Tag Archives: exercise

Hitting the Gym

If you are still learning French, you may think that taking an exercise class in Paris is beyond your capabilities.  But think about it this way; if you’ve ever been to an aerobics class with the volume cranked up, you know that it’s possible to follow along by watching rather than by listening.  On the other hand, the prospect of going right when everyone else is going left, or being singled out by the instructor, can be downright scary.   But since you probably need to get out there and burn off a few of those pastries you’ve been eating, here are a few vocabulary words you’ll likely hear at the gym.   If nothing else, you’ll soon learn to count to eight forwards and backwards.  Courage!

Parts of the Body

la tête: head
le visage: face
le menton chin
le cou: neck
la poitrine: chest
les abdominaux: abdominals
le bras: arm
les épaules: shoulders
les pectoraux: pectorals
le coude: elbow
le poignet: wrist
la main: hand
le dos: back
les fessiers, fesses: butt
la jambe: leg
les cuisses: thighs
le genou: knee
la cheville: ankle
le pied:  foot
la pointe des pieds: tiptoe


Aller: to go but often in this case, let’s go
Balancer: to swing
Bloquer: to hold in place
Courir: to run
Descendre: to go down, descend
S’écarter: to move apart (as in moving legs or arms apart)
Flechir: to bend
Lever: to raise
Marcher: to walk
Monter: to go up
Se pencher: to incline
Plier: to bend
Pomper: to pump (as in pushups)
Relâcher: to let go, relax
Respirer: to breath in
Rester: to stay in place
Souffler: to breath out
Sauter: to jump


droite: right
gauche: left
en haut: up high
en bas: down low
vers la glace: to the mirror
à l’arrière: to the rear
changer de côté: to change sides
l’autre côté: the other side


le banc: bench
le baton: stick
l’elastique: rubber band
les haltères: hand weights, dumb bells
le rameur: rowing machine
le tapis: the mat
le tapis de course: treadmill 

The Gym

le vestiaire:  locker room
hamman: sauna
les douches: showers
le casier: locker
la cabine: dressing cubicle

And then there are my personal favorites:  le stretching and le step touch.  Both of these mean exactly what you’d think.


Figuring Out Fitness in Paris

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

The sports & fitness sections of Time Out Paris, Expatica and Paris Anglo.

The Dailey Method

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.