Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Multisport training in Asia

It's hard to believe that over a month has past since I returned from a two week trip to China, Korea, and Japan, but time does indeed fly. I've been meaning to write a few words about this trip and my reflections on the different countries and their training culture, but it hasn't been until today that I've managed to find the time. Nonetheless here's a quick summary.

I started my trip in the relatively new (30 year old) city of Shenzhen, which is at the southern tip of China, just north of Hong Kong. I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel which is a beautiful facility with huge rooms, a big outdoor pool, a full gym and spa, and even a full 25 m swimming pool.  Here I had the opportunity to use the gym, but also to run outdoors and even to swim one day in the pool.
After an early (and sweaty!) run in Shenzhen

Running gave me the opportunity to see the city a bit more close up and Shenzhen is truly a great place. There are lots of green areas and on my two morning jogs I encountered a lot of locals out practicing Tai Chi, or using one of the many outdoor gyms that are strategically placed near all of the children's playgrounds. (I guess the kids play and the adults work out.) The only downside of Shenzhen is the humidity, which can be oppressive at times. If you are going to run, you definitely have to get up early to beat the heat.

Fact or tip about China
Swimming caps are mandatory in China. Don't buy one at the hotel gym--they want like 300 RMB for one. Just find a local street market that sells touristy stuff and buy one for 30 RMB.

My trip continued in Seoul where I stayed in the Gangnam neighborhood, made popular by last year's pop hit. I stayed at the Imperial Palace Hotel, which like the Intercontinental had a full gym and spa, although lacked a pool big enough for swimming laps. The Imperial Palace's gym is actually a local gym located in the hotel, and they had a complete weight room, a fitness court, two banks of treadmills and stationary bikes, as well as a lot of stretching equipment that I have to admit I'd never really seen prior.

Koreans obviously take exercise seriously and here you can see people out running, walking and cycling at all hours of the day. The Han River runs through the entire city and there is a recreational area on the banks of the river that extends for over 40 km. You can rent bicycles for $2.50 USD/hr at a number of stations or you can do like me and my coworker who ended up walking over 16 km on the first Sunday we were there. (I recommend the bike, by the way.)

Fact or tip about Korea
The hotel gym at the Imperial Palace Hotel has an ominous sign at the check in desk which says "We reserve the right to refuse service to guests with tattoos." I guess body art is not appreciated in Korea.

The final leg of my trip was in Tokyo and here I was put up at the Keio Plaza Hotel. Nice hotel but the gym was really just a little room with almost no equipment, so I found myself happy that I had remembered to pack my Casall Exetube which also works in a pinch to turn a hotel room into a gym. I also had a morning run on the streets of Tokyo and managed to find my way into a private park where I was promptly chased down by a security guard who explained to me (via pleasant hand gestures) that I was not welcome to run there.

Fact or tip about Japan
Running is a bit difficult in Japan since the streets are really crowded. That said, the real rush doesn't happen until sometime after 9 AM, so if you are an early riser you can get in a pretty uninterrupted run without irritating the locals.

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