13 Apr Staying Fit in Hanoi, Vietnam
No matter where we go around the world, it’s important to us to maintain a regular exercise habit. This can sometimes be a challenge on the road, but thankfully in Hanoi, there weren’t too many barriers. Our morning work outs fell under one of two approaches:
1. Doing work out videos indoors that don’t require any equipment other than our laptop (check out our earlier post where we reviewed work out programs that are best for travel)
2. Joining the people of Hanoi out on the street and in the parks for a morning run
Our first experience running in Hanoi
As noted in our earlier post, How to Cross the Street in Hanoi Traffic, getting around can be somewhat daunting when you first arrive. Nevertheless, we overcame any early concerns in order to maintain our morning exercise regimen. (And actually, once you’re familiar with how things run in the city, it’s very easy to get around.) Our friends pointed us toward a nearby lake with a park around it as a safe place where we could jog in the mornings.
We woke up at dawn, thankful to find that traffic was very light so we had no trouble crossing the big intersection. When we arrived at the park, we were shocked to find it buzzing with activity.
Groups of 25 to 50 women were gathered in the open areas “dancercising” to music over a loudspeaker. It was quite a sight to see so many, young and old, thrusting hips and waving arms to a techno beat.
The path along the lake was full of walkers and a few joggers. Off the path, disperesed out every few yards, there were people stretching or wiggling their limbs. Another group faced the water with soothing meditative music and practiced something that resembled tai chi.
The most interesting group was about twelve women, probably in their 60’s, who sometimes did an exercise that involved massaging their knees while laughing heartily out loud. We could always hear them before we saw them, as we rounded the corner of the lake. I suppose it’s a good exercise for the diaphragm. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself.
In two different areas, the park had permanent exercise equipment made of metal bars. Pull up bars I’d seen before, but there were even ones that were like a mechanical version of an elliptical, with variations to mobilize different parts of your body. In the first area, there were always young men on the equipment, looking like gymnasts in training. The second area was a mix of middle-age to elderly folks.
Most mornings there was also a game of soccer and volleyball (both played concrete), as well as small groups of people practicing badminton in random places.
The second morning we went for a run, we decided to explore another nearby lake that we had seen on the map. Sure enough, people were walking there, too. And others were stretching and loosening their limbs while looking out at the water. There was even another set of dancercising ladies, with their leader calling out each move on a microphone from the median of the street.
So apparently, exercise is a habit for many in Hanoi, especially the elderly. It was nice for us to be in a place where running didn’t make us stand out and where there are accessible, safe places to go – which isn’t always the case in every place we travel.
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