A New Year can often mean a fresh start, new beginnings and a significant change in routine that seeks to improve one’s life. But what exactly does that mean? As somebody who has struggled with not only living healthily but maintaining a healthy lifestyle, I have however in recent years largely thanked for moving to a different country, since I have discovered five ways to stay fit in Spain. I mean: if I can do it… then anybody can!
1. Exercise: From a Day at Work to a Work-out
I have always been fanatical about sports but actually practicing, or in any form of real physical activity, went as far as loading another game of FIFA on my Play-Station during my younger years. I’ve often joked about myself that I wouldn’t even run a bath let alone, run for the bus, and my favorite machine in my local gym was the vending machine.
Nevertheless, as somebody who has ‘seen the light’ in recent years, the incorporation of exercise into my life and having a healthy lifestyle have perhaps been the best things that I have ever done.
This doesn’t happen overnight and can take time to embrace the idea of regular exercise and then maintain continuous exercise. Nevertheless, small steps forward, both physically and metaphorically, are steps in the right direction and whether it’s a short walk, run, swim or visit a local gym, replacing a less productive hobby with the slightest bit of physical exercise can help you stay fit while in Spain.
Having lost weight through regular cardiovascular exercise inside a gym, I was inspired to continue running by a mixture of the warm Spanish climate and an eagerness to explore my new city. After a few months, I am set to complete my ninth marathon this Spring in Seville.
2. Nutrition: Warm Weather but Cook up a Storm!
Last February 2019 witnessed Spain rise to the top of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, which ranked 169 economies according to factors that contribute to overall health. Spain moved from the sixth healthiest nation in the world to the top of the charts.
Whilst taking into account factors such as life expectancy and the environment, many believe that a traditional Mediterranean diet is partly responsible for Spain’s high ranking on the list, with Spanish eating habits conducive to a healthy lifestyle and, ultimately, staying fit in Spain.
Yet you don’t need to suddenly ditch every bit of bad food in your fridge or transform January into veganuary to stay fit. With an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available from any major supermarket or local store, there is no doubting of its availability.
However, for those like myself who aren’t perhaps the best in the kitchen, it is about finding a way to incorporate healthy food into your dietary pattern in order to stay healthy. Start basic, gain confidence and make your way up the healthy food ladder at your own pace. Once again, it is about small steps, but one giant leap for staying fit, right?
3. Relaxation: Siesta, Sleeping & Serenity
The daily fast-paced, hectic nature of school can be both physically and mentally tiring. Trust me, I am speaking from experience!
But with lessons to be planned, healthy food to be cooked and then this alien concept of exercise to fit in somewhere in an already tiring day, I would recommend you to find and make the time for ever important self-care.
Walking through the central streets of Jerez de la Frontera at the hottest, or indeed coldest, parts of the day or times of the year respectively, can resemble a shadow of itself at its busiest.
Streets are quiet, shops are closed, and passing trade is near enough non-existent at such times; but why?
Because just as we, as Language Assistants, should be doing, such periods are deemed as time for rest and relaxation. And, despite a tendency to live at 100 miles per hour and fit as much into our days as possible, trying to take a step back and just see the benefit that it can have on producing a healthy mind and body is crucial.
4. Explore: You Never Know What is Around the Corner!
From time to time, we all enjoy living in our own bubble. But speaking from experience, some of my most rewarding experiences, mentally and physically, have been when I have in fact taken a step out of my comfort zone, effectively bursting my own bubble and exploring somewhere new.
This doesn’t necessarily have to mean traveling to another city different from where you are based at present. Instead, it can merely be traveling to a corner of your host town or city that you may have seen on Google Maps or traveled through when using an Uber.
Whilst weekends are important to take stock of the week’s events, to catch up on much needed sleep or to watch Netflix series that you’ve been unable to stream, try to find time one day each weekend to visit somewhere new and fully embrace change.
Likewise, if you are lucky enough to be in a financially and geographically good position to travel to new pastures during a puente weekend, I would encourage anybody to do so. Spain is rich with cultural diversity from town to town, city to city and region to region. Just by tasting each one, you can stay fit.
5. Motivation: A Healthy Mind, Healthy Heart, Healthy Life
Many students we teach are motivated to learn English for a variety of different reasons: from being able to understand song lyrics or words from their favorite videogames, to being able to speak with friends and family from English speaking countries.
For that reason, finding ways as Language Assistants to keep motivated is an important way of staying fit. Some like myself are motivated through fitness, while others by the idea of moving to Spain and learning a new language. Try setting yourself some targets that help you keep motivated with whatever interests you and occupies your mind and your free time when you are not in the classroom.
If you are in Spain for not a long time and intend to take in as much of the country as possible, you could motivate yourself by making a list of local landmarks and places of interest before expanding outwards and broadening your horizons.
If becoming near fluent is your motivation meanwhile, attend language exchange groups or liaise with colleagues or anybody, in fact, willing to practice Spanish with you to help you reach your target goal.
Ultimately, without motivation, it can be very difficult to stay positive and this can negatively hinder the very motivations (other than just gaining work experience in Spain) of moving to Spain initially.
By Adam S., 2019/2020