December 16, 2011

How to follow a fitness studio class in German

"Obstacles are those frightening things that become visible when we take our eyes off our goals”.

By Henry Ford.

Today is my gym day. I have been thinking for a while to share with you a few thoughts about joining a Fitness Club here in Munich. When we first arrived, we googled all the gyms that were closed to our new home in the city. We found four, we visited them all, talked to the managers, did the facilities tour and learnt about the fees. 

We finally chose Body and Soul @Lenbachpalais because the staff is friendly and can speak some English; the facilities are spacious; they offer a variety of fitness group classes at very convenient hours and members are just regular people trying to keep fit.

I have been a member for six months now but I still remember the two challenges that I faced and shocked me more when I started.

Challenge/shock number one: the group classes are in German of course

My favorite ones are: yoga and training for what they call “Rücken und Bauch”, so back and abs exercises. It might not seem a challenge to you but it actually is. 

In language school, everyone learns from day one how to say the body parts in another language. So it is no problem to understand which part of your body you need for each exercise. The obstacle appears when the trainer describes what to do with that body part. That vocabulary in German is not explained in day-one in the school, nor in day-two nor in day-three… they are actually a very specific group of words that you need to learn by doing (or by watching what the trainer or your mat´s neighbor does during the exercise).

Challenge/shock number two: there are not individual showers in the changing room. Thank God that at least men are separated from women! But even though it is uncomfortable to shower “in public” for the first time, when you are used to individual shower booths.

I have discussed this “culture shock” with some people here in Munich and it seems like it is just me who define this as a shock. For the local ones it is regular practice to have shared showers in the gym and they also advised me that the saunas are also shared spaces by men and women. 

I have learnt the vocabulary now and can follow the fitness group classes in German without much difficulty and I have also got used to the shared showers. When you are a new to a country and culture, you need to adapt to the new circumstances, even if there are obstacles like the language or the habits. After all, as the saying says: adapt or die!

Happy exercising!