Exercise tips whilst traveling || Tokyo Japan edition
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Whilst living in Brisbane I had a very consistent & scheduled fitness routine. I would go to work 5-6 days a week 6:30am - 3:30pm ( Okay It was more like 6:45 cus I was always late....ALWAYS...sorry boss!) & then after work I would hit the gym. I would do strength training, weights & a few HIIT sessions per week. I hardly did cardio as my job included lots of it. Now as I find myself on the road, living out of a suitcase I've found it hard to stick to my daily routine.
Sure I'm doing LOTS of cardio; clocking in about 120 "active" minutes & averaging about 15000 steps per day but I feel like it's not enough. I can feel the extra omu rice & FamilyMart treats starting to settle on my hips. Those extra kilos of muscle that I worked so hard to build are starting to deteriorate at a rapid rate.
I'm currently residing in Tokyo, a huge concrete jungle with no gym membership to my name. As I trolled the web one night, in search of a gym that did day passes I found that it was nothing short of a unicorn, or it cost a lot of money. For a budget traveler, this is a big NO for me. So what are our options?
NO GYM REQUIRED
Finding a local park with callisthenic equipment is your best bet. Japan has heaps of awesome parks to enjoy, but if you can't find one with callisthenic equipment don't be disheartened. You can always go for a jog, or get your heart rate up by walking among the amazing grounds. If you're looking for a picturesque park in Tokyo, to be your exercise backdrop then take a look at this guide by Kiyoko from Footsteps of a Dreamer blog.
If you're looking for callisthenics there is a park called Hibiya park located in central Tokyo that has every type of apparatus imaginable. From low bars, high bars, gymnastic rings, benches for training your core as well as running tracks around the park. It is located near the Imperial Palace, so after your workout, you can enjoy a walk around the grounds or maybe even a tour of the palace (remember to reserve a spot for a tour, its free btw!).
In addition to finding a local park with equipment, you can also do home workouts. I personally enjoy pilates workouts as they are body weight focused. Pilates also increases flexibility & core strength. If you are used to doing weights at the gym, incorporate some flat resistance bands into your work out. They are a really great fitness acessory to have whilst on the road. They take up no room what so ever & there are thousands of exercises you can do with them!
There are heaps of resources on youtube, with full workouts available. In addition to pilates, I have also downloaded a 12 week at home exercise plan by Krissy Cela. Again there are heaps of resources online from credible fitness professionals.
Yeah sure, home/bodyweight workouts are great but I felt like I needed some weight lifting back in my life. Now with gym memberships thrown out the window I started looking outside the box. In Australia, there is a place called a PCYC ( Police-citizen youth club) that provides a whole range of sports & recreational programs. Surely in Japan, there would be something similar. I wasn't wrong. If you are looking for a place that has weights, pools & fitness classes look no further than a "sports center" スポーツセンター .
I tried my hand at one close to me in Ikebukoro & it was an enjoyable experience to say the least. Located on the 9th floor it was a small gym that had all the basic equipment. It was nothing compared to my home gym in Brisbane but it was better than nothing. Upon entering I paid a fee of ¥400 ($4.90 AUD) to use the facility for 2 hours; this included the pool area.
I was shown the house rules by a helpful employee. When you boiled the rules of the gym down they pretty much emphasized the fact that you can't be an equipment hog. I assumed this was because during peak times the gym became very full. I, however, went at a slow time ( 11am on a Monday).
After reading the rules I was then ushered into the changing room. Something I still have to get used to in Japan is taking my shoes off everywhere I go. Entering the changing room meant I had to take my shoes off. Using the stretching area also meant I had to take my shoes off.
NB: As I make my way across the country, I have found that many Sports Centers prohibit the use of "outside" shoes in their establishment. It is advised that you bring a pair of clean "inside" shoes with you for your workout or pay a fee to rent some (some places don't have this option so check in advance).
In Australia, you use both with your shoes on. Oh well, it's my problem.
The equipment supplied was satisfactory for my needs, however, I had to adjust every single machine to fit my gigantic proportions. On one particular machine, the lat pulldown I found it ALMOST impossible to complete a rep without the weight touching the other weights on the way up; my extended arm reach is obviously greater than the average Japanese person. I attempted to change the carabiner to a level more suited to me but was immediately stopped by one of the employees. Sheesh, can't an Amazonian woman get a break?
I also found it slightly overbearing that the employees just watched you while you worked out. I assume this was to make sure that no one was being an equipment hog but it made me feel slightly uneasy & pressured me to finish my sets faster than usual, with shorter rest times.
All in all, If you are looking for a place to do free weights or machine weights a sports center is your best bet. I'm not sure what the floor would look like during peak times but I can say that it is probably safest to go during the middle of the day. There are many sports centers located in Tokyo & Japan, with admission prices ranging from ¥400 - ¥800 (some discounts apply if you are a resident or live in that area).There were also cardio machines & a studio where classes were preformed. The facility was clean & had enough equipment to justify my return.