By Tracey Chandler for ContactChile
One of my largest concerns when arriving to a foreign city to live, study, work, or commit to a long term project of any kind, is whether or not I’ll be able to keep up with my fitness regime. Not all cities have gyms or sports clubs which open on Sundays — a day that I used to really enjoy devoting to health and exercise when I lived in London.
So, having settled into the daily routine of working life in Santiago, I began to investigate.
Club Providencia was one of the first sports clubs I came across on my travels, mainly because it’s one of the best in terms of online self-promotion and because it’s not that difficult to get to from where I live. Without a doubt, it’s a family space offering many activities and social/fitness programs for children throughout the Chilean summer holiday period. For between $20.000 pesos and $30.000 pesos a month, you can take advantage of everything that Club Providencia has to offer — the good news being that there’s little left out of the package.
Club Providencia comes equipped with a fully-equipped gym, an outdoor swimming pool for free swimming or organized lessons, a variety of fitness classes — including everything and anything from step, yoga, and aerobox, to karate, fencing, and classical ballet — huge salons to rent out for social events, a restaurant, and a bowling alley. Club Providencia is more than just your average sports club.
Another plus I discovered when I visited was that Club Providencia forms part of a sports club group. It’s teamed up with Club de Tenis Providencia, Spa Club Providencia, Centro Deportivo Providencia Santa Isabel, and Centro Deportivo El Aguilucho, to offer all members discounted services across five separate locations. So, if I wanted to play a spot of tennis in Club de Tenis Providencia, as a member of Club Providencia I would be entitled to a 25% discount. Not bad!
My visit to Estadio Español in Las Condes wasn’t quite the same. Instead of encouraging new clients to sign up as members, it seems that Estadio Español is more interested in keeping everybody out. The signing up process is as formal and time-consuming as applying for a job. I was asked to present a formal, written letter to the Senior President of the club or to the Director’s Board in general, stating why I so desperately wanted to be a member of Estadio Español.
Along with my letter, I was asked to present the names and contact details of two existing members of Estadio Español — who were up-to-date with all their club payments, I might add! — who would recommend that I be awarded membership to the club. I was also asked to provide a copy of my birth certificate and a couple of passport photographs along with my “application”. Then there was a whole load of information that the receptionist babbled on to me about, concerning whether or not I was Spanish. It seems that if you happen to be a Spaniard, living in Santiago, that also goes in your favor…. hence Estadio Español.
I have to say it wasn’t a pleasant experience in any way. Since arriving to Santiago, many of the local people I’ve met have mentioned to me — in an off-hand manner — how classist the Chilean society is and how so very important it is which university you went to, as opposed to how well you performed in your degree. I was inclined to just brush the comments aside, putting everything down to mere hearsay. Having visited Estadio Español, I’m beginning to think there might actually be some truth in the matter.
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Estadio Las Condes
Moving swiftly on, Estadio de Las Condes — sponsored by the organization, Corfo — was in many ways similar to Club Providencia. You can swim, dance, sweat on running machines, rent out tennis courts, play a football match, shoot things, eat in the restaurant, practice track running, sunbathe or lounge about in the green areas of the club, and even join in with the odd seminar or two offered in one of its many salons.
However, if you want to pay more and you like working out in a gym where nobody communicates with each other and where the brand of sneakers you train with will help people to stick a metaphoric label on your forehead, sign up to Estadio de Las Condes. If you want to pay less and spend your time in a warm, welcoming environment, full of life and happy families… choose Club Providencia.
Whilst on the subject of paying more, I almost choked when I was shown the monthly prices for the average adult at Balthus in Las Condes. Monthly payment to use the facilities whenever you want rests at $95.000 pesos at present, and that’s without adding the cost of the joining fee to your first monthly bill. Needless to say my budget didn’t allow me to spend much time considering Balthus as a possible sports club winner. Yes, there’s a spa, yes it all looked lovely, but so did many of the other places I visited and for a lot less of the green stuff every month.
A little bored of the Providencia / Las Condes sports club track, I decided to take a look closer to home — in Santiago Centro — and I found a lovely little place to suit my particular needs just four blocks away from where I live. I’ve been a happy member of Lady Gym now since May 2014 and when the time comes to renew at the beginning of October, I shall be happy to sign on the dotted line.
Without question, Lady Gym is less of a sports club and more of a standard gym where you can go to lift weights, take classes, get nutritional advice, and book yourself into the odd massage treatment or sauna experience. Even so, what I really loved about this place was the down-to-earth, friendly welcome I got when I first went to inquire. The equipment isn’t the most up-to-date by any means. It could probably do with a paint job at some point too, but the “baile entretenido” class that I take with Zara once a week on Tuesdays at 6pm — why not come by and give it a go! — really gives me the challenge that I need and… it’s so much fun.
As is fairly obvious thanks to its name, Lady Gym is a female-only gym — another real plus for me. The majority of the women who go to this gym turn up at about 6pm and then stay to take advantage of the variety of classes on offer until 9pm when the gym closes for the night. In-between each class, there’s a really nice atmosphere, the opportunity to chat a little, and share things about your day. The standard process at this gym is that they weigh and measure you every month to keep track of your progress and help you practice the right kind of exercise to suit your needs, goals, or interests.
Lady Gym might not have all the facilities in the world, but for a foreign female looking to keep fit and fit in with her new surroundings, it provides the perfect space to make friends and feel secure.
Do you know any gym or sports club in Santiago that you would like to recommend? Tell us in the comments!