Fitness Centers and Classes in Korea
Koreans are a physically fit bunch. In fact, they put a lot of foreigners to shame with their trim physiques. The only way for us to keep up is to hit the gym and hit it hard.
With just a standard membership you can expect a lot for your money. Typically, membership will cost you between 40,000KRW to 60,000KRW per month. A lot of memberships are offered as three month packages, though, so you might be able to get yourself a deal. Here’s the low down on what to consider when signing up.
One of the biggest conveniences is that gyms here provide clothes for you to wear. The clothes offered aren’t particularly flattering – just plain t-shirts and black shorts – but for the convenience of not having to constantly do laundry it is well worth it. If you don’t feel sexy enough unless you’re wearing a wife-beater or skin-tight lycras, though - fair enough. You are more than welcome to wear your own clothes. You can also leave your training footwear in the gym, saving you from having to cart your stinking shoes back and forth.
Gyms here provide good hours, usually 6:00-23:00. Some are 24 hours. When you sign up you will be given a gym card which you must swipe or hand in at reception every time you visit. Often gyms will be closed on public holidays, so try to keep a lookout for notices.
The Korean locker room experience is truly unique. The attitude toward same-sex nudity is about as relaxed as is possible. While many foreigners are accustomed to covering themselves in the changing rooms, Koreans are the opposite. Gyms also provide towels for showering, which is another reason why going to the gym is so convenient.
It isn’t common to pay for one-time sessions and it can be expensive to do this. Signing up for one, three, six or twelve month memberships is the most common. As you might expect, the more months you sign up for, the cheaper the monthly cost will be. Prices vary across the board, but you should expect to pay between 120,000KRW to 180,000KRW for a three month membership (or somewhere in the region of 50,000KRW a month). In the big cities prices are slightly higher. Of course, if you sign up for extra classes the costs will increase. Check the prices in the gyms – everything should be easy enough to work out even if you can’t speak any Korean.
I can’t make any promises on what equipment the gyms nearest you will have. Generally speaking, you will find step machines, cross trainers and treadmills in abundance, weight lifting areas that may or may not be to your satisfaction, all manner of weight machines and enough mirrors to admire yourself from every angle. All the instructions on the weight machines are in Korean, so if you are unsure about what to do you might need to copy someone else or get a trainer. Let’s just hope they have perfect form.
This can be tricky as gym staff don’t always speak any English. In most cases there will be a board with various types of membership on offer, at the reception desk.
For those who want to buy whey protein, creatine and other supplements to bulk up, there are places you can get these online. The Korean diet does not contain vast amounts of protein, so bulking up can be more difficult. There are three ways to do this:
For those who have been in Korea for any length of time, you will know that Korean parks have gym equipment in them. These are great places to get a work out, if you’re not too embarrassed. They consist mainly of machines that require you to push against your own weight. For example: You sit on the machine in a regular seated position and push the bars from your chest outwards, lifting yourself up and down as you push back and forth. You might also find some more impressive public workout areas if you do a little exploring. It isn’t uncommon to find outdoor gym areas at the top of hills. Some have bench presses and everything! The best part: they are free and outdoors!
Each gym has a set of facilities so make sure you take a good look around before you agree to anything. Some gyms may have squash or badminton courts, golf, yoga, aerobics and K-Pop dance classes, and saunas too.
Crossfit is a fitness regime that has gained popularity very quickly in Korea. It focuses on strength and conditioning and is designed to be accessible to all. The main programs are bootcamp and crossfit.
Les Mills is a globally popular fitness program offering bodystep, bodybalance, bodypump, bodyattack and a number of other body related exercises. There are six gyms in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do that offer Les Mills classes. Check the official website for locations and information.
Body and Seoul Mixed Martial Arts Center
MMA, yoga, no-gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Pilates, dance and self defense are all on offer here, as well as FightFit metabolic condition classes. The gym is in Itaewon, Seoul and the nearest subway stop is Noksapyeong Station, exit 2. All lessons are given in English