All Kinds of Gains: An Expat’s Guide to Exercise

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Picture a place where N.O.-Xplode costs $100, where rusted weights take you back to that makeshift gym in your parents’ basement, and a place where the winters get so cold that your lungs freeze should you dare leave the house to cross the street.

Right now the weather in UB is warm, the skies are blue, and my imported cache of N.O.Xplode is still fresh. I’ve been in Mongolia for a month now and have solved the following:

Where to live;

How to prevent self-deportation;

How to watch sports;

Where to get Freddy’s BBQ;

How to eat healthy after too much mutton kebab, of which hot sauce is a staple ingredient.

The next challenge was solidifying a workout plan by finding a quality, affordable gym. Much like my House Hunters International: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia experience the choices for gyms leave much to be desired. This was an interesting surprise given that the world’s powerlifting champion hails from Mongolia.

Where was he working out, I wondered.

Option 1: The Posh Gym at the Blue Sky Building:

For $140/month you get a gym the size of a closet with dumbbells that only go up to 50lbs, a Smith machine bench press, and a trainer that creepily follows you around.

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It’s not all pretty around the Blue Sky

Hard pass.

Option 2: Fitness Anywhere via TRX. This option lets me avoid the winter by working out in the comfort of my own home with the ropes hanging on my vault door.

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TRX is great for vacation and nothing is more challenging than a timed set of atomic push-ups but it isn’t a sustainable replacement for a real gym.

Option 3: LA Fitness AKA California Gym

Yao Ming who has no affiliation with California since he played for the Houston Rockets cleverly opened a group of gyms in China called California Gym. His celebrity and the word ‘California’ made this one of the most popular gyms.

There is a California Gym in Mongolia but I never inquired as to membership cost or extent of the facilities because it is located more than half a block away from my apartment. (See weather report dated November-March every year Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.)

The availability of 100lb dumbbells aren’t so appealing when it’s minus 40 outside.

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Palm Trees Not Included
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The spoiled days of LA Fitness for $25.99 a month

Option 4: The 24 Hour Hotel Gym 

Right next to my apartment is a hotel gym with 24 hour access. It has a universal machine and old school do it yourself dumbbells with weights scattered all over the floor. The gym was empty when I visited most likely because it cost $100 a month.

Convenience isn’t worth getting ripped off.

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Is this worth $100 a month?
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It also has a hot tub!
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Too bad this is the Park Hyatt Melbourne, Australia not Mongolia

Option 5: The Soviet Era Gym

If we walk Jamaican, talk Jamaican, and *is* Jamaican, then we sure as hell better bobsled Jamaican. 

My building is Soviet, my apartment is Soviet, so why not lift Soviet? The locals warned me that I should elect options 1-4 because of the poor quality of these types of gyms. For one month, I did stay away till I could no longer take the mush that was once my muscle.

I bravely snorted a line of N.O. and went to the basement of Soviet Land. Beyond the rusted weights, the pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger and naked women pinned to the wall, was a bench press that seemed operational, a wide grip pull up bar, a squat rack (in the event I ever do legs), and plenty of space to do push ups-  all the essentials for regimented workout.

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The price was a reasonable $44 a month which I negotiated down to $33 by bringing exactly 60,000MNT and pleading ignorance when he asked for the extra 20,000.

Add in what appeared to be the rest of the powerlifting team of Mongolia waiting for me to get buried on the bench and I had found the last component of making all kinds of gains while overseas- motivation.

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All kinds.

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