few reasons why:
- Taking advantage of the local environment: Nord Pas de Calais is completely flat, except for the terrils, the largest mountains of waste leftover from coal mining in Europe. We were lucky enough to hike the terrils, but there’s also one that’s been converted into a ski slope (pretty sure it involves a giant plastic tarp). We didn’t end up going skiing, but hiking was a fantastic way to get some exercise while also getting to learn more about local history and get some killer views.
- Making things harder than they needed to be: One of the things I loved about living in Bethune was just how walkable everything was. Of course, I’m sure I’d feel differently if I lived further from downtown, but it was great to be able to walk to the grocery store and back, which is a bit harder to do out in the ‘burbs when everything’s covered in snow. Even if I had the option to take a five-minute bus ride, I usually tried to walk.
- Traveling slowly: One of the gifts of TAPIF is the extra time we had available. Aside from going to work, it was okay to take longer to get from one place to another, not only in daily life, but while traveling too. I loved how we could walk across Rome to the Coliseum at midnight or wander through the valleys of Luxembourg to see the major sights. If possible, walking is a great way to get to know a city better and get in some fun physical activity.
How to make a habit out of staying fit
TAPIF is a great time to explore what works (and what doesn’t!) in terms of productivity and following through. When trying to build a habit, it’s great to have a program or an accountability partner, but it can also be helpful to start small. Here’s a summary on “How Habits Work” that can help build a routine for staying fit.
Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution to make the most of time abroad or just a way to balance out the delicious baguettes and cheese, there are tons of ways to stay (or get!) in shape, even without a lot of equipment or space.