French Food or French Fit? Where to Exercise in Paris
As you may have guessed, the pastry possibilities in Paris are endless. Throw that on top of living with a French gourmet chef and you’ve got yourself a dream diet…and a dangerous one. I decided day one in Paris that I wasn’t going to hold back as far as the French cuisine was concerned.
Instead, I would search for the French secret to staying fit (everyone here is model status), and try to get plenty of exercise along the way. This last step, however, is easier said then done, especially when you’re balancing schoolwork, touring and traveling on a budget. After three months of research and experimentation, here’s what I’ve found regarding French fitness.
I decided day one in Paris that I wasn’t going to hold back as far as the French cuisine was concerned.
Contrary to popular opinion, gyms do exist in Paris. However, I recommend this option only if you can commit to working out regularly and are visiting Paris during the winter months. Gym memberships can get pretty pricy, but most offer a free trial. This way you can see what you think before emptying your wallet, and you get in a free workout!
As far as free workouts go, nothing beats going for a jog or walk in a Parisian garden. While running on the streets or sidewalks isn’t commonplace in most neighborhoods in Paris, the gardens and parks are always packed with runners. Some hotspots include: Champs de Mars (the lawn of the Eiffel Tower), Jardin des Plantes, the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuilleries Gardens. There are also sidewalks along the Seine River that would make for a nice afternoon jog. It’s definitely easier to push through a run when you’re looking out at the river, or headed straight toward the Eiffel Tower. Get your sightseeing and exercising accomplished all in one!
The yoga craze is in full swing here in Paris. Just googling “yoga” will provide you with a ton of promising options. Like the studios at home, most places offer 10 or 20-class packs at a discounted rate. One of the studios I’ve been to, Rasa Yoga (5th arrondissement), offers at least one class a day taught in English. However, if you’re a practiced yogi, you don’t have to worry about finding an English class, as Sanskrit is a language of its own!
It’s definitely easier to push through a run when you’re looking out at the river, or headed straight toward the Eiffel Tower. Get your sightseeing and exercising accomplished all in one!
A word of advice if you’re interested in trying out a yoga class in Paris: the levels and styles don’t necessarily match up with those of your studio at home. I recommend starting out with a beginner class and working your way up. That way, you won’t risk finding yourself way in over your head like I did (literally, way too many headstands for me).
Dance has been a part of my weekly routine and one of my main forms of exercise since I was about five years old. It’s no surprise that I started to crave a good dance class after about a few weeks in Paris. Luckily, this was not hard to find. Studio Harmonic, located in the Bastille Area, offers classes in every style and level imaginable. So far, I’ve taken street jazz, jazz hip-hop, and jazz funk, and I’m planning on trying out urban salsa and Michael Jackson as well!
Got to master the moonwalk! Not a dancer? No problem! They offer many beginner classes, and each class starts off new so you won’t be behind on any choreography. Dance is a great form of exercise no matter what your level, especially when the studio feels like a sauna. Important realization: workout attire doesn’t seem to be à la mode in Paris. Walking into my first hip-hop class was like flipping through Vogue’s center spread. That’s right, skinny jeans, lace-up boots, scarves, the works…all without breaking a sweat!
Bikes are considered a popular form of transportation, but they can also be a great form of exercise. “Velib” is a bike rental company in Paris that has stations in every neighborhood. You can check out a bike for just a few Euros and return it to any Velib station in the city later that day. This is another great way to enjoy the city and its sites while working off that nutella crêpe you just inhaled.
This last option is a little less obvious, but very easy to accomplish. If you choose to ride the Metro when travelling around Paris, you’ll encounter endless flights of stairs. Opt to take the stairs instead of the escalator, and I guarantee you’ll start to feel the burn!
Well, there you have it, my latest advice on exercising while abroad in Paris. Not only have these activities allowed me to eat my way through Europe with a little less guilt, but they’ve also proved to be positive cultural experiences. So here’s to lots of desserts, lots of sweating, and lots of fun, no matter what type of workout you choose!