Belgian Gains: Staying Fit Abroad

A combination of factors have allowed me to remain a consistent gym-goer for the past eleven and a half years, not least of which include a desire to stay healthy as well as some leftover boyhood ego that convinces me to want to stay “jacked” all of the time. However, the main reason I think most of us remain dedicated to the gym over a long period of time is simply the development of habit. At some point, it begins to feel wrong not to go and that’s when you know you’re a fitness buff for life!

But when we break well out of our standard schedule, for example when we pick up and leave our country to go travel elsewhere, it makes it very easy to break out of some of our homespun habits as well, including those that are fitness related. I’ll never stop working out here in Canada; it’s part of my overall routine. But when I travel, I really have to go out of my way to even make it inside of a fitness centre. Bruges was the only city on my recent European excursion where Teresa and I managed to locate, return to, and actually utilize a gym.

As I mentioned previously, we stayed in a hostel called St. Christopher’s Inn. When we travel, we try to explore every nook and cranny around our accommodation and beyond. About a ten minute walk from St. Christopher’s, towards the northeast of the circumferential moat that holds the old city within, we managed to find a fitness centre and it only cost six euros for a daily drop-in.

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An unusual fitness facility from the outside

I never would have noticed the place if it weren’t for the large sign in the street pointing us towards Continental Gym. The building itself looks nothing like any gym I’ve ever seen (although most of the buildings in Europe don’t look like their North American equivalents; if only schools and offices were as rustic over here).

Upon entering, I was a little surprised to see how extensive the facility was. The weight-training equipment was fairly up-to-date and the free weights exceeded my expectations. This was the third gym in Europe that Teresa and I had scoped out so far, the first two being in Amsterdam. The first one we looked at, the free weights maxed out at about fifty to fifty-five pounds. The older gentleman who owned the place insisted I’d hurt myself if I tried to lift anything heavier, laughing at me for even asking what was available and quoting a whopping fifteen euros for one visit. I suppose we all maintain various outlooks when it comes to fitness goals.

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View from inside Continental Gym

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Large bag of protein powder for sale

Continental Gym had dumbbells up to at least one hundred twenty pounds (if my kilo to pound conversion serves me well) which is plenty for the majority of fitness enthusiasts. With Teresa by my side, who’s been frequenting Good Life Fitness with me on a regular basis since December, we took on a solid hour and a half workout. She trained her legs, I worked on my chest and arms. Perhaps because we were away on “vacation” it felt extra productive to be in there, crushing the weights between exploring cobblestoned streets and romantic canals.

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Being the type of travellers we are, it’s next to impossible to work out on a regular basis while backpacking. Despite our high levels of energy, our time spent abroad is too precious to be exuded on weight training. As much as we manage to see, there is always plenty more that we manage to miss. Considering we’re always on the move, I believe that our style of travel keeps us active enough to exempt us (at least at this youthful stage in our lives) from seeking out a gym every couple of days and smashing through the weights. Perhaps a more drawn out adventure would have us seeking out fitness facilities more often. But with only three weeks to spare in four countries in Europe, our only real down time was late in the evenings after an entire day of being out and about, exploring, hiking, visiting, dining, and so forth.

If you can make it to a gym like Continental in Bruges, more power to you. But unless your business revolves around the fitness industry, don’t feel bad for giving yourself a decent break from this constructive at-home habit…just make sure you get right back into it when you return!

25 thoughts on “Belgian Gains: Staying Fit Abroad

  1. You beast! How tall, weight and fat percentage you got 😀
    I am myself member of McFit, the largest gym gym group in Europe with gyms in nearly every country and especially in Germany in pretty much every town.
    The first gym was pretty funny with those low weights!
    Now that I am in China and have only limited time and opportunities to do sport I feel always kind of bad. Due to that I try to walk as much as possible here with at least 15-20k steps a day just to have some little energy outlet.
    I started with gym training in autumn 2014 again after being away from sports for four years, before that I was a professional swimmer with 21 training sessions a week. I guess you can imagine how quickly I got out of shape once I stopped and partly continued my eating regime.
    Now here in China I do some small workouts with my own body weight, a lot of burpees and and and but in the end I know it will be a terrible pain to get started next month in the gym again!

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    • 15k-20k steps a day is incredible! Most people don’t get that in, I imagine. I envy those involved in sports, I played soccer for 15 years, now don’t have much time for that. Wanna start getting into some bball pickup games this summer. I’m 5’11, normally weigh low 170s but got up to 181 after this trip (stomach fat :S)

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      • I am myself 6’11 and I autumn 2014 my weight was around 160 (did tons of bicycling, running and calisthenics). Now I pushed myself to 200lb a month ago with gym and trying to get just mass again. Well. I got mass vey easy as I love to eat bad food and enjoy some evening beers but now after this trip I plan to get down to 180-185 again as I prefer to be lean without having some annoying wobbly stuff around (plus I want to wear my old clothes again, had to buy too many new trousers and shirts the past year).
        For this summer I hope to be able to bicycle at Least twice a week again for few hours on me racing machine and get back into swimming a few times

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good on you for getting into the gym with so many exciting distractions! I have tried to drop in at gyms here and there while traveling but it’s tough . So, on my last trip I sacrificed space in my pack and brought a set of TRX straps. They worked really well and were easy to set up almost anywhere. It was nice to get small workouts in here and there.

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  3. I was curious if you both worked out regularly while you travel- you guys always look great! I find it super difficult to maintain my fitness routine while abroad, and usually just indulge on all the great food I find (i.e. I ate lots of pastries every single day in Italy- it was awesome). Also, hiking on my travels brings a good level of fitness activity into my trips. Like Briab, I’ll try to bring resistance bands on future trips, or do more body weight exercises.

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  4. Depending where you are traveling, sometimes the adventures are a great workout if it involves rock scrambling and steep climbs. I was amazed at how much upper body workout we get on some hikes that involve a lot of scrambling. Since we live a life of vacation, I carry my gym with me…an exercise ball, three sets of free weights, and ankle weights. I use rainy days as my strength days:) We also carry our bikes for an exercise change when we aren’t on the trail:) You both look amazing!

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  5. I so agree with you – visiting gyms in other countries would be fun if if you have the time. But the main thing is to get back into your routine when you get home, which is what I am doing now!

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