One of the first things I did to reclaim my sanity after the big move to site was scout out some viable exercise options in Shymmy, and set myself a (more-or-less) regular fitness schedule. We have all also met great locals and had fun experiences through at our various fitness destinations. Here are some of my favorites:
- The Pool
Shymkent has an amazing outdoor pool at the big public sports complex “Spartak.” A lot of people apparently go in the summer, but I actually like it a lot in wintertime; it is very comfortably heated (even on the coldest of days it feels like bathwater) and much less crowded. Going swimming on a chilly evening and watching the steam rise up from the pool in clouds is incredibly relaxing, as is the gigantic volume of water (it is an Olympic-sized pool with barely anyone in it most times I go). A few of us volunteers go regularly, and I try to make it there about twice a week. Entrance is 300 tenge ($2) per time or 3000 tenge ($20) per month.
[I have swum here in rain, snow, and sun…]
- Hip-Hop Dance
Phillip and I made friends with our hip hop dance instructor Johnnyk and his team, the “Mixed Tape Rokets” [Sic]. They are a Kazakh version of the Jabawokees (from America’s Best Dance Crew, in case you’ve been living under a hole, or in a Central Asian country for longer than I have:P), and full of old-school hip hop flare. We teach him English, and in return he gives us free dance lessons. The age group of his classes is generally considerably younger and more experienced than we are, but Phillip and I have fun being the “slow track” dancers in the group. 😉
[Me decidedly beating Phillip in this jumping contest. :P]
[Kaz-21s + some of the Mixed Tape Roket crew]
- The Ghetto Gym
Another popular exercise option is the inexpensive “Ghetto Gym,” as I like to call it. There are several gyms in the area that are much pricier and offer more facilities, but this one is only 1000 tenge ($6.66) per month. As a result, it is basically a room with a bunch of free weights and machines, with no cardio (save for a jump rope or two). There is also a hilarious body building video with a scary-looking ripped man playing at all times inside the gym (along with loud techno music), and take a look at the drawings on the front door:
Needless to say there are many more men than women at this gym, but there is a small group of us from Women’s Club that go pretty regularly.
- My Apartment
One of my favorite forms of exercise also occurs in my very own house. My host brother and I do yoga every Sunday in our living room, and I’ve also taught him how to use the weight resistance bands, home workout kit, balance ball and DVD Haibo brought me from Gold’s Gym in America (a very recommended purchase, btw, for any PCV or traveler). Aziz is a good source of amusement when we work out, especially when he topples over during tree pose.
I’m so grateful for all of the interesting fitness options in Shymkent, where I can get my weekly doses of cardio, muscle toning, flexibility exercises and stretching. Though I still miss my Boot Camp girls at the D.C. YWCA, I know they’ll be happy to see I’m still trying to stay fit all the way over here, just south of Siberia! 🙂