cheap gyms in Paris?
August 3, 2009 1:32 PM   Subscribe

How can I stay physically fit while traveling through Europe?

Call me Mr. Vain.

I'm taking a three-week vacation to France, and as enthused as I am about the adventure, I'm really not looking forward to abandoning my weight-training regime. I know this sounds like a prissy American demand, but exercise--and especially strength training--has become a key foundation for my mental health. I'm not a muscle-head, and I'm far from a jock, but I do rely on exercise to maintain a sort of emotional calm. It's been the most effective form of therapy I've ever encountered, and for years, lifting weights has helped me keep stress and depression at bay. I fear that three weeks away from the routine might be enough to not only leave me flabby and soft, but also a little emotionally deflated.

So I'm wondering if there might be a way for me to affordably work out--even just one or two days a week--while I'm staying with friends in Paris.

A few years ago, I lived in a small city in the South of France for 8 months, and I managed to find a very bare-bones gym there that allowed me to pay month-to-month, in cash. It was perfect. Far from fancy, but my needs are very, very minimal.

Might there be something similar in Paris? A quick google search has yielded extremely expensive, posh gyms that offer outrageously fees for day-passes. Anyone know of any hole-in-the-wall weight rooms that might be cheaper?

Also, in lieu of finding a gym, can anyone recommend some effective bedroom exercises--beyond push-ups and sit-ups--that might get me through my trip? A similar question asked a year ago suggested resistance bands.

What do you think?
posted by sureshot to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can't help you with the weight training part of it, unfortunately. But I've traveled to Europe a number of times, and as a general rule for staying in shape, try walking everywhere you go. European cities tend to be very walkable, and if you're doing even a moderate amount of touristing you've got the opportunity to walk for miles every day. Of course, you could take a cab or the metro or whatever happens to be available. But if you consciously decide to always walk everywhere unless you really, really can't, staying in shape isn't too hard. It also lets you clear the head (which sounds like it's an important part of exercise for you), and has the added benefit that you get to really see the place you've traveled to. I'm sure other people will suggest gyms or exercises that will more directly answer your question, but definitely consider the walking thing.
posted by captainawesome at 1:43 PM on August 3, 2009

Water-filled barbells like this plus cycling with VeLib (maybe not easily/cheaply available to you as someone who doesn't have French banking details - talk to your friends?). You could also buy a bike pretty cheaply and sell it when you leave, perhaps. Rollerblading is also pretty popular over there - check out Pari-Roller, which goes on 30km Friday night rides!
posted by mdonley at 1:44 PM on August 3, 2009

Seconding the idea of walking everywhere. Just make sure you have good shoes and protect yourself from blisters.
posted by theichibun at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2009

Seconding the Mike Rowe "Prison Workout". On a recent two-week trip to Spain, I did some of that (well, except I only waited 30 seconds between rounds), and also Tabata intervals of squats, push-ups, and v-ups. Easy to do in a small space, plenty hard work, and made me feel better about the tremendous amounts of (off-diet) food I was eating.

I think you're going to have a harder time if you insist on weight training unless you're willing to make do with some of mdonley's suggestions, or throw the furniture around, or something.
posted by The Tensor at 1:57 PM on August 3, 2009

Resistance bands are a pretty popular choice for working out on the move. Versatile, can be used in the privacy of your own room and pack up to nothing.
posted by fire&wings at 2:09 PM on August 3, 2009

As you will be on holiday can we assume you will be in fairly touristy areas? Many big hotels will have functional gyms and a lot of them will happily let you use the facilites on a one off basis for a fixed fee *even if you are not staying there*. I live in a tourist town in the UK myself and am a full member of a gym in a hotel, they charge (IIRC) £5 a visit for non-members/non-residents to use the gym, more if you also want access to the pool/sauna. Check out the hotel chains near where you will be visiting ahead of your trip and see whether they offer similar deals before you go.

Chains and independent gyms may also exist and you may be able to find them only before you go, the same applies to public sports centres, some of which may come with both gyms and pools.

Here is an article in the NYT which suggests that though gyms may not be as common on Paris as elsewhere there are some and makes some suggestions.

Perhaps try a search in google maps?
posted by biffa at 2:11 PM on August 3, 2009

In Paris you could go an join one of the many dance classes that take place on the banks of the Seinne.
posted by rongorongo at 2:26 PM on August 3, 2009

cycling with VeLib (maybe not easily/cheaply available to you as someone who doesn't have French banking details - talk to your friends?)

Not a problem at all - you can buy a Velib code from any of the Velib stations, using a credit card, and it's dirt cheap if you remember to return it to a station as soon as you stop using it, free for the first half-hour. (Or you can do it on a Navigo pass, which you can buy in Metro/RER stations, also painlessly.)

Also not weights, but Paris has great public swimming pools, if you swim, which would at least give you an all-over workout if you're not finding anything better. Here is a list of them which I can't find in English, but it includes the addresses for them all.
posted by carbide at 2:29 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I also take swimsuits and goggles for my traveling workouts. I didn't have much luck in Paris, but have found great places in Copenhagen and Frankfurt among others. I've found most of the pools here.
posted by kcm at 2:57 PM on August 3, 2009

Most American credit cards will NOT work with the Vélib' bikes. The stations generally require French credit cards, which have integrated microchips. The major exception is American Express cards, which do work.

But the OP asked about weight training, not aerobic fitness. (The Vélib's weigh about 50 lbs., so lifting them could provide a workout....) What you want is a "salle de musculation" or "club de musculation." Club Med Gym provides short-term memberships but they ain't cheap (190 Euros for a month or 26 Euros for a day pass). They claim to have 26 locations in Paris. I'm not aware of any equivalent to the YMCA. Another club with several locations is Vit'Halles but their website doesn't make it easy to find prices.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:59 PM on August 3, 2009

I second the Tensor's suggestion of Tabata intervals. Since you're going to have a tough time finding a place to do weight training in which you max out the amount of weight lifted, try doing workouts that focus on intensity instead and full-body exercises. For example, check out the sample workouts here - especially the "interval challenge" workout, which I can vouch for as being one of the most difficult I've ever done. And hell, this guy makes do with a couple of bottles of bleach.
posted by googly at 3:14 PM on August 3, 2009

I don't know exactly what you need for your training, but you could always visit GO Sport (they are everywhere in Paris) and buy a minimal set of equipment to fit your workout. It's a huge sporting goods store with reasonable prices (well, reasonable for Paris). It will probably cost less than a single day at one of the gyms you mentioned.
posted by helios at 4:47 PM on August 3, 2009

Silly title, but quite good (or so I'm told by some pretty ripped people) - you might enjoy The Naked Warrior.

Short answer: Pushups, burpees, squats, running.
posted by phrontist at 6:25 PM on August 3, 2009

Seconding helios' recommendation. I had an extremely fit friend come to stay with us for a few weeks in central Japan and on her first day she requested we visit a similar store. She purchased weights of a few different styles and even found some resistance "toys" that she had never seen before to try out. Every morning she was able to do her work outs and then motivate me to go for a walk, and when she left, she showed me how to do some exercises I am still doing and left me everything she'd bought as a hostess gift, which I truly appreciated.
posted by squasha at 6:36 PM on August 3, 2009

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