A person can easily exercise in Kyiv. There are many gyms (cross fit, yoga, boxing, all sorts of sports clubs). Kyiv has tons of parks for walking and running. Bicycling is also common, as I know some people at the Embassy who bike year round and see couriers bike around the city all the time. In addition, there is always the option of streaming workouts for days when a person does not feel like leaving the house (during winter, for example).
Prior to moving to Kyiv, I worked out almost every day for three and a half years. I varied my workouts- from online workouts to running to yoga. Since moving to Kyiv I have worked out nearly every day by streaming workouts at home. Although I love my at home workouts, I really missed practicing yoga. I was hesitant to join a yoga studio here due to the fact that I am not fluent in Ukrainian or Russian. So, I did workouts at home, wishing I could attend in person yoga classes as well.
A couple of weekends ago, after being fed up with the crowdedness of his gym, my husband asked me to come with him to check out another gym in our neighborhood. It was very nice, and reminded me of a posh boutique gym in the United States. The facilities were top notch and they had an impressive selection of group classes, including yoga. It was also as expensive as a nice gym back home; however there was an 8% discount that weekend for paying a year membership in advance. On top of this discount, the front desk manager threw in 8 free personal training lessons and 8 massages if we paid a year in advance. My husband and I are both suckers for a good deal, so we joined the gym.
The language barrier was still a concern for me. My first test of the language barrier was the treadmill. Our first day, on a high of joining a new gym, My husband and I worked out. Since there were no group exercise classes at the time we arrived for our workout, I chose to run on the treadmill. For some reason it did not occur to me that the words on the buttons and instructions on the treadmill would be in a language other than English. Which, in retrospect it makes sense for the words to be in the local language, but I was not mentally prepared for that. The distance was calculated in kilometers instead of miles, which also made it a challenge for me to figure out the appropriate speed to set the treadmill.
I had no choice but to roll with it, and estimated the speed as best as I could. I had a great time working out- mostly due to the fact that I jammed out to some groovy tunes during my 25 minute treadmill session. I took it nice and easy with a 5 minute warmup, 15 minute run, and 5 minute cool down. I proceeded to do some stretching for another 5-10 minutes after that. Not bad, considering I had not run prior to this in close to 4 years!
The next day was another language test: a Pilates mat class. The class was not in English (although she did say “tabletop” at one point). On top of the language challenge was the fact that I had not taken a Pilates class prior to that class. Surprisingly I did just as well as the other students in the class! The instructor corrected my form a couple of times, but I felt comfortable doing all the Pilates moves. I attribute this to the fact that I am a visual learner and have a background in yoga.
Three days after I joined the gym I went to my long-awaited yoga class. It was all in Russian, which made it difficult to know what the instructor was saying, but I did my best to mimic her movements. The majority of the moves were different from yoga classes I had taken in the United States, but it was a good class nonetheless. After the class, the instructor asked me if I spoke English, and I said yes. She said she wished she would have known- she would have taught the class partially in English!!
My advice to those who are hesitant to join a gym in a country where they don’t know the language- do it!! Yes, there are challenges, but exercise is important to one’s physical, emotional, and mental health. If joining a gym means that you will be motivated to move your body, don’t let the language barrier stop you.