Exercising in Kaohsiung

Since I’ve been in Taiwan I’ve only been jogging twice.  Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan so while there are nice jogging paths, large roads and lots of cars and scooters are also right next to you.  Both times I returned feeling slightly dizzy and like my lungs were full of exhaust.  Ugh.  Not to mention that it’s much harder to jog when I do it so infrequently.  Each run felt like I was running for the first time!

I normally never make good use of a gym membership, but now seemed to be the best time to get one (for the sake of my lungs).  And there is a really nice one conveniently located right across the street from our apartment so we signed up last week. :) While Mike likes to use the gym for the free weights, I like going for the exercise classes.  The problem is my inability to understand most of what is said to me in Mandarin.

My first class was a yoga class. I walked in and surveyed the room – lots of mats were already on the floor and some were clearly claimed w/ towels laying on them or people standing near them.  I saw a few “free” mats so I picked one in the back of the classroom.  I noticed people getting spray bottles and small towels from the side of the class and using those to wipe down their mats.  I copied them.  I was feeling proud of myself for picking up on the ways of the class when a lady tapped me on the shoulder, frowned, and said in Mandarin that I had her mat.  Oops.  Flustered I said “thank you” instead of “sorry” in Mandarin and quickly grabbed a new mat and started the procedure again.

When I first started yoga, it was already difficult for me to follow even in English because of all the different names for poses that I was unfamiliar with.  So having a yoga class led in Mandarin actually wasn’t too different.  I was constantly looking around at others to see what was going on, which is really hard to do in any of the downward poses!  Mike said he stopped by to watch me through the window of the class for a few minutes and said that I was always behind or doing the wrong move at the wrong time.  I said that’s pretty much what I look like in an English-speaking class as well!

Today I tried a step aerobics class.  For this one, I think knowing the language could have made a difference.  Once I would understand a move, the instructor would say something else and everyone would switch to something different.  Again, I was always behind and this time most often on the wrong foot as well.  I felt better when I noticed a few others also on the wrong foot, until I realized that they were behind me and perhaps trying to follow me.  Sorry!  Many times I would have to just stop and watch for a while before I understood the footwork at all – then the instructor would move on by the time I got it.  Hmmm…actually, it would probably be the same if it were in English.  :)

I’m excited about the classes though.  I hope they will help get me in shape!  At one point in the step aerobics class everyone grabbed a weight off the wall.  I watched what most of the other women were taking and took a similar-sized weight with both hands – it seemed reasonable.  It turned out that most of the time we used the weight with just one hand though, and all the women were actually much stronger than me.  Ouch.

In yoga and step-aerobics at least my mistakes are limited to my own mat or step.  I think it will be a while before I venture out to a Zumba class, where I could cause some real damage to others!



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