by Alison Benney
Nothing like a sunny weekend to remind us that beach weather is around the corner. It’s time to get serious about slogging/melting off winter weight and prepping for that bikini or speedo. Tired of the same old fitness program? Try something new. These days, Paris has plenty of exercise programs to choose from. You may not find cutting-edge classes like Indoboarding or Tread N’ Shed, but you can choose from a number of studios to practice still-trendy Pilates, Bikram yoga, Swedish gym and more recently, Zumba and boot camp.
Joining a gym is the typical approach, and there are four main chains in and around Paris: Club Med Gym, Espace Vit’Halles, Forest Hills, Les Cercles de la Forme and Fitness First. The clubs offer everything from pole dancing to putting greens, and the prices seem to be going down rather than up. One longstanding member at Club Med says he pays 400 euros a year, although the typical fee is between 700-1,200 euros, depending on the package. You may be eligible for a discount if your employer has a comité d’entreprise. Check before signing on the dotted line.
If fitness à la carte is more your style, head to one of the many dance or yoga centers around town, such as the well-known (and much-filmed) Centre de Danse du Marais or the Centre de Yoga du Marais for a variety of ongoing classes or Sunday workshops; check programs at the Anglophone churches, like the American Church where I teach; check online for the exploding numbers of meetups; or sign up for personal training with independent teachers like Fred Hoffman, or from a company like Chameleon Fitness, which also offers on-site corporate fitness classes.
For those who would like to sweat totally in French, ask your local mairie for information about municipal gyms, tennis courts, swimming pools and subsidized indoor or outdoor group classes, as well as city-sponsored hikes. And of course, riding a Vélib does double duty as public transport and exercise.
Other municipal activities include the famous roller-blading group skate each weekend, and city-sponsored races, including the marathon, the semi-marathon, and the Paris-Versailles run. If you’re tired of running in the Luxembourg Gardens or the Champ de Mars, head to the Bois de Vincennes or the Bois de Boulogne for running and biking paths and exercise circuits. Or further afield, take the train to one of the forests around the Ile de France. The Forêt de Rambouillet, for instance, has a great bike path (“piste cyclable”) running through it, with a beach tucked in midway. Fontainebleau is known for both its climbing surfaces and its riding paths.
If none of these inspire you, go cultural and take time out for tourism. Climbing the 387 steps up the Notre Dame bell tower, hiking the hallways of the Louvre, or trekking the 2km tunnel through the catacombs will tone the heart, strengthen legs and burn calories. Best yet, you’ll be in shape for your summer visitors – and, of course, the beach.
Other Paris Exercise Resources
Alison Benney has been teaching community fitness classes in Paris for over 25 years. She has written articles and presented at expat events, and eight years ago gathered and categorised her accumulated collection of fitness resources into a Web site, ParisFitness.com. It lists almost everything you want to know about keeping in fit in Paris, including where you can find the classes listed above, plus a calendar of selected fitness events. Follow her on Twitter.