In countries that had foods, cultures, and accents different than my own, I found comfort in a place that, turns out is fairly universal.
The gym has been a haven during my college years. My gym going has gotten to the point that I don’t feel 100% myself if I miss too many workouts in a row.
Over the summer, I participated in a study abroad—seven weeks in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, England, and Scotland. Dreamy, right? But one of the first things that crossed my mind was, How was I going to do my daily workout while abroad?
I knew that bodyweight workouts (pushups, sit-ups, squats) would be a good option anywhere in the world, but I worried that I would lose the strength I’d gained over the past couple of years if I could do only cardio and calisthenic exercises. I resolved to find a gym at every chance I had. There weren’t many opportunities, but I was able to experience a few different gyms while abroad.
The gyms I went to overseas had fewer square feet than most gyms in America, but they had everything I needed to get a great workout. Smaller gyms had squat racks, one or two deadlifting stations, a few benches, cable machines, cardio machines, and small turf areas for stretching and calisthenics. A bigger gym in London added fun stuff to all those basics: smith machines, leg presses, bench press stations, and hack squats. In both cases, it was nice to be surrounded by familiar things, even though they were labeled with “kg” instead of “lbs.”
As familiar as all my UK gym experiences were, I wished that I had brought a towel with me. I realized after a few sweat sessions that it would have been more considerate of me to bring something to wipe myself—and the equipment I used—off with (and I would have fit in more with the locals). Even though that aspect of my workout was a little different than back home, I was glad to know that I could find a gym anywhere I went (hurray for Google maps and user reviews) and that the people at those gyms would interact similarly to those back home: regardless of everyone wearing headphones, the pointing and raised eyebrows to ask if a piece of equipment was occupied was the same, as was waiting patiently for a machine or asking to work in between someone’s sets.
In countries that had foods, cultures, and accents different than my own, I found comfort in a place that, turns out is fairly universal. Gym etiquette is pretty much the same in the UK as the US (except for smiling at strangers—that doesn’t seem to happen anywhere but America), and the work and results are the same no matter where I am. I’m glad I kept the gains and got to connect with other cultures. After all, we’re not so different, are we?