When thinking of Paris, it’s likely that any conjured images will revolve around food. Cheese, pastries, baguettes stuffed full of sliced animal, pools of rich cream. In essence, food so laden with calories, it’s a wonder that you can actually walk at all after eating it. So you’d think that keeping fit and getting the better of those evil calories would be a Parisian obsession. But no. Think of a typical inhabitant of the city of light, and I can almost guarantee that there’s no sweat-sodden lycra involved (except for two weeks around Tour de France time of year when anyone who’s anyone coats themselves in the stuff and hops on a racing bike). The French paradox takes care of any weight gain that the local diet seems to threaten, and they all remain unfairly slender.
For those of us who don’t seem to repel calories like the French, and need to put in the hard yards to keep them at bay, the gym is of course an obvious prospect, though you’ll need to commit a fair few of your hard-earned euros to the cause. The thought of going to the gym makes me break out into a sweat (but not the good, kilo-burning kind), so here’s few ideas of how to keep your wallet, rather than your body, fat in this fair city of ours.
Arguably the cheapest sport of all. All you need are a pair of decent trainers (head to Decathlon or Go Sport for a very reasonably-priced selection) and your own personal running track. If you live near one of the city’s many parks, all the better, but Paris’ wide boulevards mean you’ll always have a relatively clear path. The real danger is avoiding the dog poo. But hey, that just helps to improve your coordination at the same time.
At this time of year there really is no excuse. Paris was voted last year the 13th most cycle-friendly city in the world, and there are bike paths and cycle lanes galore. If you don’t have a bike of your very own, then the city has kindly supplied you with one in the form of the velib. Riding up a hill on one of those weighty beasts is probably the best thigh-toning exercise ever invented. A year’s subscription is 29 euros and the first half and hour is free!
Paris. City of love. City of light. Hardly – city of stairs if we’re going to be brutally honest. Whether you’re trying to surface from the metro, make it up seven flights of a lift-less building to your apartment or take in the sights of Montmartre, if you’re after leg and bottom sculpting activity, then Paris is your best friend. I worked out the other day (when I wasn’t thinking of vegetables), I probably climb between 300 and 500 stairs a day, without even trying. Sweatband and Rocky soundtrack playing in your head whilst you’re doing it are of course optional.
Petanque in the park might not burn the calories, but in many of the city’s parks, there is municipal, free equipment provided for a variety of sports including basketball, table tennis and weights frames. The early bird, of course, catches the worm (though he probably shouldn’t eat it if he wants to keep his figure).
Flaneur-ing (that’s the Parisian art of strolling for those not in the know) might not get you out of breath, but do it for long enough and you’ll cover a few kilometres without even realising it. In a city as small and as beautiful as Paris, there really is no excuse for not pounding the pavements and bathing in all of its glory. What, you actually like the smell of the metro?? For some real green indulgence, head to the two book-end woods on the edges of Paris (Boulogne and Vincennes) and explore, or follow the Seine as far as your legs will carry you right out into the leafy suburbs.
Gyms, yoga classes and other assorted specialised exercise/sport classes can easily swallow cash, glamorous as they are. But don’t overlook the old school option and head to one of Paris’ 38 municipal swimming pools. A 3-month pass (for as many visits as you like) costs 37 euros for an adult. The only downside is that you’ll be forced to wear one of those blood-vessel-flattening rubber swimming caps. No pain, no gain, right?
We’re all on a health kick these days, aren’t we? So let’s hook up and get all sweaty together whilst secretly comparing our non-existent abs. I’m not a member of a sports team myself (so you’ll never see mine), but I know of a few friends and acquaintances that have joined various sports team in the city whether through their work or through the ex-pat community. Keep your eyes to the ground and it’s highly likely you’ll find something out there.
So there you have it. With summer fast approaching and the rain finally leaving us alone, there’s no excuse not to don the gym shorts and hit the road. Enjoy!