It’s a Tuesday afternoon here in Madrid, AKA my most productive and potentially my favorite day of the week. Tuesday’s are great because I am done with class at 11:30, so I pretty much have the entire day to myself to explore Madrid, get work done, run errands, and maybe even get a good sweat in. I have 7 hours of class on Monday, so by the time Tuesday rolls around, a free day like this is much needed.
After taking the metro to my apartment post-class, I made a salad and almonds at home before getting ready to go to SQUARE Fitness. Today’s class was called Fusion, which consisted of bodyweight based cardio moves for half the class and the other half using TRX-type hanging resistance bands. Walking to the studio, I was thinking about how great a nap would have been instead, but I felt accomplished by the time we were done working out, and I was proud of myself for taking care of my body.
I know that definitely sounds cliche and glamorous, but I will be the first to admit that it was most definitely not always easy to resist the urge to blow off exercise. It actually took me 2 whole weeks after landing in Madrid to make it to the gym. This was a big shock to me, since last semester I was in a routine of doing fitness-related things and teaching 3 workout classes at Penn State each week. I decided I needed to honor myself and take the time I needed to adjust to living in a new country instead of beating myself up for not finding the nearest trendy fitness studio as soon as I finished unpacking.
I am still not exercising quite as frequently as I’d like to, but I am consistently doing something each week, and I have decided that for the sake of this fast-paced chapter of my life, that is good enough. Whatever progress you have made toward your goals, I hope you choose to celebrate the journey and be proud of exactly where you are right now.
It took me some time to be at peace with this reality, so I’ve prepared some tips below that helped me get in that mindset and make it as easy as possible to work out while studying abroad:
1. Find a workout that makes you feel GOOD
Something that really fires me up is a trendy, boutique fitness studio with a unique workout, so when I came to Madrid it was my mission to find a place that fit these criteria. So far, that place for me has been SQUARE! Their classes are HIIT style, but their different offerings focus on specific muscle groups and utilize different time intervals. As an instructor, I always enjoy seeing how other instructors find creative ways to help their classes have a good sweat. The color-changing lights, multi-level space, and fun music all add to the energizing environment that keeps me coming back.
And for my spinners Spinners & SoulCycle fans out there, I’d totally recommend TopCycle! It is the first boutique cycling studio to open here, and it is the closest thing you can get to Soul without booking a flight to London. The owner was very kind and actually went to college in the US.
And finally, the style last exercise I have enjoyed in my first month here is an outdoor run. First things first… I am not a runner. I actually have only gone outside to run a handful of times. I normally prefer the energy and pace of a group exercise class. But, one day early on the weather was gorgeous and I got home from class about 45 mins before sunset. I rushed to change my clothes the second I got to my apartment so I could get moving before it was dark. For those living in the Cuatros Caminos neighborhood of Madrid, you must check out Parque de Santander. I was blown away by how much I actually enjoyed running on this large track (1 lap is 0.75 miles) with the stunning watercolor sky as my view the whole way.
2. … and a way to make it work for your study abroad budget
Two words: CLASS. PASS. This thing is amazing!!!! It is a service that you can join as a monthly member, and then you have a certain amount of points to try out exercise classes at different studios. Your first month is FREE (a study abroad student’s favorite word), so that is how I’ve gotten the chance to take classes at TopCycle and SQUARE.
And then of course, going for a run or doing your own exercise will not cost a dime, so this is definitely a cost-effective option as well. One night, I felt the urge to just do a short yoga flow in my apartment. As it continues getting nicer out, I also plan on going to the park to do yoga sometimes, too. I am leaning toward doing things like this more often when my free ClassPass month is over.
3.Exercise with friends to hold yourself accountable
Maybe this is just me, but I always prefer working out with a friend. In your first couple of days abroad when you are meeting people, talk to them about the kind of exercise they like doing to see if you can recruit a new gym buddy out of someone you meet! Personally, I’ve been exercising with at least one of my roommates each time, which holds me accountable because I feel like I can’t back out of going to a class or going for a run if we are leaving our apartment at the same time.
4. Prepare your outfit beforehand
If you’re a morning exerciser, put your clothes on your desk before you go to bed, and if you exercise after school or work, lay your clothes on your bed before you leave for the day! Especially on those days when the sun sets at 6:35 and I get home from class at 6, I feel like seeing my outfit offers the extra boost I need to motivate me to actually go instead of backing out after a long day.
5. Have fun with it!
As important as it is to care for your body, try your best to not let scheduling exercise time get to your head. If you are abroad, there is so much more of the world to see than the inside of a gym. For me, this has meant that on weeks when I am traveling Thursday through Sunday, I may only work out once. And that is okay!!! On my recent flight to Amsterdam, I spent some time writing out affirmations such as I am healthy, I am happy, I am energized, I love my body to train my brain in a positive way even when I haven’t made time to physically get moving.
To any Madrileños out there, please send your fitness studio recommendations my way! And for any friends embarking on a study abroad adventures in any other city, I’d love to hear about the studios you discover.