Now don’t worry, I’m not about to write a treatise on the various vaccinations that are recommended for South Korea (when we left the UK, there weren’t any but I believe nowadays they recommend Japanese Encephalitis – especially if you plan on visiting Jeju Island during rainy season). Rather, it was my not-so-clever revamp of what my South African Expat Friends in London would refer to as ‘The Heathrow Injection’ i.e. the phenomenon of moving to a new country (for the Saffas, England, for us, RoK) and putting on weight that proves hard to shift. Speaking to my trainer on Monday (Get me – I have a trainer. If you had known me in my previous London-Life you would be beyond shocked that I regularly and voluntarily work out with a trainer) he said of the foreigners in Korea he trains, about 70% put on weight after arriving here and 30% find they lose weight.
The 30% are usually people who ate unhealthily in their previous country and relied heavily on cars as their means of transport and find that their arrival in Korea means eating better (if you aren’t vegetarian, Korean eating can be surprisingly healthy) and not owning a car means that simply increasing the walking they do means they are a lot more active.
Unfortunately, we fell into the 70% category when we arrived. The world-over, people put on weight in the winter. Comfort eating during the long dark nights and hiding behind lovely big sweaters and jumpers. Now take two Brits turning up in Korea (remember how cold I said it gets?) in January. No Hangul skills and they don’t know anybody. Raj would at least go to work every day – but as we lived a 30 minute walk from the office, he’d either take the shuttle bus or, more often than not, a taxi to avoid the biting cold. Once we discovered the convenience store in the bottom of our building, that was usually the furthest I walked (the occasional walk to Lotte didn’t count) so my activity levels really dropped – London meant at least 2 hours commuting to work each day and walking around the office / meeting friends in the evening etc so even if I didn’t do any actual exercise, I was at least hitting the 10,000 recommended steps daily. So lower activity, coupled with a drink almost every night with dinner and eating ‘winter portions’ of our meals, which were limited in their variety while we were at The Prau didn’t make for the healthiest of starts here.
Once we were settled in our current home, we tried to stick to healthy eating plans and to be each others conscience when it came to eating well but we’re both too soft on each other. So we checked out the gym in our building, which felt expensive (some buildings include use of the gym when you live there, but not ours.) Along with that, we also didn’t really know what we were doing in a gym, don’t enjoy working out and the trainers int the gym didn’t speak enough English for me to be comfortable (all my various aches and pains mean that I need a lot of hand holding when trying to build strength.) I also worried that Raj and I wouldn’t be motivated enough on our own to make use of the gym. So we pottered on with our own attempts without a great deal of success.
Fast Forward to Feb 2017. A bunch of our friends had been seeing a trainer, Bryce, in Incheon who is Australian but lives here and has done for 9 years. Bryce’s training style is mostly mat work with weights in the form of Kettlebells thrown in, focusing on movement, flexibility and strength. Now here was something I could get on board with. Before he moved to Canada, this was my older brother’s training style too and the few sessions I did with him really helped me. I think Raj was a bit more sceptical of it, as he prefers sports – football, hockey etc but he was willing to give it a go (it was either that or put up with my nagging. Easy choice really.)
So we went for our consultation and came away with our targets – primarily strength building for me, and flexibility for Raj and our weekly sessions were booked in. Our exercises in the gym vary between weights, stretches and also just moving more. Once you start to make progress on one target, Bryce will add in others – for both of us, this was weight loss. He helps with diet and nutrition and keeps tabs on activity levels as well. Alongside the weekly sessions in the gym, he also sets homework – two workouts at home a week and daily stretching / walking to increase movement generally. Now I try to be pretty good about doing all my various exercises each week, but he understands that people who are working might not always do this, so he works them a bit harder when they are in the gym instead.
6 months later, I definitely see and feel the difference. My most recent pain issues have all but gone and although the back still plays up from time to time, Bryce works with me and my limitations so that I’m always taking two steps forward, even when I take one step back. The accountability and motivation he provides means that I now have the strength of a normal 30-something adult and Raj is beating his personal bests every week. The weight loss isn’t instant but my sister-in-law (yes, my brother and his wife are both disgustingly fit trainers – Keeping up with the Raghuveers is not an option) always promotes ‘strong not skinny’ and she has always said that when you train for strength, your shape does change and she is right. Apparently men lose weight more easily than women (obviously. I mean, why should women get a break when it comes to our bodies right?) but we are getting there.
The studio (which is also a Yoga Studio) used to be in Songdo but they needed a bigger space, so are now in Incheon, near the Lotte Department Store/ in between Incheon Bus Terminal and Arts Centre stations on the subway. It takes about 20 minutes to drive to, traffic permitting and there are two reserved parking spaces for the gym round the back, that are available on a first come first serve basis. Bryce always says his website needs work but you can check out the gym on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/powerbalanceyoga/
One of my favourite things about coming to Korea and being a housewife? The opportunity to get fit, healthy and strong!