Ellen Esterhay Photograph


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So what's funny about going to the gym in China….

October 20, 2012   

The concept of a gym is relatively new to China. It's more of a western concept. The Chinese do exercise, but it is not quite like the American version. To give you a hint, a common way of saying goodbye to people in Beijing is literally translated as "walk slow." From my observations, many Chinese people take this literally. They did invent tai chi, after all! A friend told me that one time, after she got off a treadmill at the gym, an elderly Chinese woman came up to her and worriedly told her that she shouldn't be sweating so much, because it wasn't good for her health.

In summer, I joined a gym close to campus called Bally Fitness. The first time I went,  I was immediately struck by the pace of people at this gym. For the most part, it is just so much slower! There are exceptions to this, but not many. And there are a few fairly strong people in the weight section, but hardly ANY girls EVER lift weights. Seeing a Chinese girl at the weight machines is not too uncommon, but in the actual free weights section? Never, ever. Ever.

Which is why, when I ventured over to the free weights section today for the first time in a long time, it was a hilarious experience. The Chinese guys there literally did not know how to act towards me while I went through some of my old Hamilton lacrosse lifting routines. Two of them avoided looking at me, but stared when they thought I wasn't looking. Best of all, when one of the trainers that I know looked up and saw me, I got a surprised laugh and a " Bu cuo (not bad)! "