I'm going to be honest with you, the gym situation in China is strange. I've had my fair share of culture shock in the past month, but going to the gym in Shanghai is totally unlike the gym in the US.
We have a small gym located on the first floor of our apartment building. This makes it easy to grab a quick 3 mile run in the morning or to do some simple weight lifting. Most of the time, we stick to this gym because it is convenient and suites most of our needs. But when we are in need of additional equipment or group classes, we head across the street to the Spartan Club. And that ladies and gentlemen, is where things get strange.
Last Monday, I took a pilates class. Despite the card which said the instructor was named Stephanie, she was clearly Chinese and spoke no English. That's not entirely true. She knew the word no and for an hour and a half, said it often while pointing at me. As a side note, no one uses their real names here. People often have an English name and Chinese name. So don't let names fool you into thinking the person is Western, because chances are, they have no idea what name they were given by their employer for Westerners to use when addressing them. Anyhow, back to pilates. Most fitness instructors are not certified in China. Anyone can teach a class, so I wasn't entirely sure what I had signed up for. Thankfully, it was a great class and I got a nice workout. The funny part was that I was the only person in workout clothing. The girl next to me had on a dress and tights. The person to my left wore a long winter coat during the entire class, fur trimmed hood and all. While pilates is by no means a sweaty sport, I was a little surprised to find people in their everyday clothing. But as I walked through the gym, I realized that hardly anyone is dressed in what we would consider to be gym clothing. There was an elderly woman sporting three heavy sweaters and dress pants walking on a treadmill, a girl wearing a jumper and Uggs on the stationary bike, and my personal favorite, a woman decked out in acid washed jeans and high heels taking Zumba.
This trend continued when Matthew and I headed to a cycling class last night. Once again, the instructor spoke little English yet could sing along perfectly to the many Britney Spears songs he played during class. The woman on the bike next to us wore a pair of bib overall snow pants during the entire class. I was a sweaty mess in a t-shirt and bike shorts and cannot fathom how she did not pass out or overheat by the end of the class. Another man had on jeans and a pair of combat looking boots. As if we don't already get enough stares just for being Westerners in a mainly Chinese gym, our workout clothing surely sets us apart.
The other strange thing about the gym is the locker rooms. Clipping your toenails in the sink while completely naked is totally normal here. And while I have no personal knowledge of this, apparently the hand dryers in the men's locker room get a whole lot of use by males drying off their nether regions. Don't worry though, the locker rooms aren't entirely disgusting. There are numerous signs stating that "No Spitting" is allowed.