Wednesday, October 29, 2008

All, or nothing.

These lads are def going 'all in...'

Mind me for nagging about sports, but I find that there's such a strange/different approach to being athletic in China compared to back home. It's almost like: all or nothing. Those few people who are into sports really go all in, meanwhile those who aren't interested, REALLY aren't interested. My fave place to observe this is, of course, the gym. Ah... I love the gym! Not only is it a place where u can burn, sweat, hit and run, but it's also a place where people with an interest in fitness come together. Oh, and in China, it's also a place for great fun.

I've already written a few gym posts about what u might see at a gym in China (girls working out in pumps is nothing out of the ordinary... I am personally deeply impressed. I can barely walk in my pumps) but the great things about the gyms here is that they keep surprising you, which makes you want to come back for more.

Just the other day in the changing room I watched a girl wrap her body in plastic foil (!) before putting on her gym clothes. I'm thinking that she's either very keen not to sweat down her gym clothes, or... or, what?! Seriously, plastic foil? Is there something I should know about. I've never seen this before?

Speaking of changing rooms, lately at my gym, they've placed a poor Pantene Pro-V marketing person at the door of the ladie's changing rooms, handing out free samples of shampoo and conditioner to all girls. "Great!" I thought and grabbed myself a free tube for five days straight, until I was suddenly asked to write my name, phone number and email address on some paper... "Ehum, no thanks!" I replied. The girl looked as if she wanted to kill me. I guess no more free samples for me.

Anyways, what I find the most interesting at the gym is to compare those 'all in' people with those who really don't want to be there. I'd say that 80% of the men working out at the gym aren't that beefy (western or Chinese) but then there are a few Chinese guys who have managed to build themselves one exploding looking upper body, and gosh, do they love to show that? (this goes for both western guys and Chinese, obviously) Imagine a guy wearing a singlet, which reminds you of a g-string (shape wise -honestly, u can see his nipples.. not that I've been looking but.. or OK, I have been looking!) on top of his sausage-tight tights. He's always there, and always in this outfit. The equivalents to him amongst the ladies don't really go that far. Sure, there is the whole 'show your belly' tops going on (but I guess there's nothing wrong with that if you feel confident and happy about your tummy?) but what's more fun are those who go all in: with shoes, pants, singlets, moves and SOUNDS. Just the other day, one of those girls where in the small stretching room, where she sat on a Pilate's ball lifting some small weights (maybe... 1 kg or 1,5 kg?) with her hands, meanwhile moaning like there was no tomorrow. Seriously, it was so loud that at least 2 guys stuck their heads into the room, obviously curious about where these sounds came from. I was listening to music and I could still hear her! Respect! (This was a little lady!)

Next to the moaning girl was the exact opposite of an 'all in' person. A young boy, a bit overweight, seated at a rug looking completely lost. This boy belongs to a group that is currently increasing at the gyms: the ones that have no, or little history of working out, and have been forced to go by their parents/partner. You especially see them on the weekends when they (young, slightly overweight, boys and girls) come to the gym together with their parents to be shown around. The parents are much more interested than the kid, who is later teamed up with a personal trainer and pushed to sweat his/her guts out. I have to say that I admire their willingness to do push ups and sit ups, seeing that they probably haven't worked out before. The pain in their face is so honest it is almost touching.

Then there are the (what I assume to be) tai tais and/or a more 'mature group of ladies' who spend most of their (expensive) PT-session by chatting to their trainer. I once listened to one woman who spent at least 15 minutes on telling her trainer about that she didn't feel comfortable doing push ups, that she didn't like using her arms for strength exercises although she'd like to get rid of the 'meat' on her arms, and that she couldn't understand why 'lao wais' seemed to be better than Chinese at sports, but she assumed it had something to do with lao wais having bigger bones than Chinese (It's so much fun to listen in on other people's conversations. I know I know -bad habit, but it's harmless, right?). The trainers response:

-Lao wais take their training reaaaaaaaaaally seriously!!!

We do?! I thought we did, until I came to China and saw people work out.

At my uni, the Chinese students are currently preparing for Friday's big sporting event: The Su Da Sport's Day! I regret signing up to this event so much. I wish I could pull out. How could I be so stupid, thinking it would be just a 'fun, laid-back event'.... The Chinese students have been competing in qualifications heats in the different sports all week!!! Meaning: only the best ones (plus us, international students) will compete together on Friday. Three out of my four teachers have already expressed their deep admiration for me, since I have signed up for the 3000m race (I thought it would be, like... a fun race?! But instead it's going to be really competitive). My speaking teacher even said yesterday: 'It's so cool that one of my students is a real runner!', giving me a huuuuuge smile, adding that she could hold my water bottle if I needed any help? (I assume she was sort of hinting that she could be my coach... but I wasn't sure so I said nothing...). I am completely freaked out about the race. I even got that nervous stomach-pain that I normally get before job interviews yesterdays when I watched some of the qualification heats. Where did all those kids with muscle legs come from?!?!?!

I went to do the compulsory 'health check' yesterday and left as soon as I saw the line of 50, sporty looking kids, lined up outside the Dr's office. (I have to go today again). Note to self: uni sport events are normally for the 'all in' students. Remember: you are not the 'all in kind of sport's person', but simply a 'just for fun' sport's person. That category doesn't exist over here.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jonna, your posts about China are great. Very entertaining.

I'm from California, and was in China during September for three weeks. Spent some time in Shanghai, Hungzhou, and Beijing.

In Shanghai I found out that swim caps are mandatory. Something I'm not accustomed to in the USA. Swim caps tend to only be worn by women so their hair doesn't get wet. Most men don't wear swim caps at all. In Shanghai it's a must.

Trying to run in Shanghai along HuaiHai road, there's only one time to run, the early morning. Otherwise it's like trying to play a game of frogger and you are the frog.

Hungzhou was an entirely different experience. I woke up early one morning (5-6AM) and heard what I thought was someone being tortured (screaming) in the distance. I went out to run around West Lake and noticed there were many people (primarily men) chanting loudly while running.

Anonymous said...

You should write for a Chinese newspaper or something like a news-site because you are really funny.

Unknown said...

To be somebody or nobody still seems to be very much rooted in Chinese culture, maybe in other Asian countries as well, I suppose. I was so amazed when the first time I saw not only the winners, but also everybody who participating in London Marathon were cheered up by the crowd. In China, probably not the case.

I could hardly get a chance to compete for my class when I was a kid, for understandable reasons...not strong enough to pick up a win. But when I started playing classical guitar and was good at it, I suddenly became the favourite and was even asked to challenge others to get established around. It still sounds silly when I look back, but I would say a majority of kids are still under massive expectations, or shall we say pressures, from their parents and people around, hoping these young boys and girls can turn themselves into the best someday.

Although we all know it's important to participate, but isn't the idea still a bit of weak in front of many Chinese people's eyes?

Maybe that's why many unbelievables can be done in be the best or nothing else!

Jonna Wibelius said...

anonymous: hahaha, love your comments about your time in China. I am going to Hangzhou next wknd and I cannot wait to wake up to the sound of west lake runners chanting... :)

hrhr -I'd love too. I've always loved writing and I used to work for a magazine before but now I am all about learning Chinese! I guess this blog has to settle my writing cravings in the meantime...

Sun -that's so true.. I always feel that the winner is the only one that counts over here... Same in school, our teachers always tells the entire class who had the best results at 'ting xie' and such.. it's kind of ridiculous.. I wish they'd focus a little bit more at people who are making an effort rather than those who have the best results.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, so true! I love all the stuff in my gym here! Been here for 3 months now, and joined my gym at the same time I arrived. The plastic foil thing was one of the first things I noticed, but I still don't know why they do it. Today I saw this girl wrapping her stomach in plastic, put on a corset, a t-shirt and then a singlet. Hmmm…

What I still find really strange though is how they're so open with the nudity here. Must say it was quite a shock the first time I walked into a Chinese changing room. Guess you know what I mean.

But back to the subject winners/losers in China, I came across this article today. It’s in Norwegian, but it proves your point very well.

Been reading your blog for some time now, and must say I enjoy it very much. Keep that up ;)

Hej hej