Gettin’ ripped in Korea
Upon arriving in Seoul and exploring the neighborhood, one of the first things I noticed as being a distinctively Korean was the exercise equipment. While my co-worker showed me the neighborhood, we came to a running path tracing the river by my apartment. Alongside the path were these “stations” of workout equipment. This “Korean oddity” stood out quite a bit initially, and three months later it still seems as common in Korea as it is uncommon in the States. I think it deserves a post of its own.
A friend mentioned them on his visit this summer, describing them as glorified playground equipment. He’s not far off. These machines typically exercise various parts of the body by having some sort of wheel or swinging mechanism that you move back and forth with your arms, legs, abs, etc. You’ll also often find more traditional and simple equipment, such as pull-up bars, incline sit-up boards, and dip bars. They even have a bench press with an irremovable 35k barbell. I often find middle-aged men and women taking a break from their hiking or power-walking to man the big steering wheel and work their shoulders and triceps, or an elderly couple twisting back and forth on the dual ab-workout wheels.
These “stations” are also every where. Everywhere. On the aforementioned path, you’ll find stations with a varying amount of machines once every quarter-mile or so. It’s not just the paths, either. Every neighborhood park has a few machines, and every large city block has a park or two. It gets even better. I spotted a small station with pull-up bars and an ab-workout on the way up Mt. Yongmasan, then halfway up the mountain found a tent with a full-out weight room with numerous machines and free weights. The regulars here were clearly a bit more dedicated. Off to the side of the “weight tent” there was an area with a bunch of hula-hoops of varying sizes, from a 4-ft wide one you may recognize to a monstrous one almost twice that large. It seems hooping holds much more recognition as an exercise here than it does in the states. At the peak of the same mountain there is another exercise station. This one mainly has weightless work-outs and hoops. I’ve visited it at sunrise, early afternoon, and sundown, and it has yet to be empty.
I considered making a habit of exercising there during the week. I can’t think of many things more macho than saying “I just climbed to the top of a mountain then pumped iron and worked my abs before coming down.” However, seeing as I can barely motivate myself to run in this weather, I think I’ll save that for the warmer months. For now, I recently got a membership to a gym in my neighborhood, and tomorrow morning will be my inaugural weight-lifting session. Get ready Korea, because I’m gonna be jacked.