A New Year can mean a fresh start. New beginnings. A significant change in routine that seeks to improve one’s life. But what exactly does that mean? I am somebody who has struggled with living healthily and with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, in recent years I have 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 them, or doing 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 that my favorite machine in my local gym was the vending machine.
Nevertheless, I am somebody who has ‘seen the light’ in recent years, The incorporation of exercise into my life and having a healthy lifestyle have been the best things that I have ever done.
This doesn’t happen overnight. It can take time to embrace the idea of regular exercise and then maintain continuous exercise. However, small steps forward, both physically and metaphorically, are steps in the right direction. 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.
I lost weight through regular cardiovascular exercise inside a gym. But then, the warm Spanish climate and an eagerness to explore my new city inspired me to run outside. 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. Spanish eating habits might conduct to a healthy lifestyle and, ultimately, to 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. Consider what happens in Spain. Here, there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available in any major supermarket or local store. They are cheap and delicious. It’s too easy to put them into your diet!
For those like myself who aren’t 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. Do this 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 and hectic nature of school can be both physically and mentally tiring. Trust me, I am speaking from experience!
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 to 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. We have a tendency to live at 100 miles per hour and fit as much into our days as possible. But try to take a step back and just see the crucial benefit that it can have on producing a healthy mind and body.
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 taken a step out of my comfort zone. In those moments, I effectively burst my own bubble and explored somewhere new.
This doesn’t necessarily mean traveling to another city. Instead, it can merely be traveling to a corner of your host town that you have glimpsed on Google Maps or traveled through when using an Uber.
Also, 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. But here’s my tip: 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 in Spain.
5. Motivation: A Healthy Mind, Healthy Heart, Healthy Life
Many students we teach are motivated to learn English for a variety of reasons. For example, being able to understand song lyrics or words from their favorite videogames, or being able to speak with friends and family from English speaking countries.
For that reason, finding ways to keep motivated as Language Assistants is another important way of staying fit. Some people 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 keep you stimulated with whatever interests you. It will occupy your mind and your free time when you are not in the classroom.
If you are in Spain for a short time and you intend to take in as much of the country as possible, here is my suggestion. Make a list of local landmarks and places of interest before expanding outwards and broadening your horizons.
If your motivation is becoming fluent in Spanish, attend language exchange groups or liaise with colleagues or anybody willing to practice Spanish.
Ultimately, without motivation, it can be very difficult to stay positive. 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