finding a gym in Hohhot

10/03/2013

Although it’s not cold yet (brace yourself, my friends) it is getting colder. And it will get increasing uncomfortable to exercise outside. Sara asked in our forum about how to find a gym and below are my thoughts and suggestions.
For the purpose of this post I’m going to use the word “gym” to refer to any place with fitness equipment, treadmills, weights, etc. I don’t mean a big open court for playing basketball.

My first suggestion on this topic is to be willing to use your charm and/or guanxi to find a place near you to work out. It may be a place that technically doesn’t let outsiders use its facilities, but sometimes, a little charm will get you in.

1. Universities: As far as I know, all the universities have gyms for their athletes to use or training. However, being a college athlete does not carry the same meaning or weight here as it does in the US. Ten years ago I played on Inner Mongolia University’s basketball team and we had practice twice a week, and played in only one tournament a year. That to say, the gym was almost always empty.
I know Shi Da has a gym and I know they offer fitness classes that are open to the public (belly dancing and yoga among others).
I’m sure the other universities have similar gyms or classes, you’ll just have to find the right person to give you the “yes” to use the facility.

2. Hotels: Any hotel 4 star (maybe even 3) and above will have a gym/fitness center and they also are usually vacant. They may say it’s for guest use only, but see if you can find someone who has the authority to allow you to use it. Some of the hotels (I know the Phoenix does) allow outside users to buy memberships* to use their facilities.*more on this subject below.

3. Newer and/or nicer housing developments: Many xiao qu’s are offering an increasing number of services to their home-owners. Check with a nicer development near you to see if they have a gym. When I first arrived in 2002 some friends and I worked out at Xue Fu Hua Yuan’s fitness center but I don’t think it exists now. (I do however, think the tennis court is still on the roof).

4. Private gyms: This is your best bet for being allowed to use the facility, but also the most likely to be crowded and expensive. I’ll list the ones I know of and others can add and/or correct me in the comments.
-Impulse Fitness on the southwest corner of Xing An Lu and Qiao Kao Xi Jie.
-Name Unknown on the northeast corner of Xin Hua Da Jie and Dong Ying Nan Lu (diagonal from Chang Le Gong)
-Name Unknown in Wei Duo Li Building on the northwest corner of Zhong Shan Lu and Xi Lin Guo Le Bei Lu on one of the upper floors. (across the street to the north of Hai Liang) This one I can’t verify recently, but I know a few foreigners who were members there five or so years ago.
-Name Unknown in basement of Jiu Zhou Department Store on Zhao Wu Da Road just south of the bridge on the east side of the road. (There’s a KFC next door to the north). I used this one in 2003/2004 but I’m not sure if it’s still operating. They also offered group fitness classes.

5.Work Units: This one would definitely require charm and guan xi both to get permission to use, but some work units now have gyms for their employees. Maybe someone you know can hook you up with one???

6. Sports Schools/Provincial Sports Complexes: This one also would require knowing someone, but Hohhot’s Sports Schools and the Inner Mongolia Provincial Sports Council operate several facilities. Especially during the off season one may be able to use their training facilities. One sports school is located in the Hui District, one is north of Gong Da on the second ring road, and I’m sure there are others. The Provincial Sports Council facilities are located at the above mentioned school on the north side of Hohhot, at the big sports complex north of the south gate of the Medical College on Xin Hua Da Jie and at the Race Track.

Membership Fees: are expensive. They are more than you think they would be for China. Another problem is that most places require you to pay for a year at a time, which doesn’t work well for a foreigner on a one year contract who didn’t decide to join a gym until month four or five. The other option most gyms seem to have is a card that you can put money on and then pay each time you go. (For example, you put 1000 yuan on the card and use 30 RMB each time you go to the gym until the money is out). The problem with this method is that it seems to be less of a value than full membership. Some gyms even divide the cards into categories (gold, silver, etc) and larger initial deposits mean lower price per use, but again, it’s a large chunk of cash to part with in the beginning. (I know the Phoenix Hotel uses this method only it’s about 70 RMB per use). I don’t know of any gym that you can pay monthly. It may be out there, I just don’t know.

You should also prepare yourself for the culture shock that will no doubt ensue should you decide to join a gym. The times gyms are open won’t be what you expect and peak times won’t be what you expect either. Expect full nudity and open showers (no stalls) in the locker rooms. Expect broken equipment. Expect one treadmill to be working and a Chinese lady with jeans and high heels to be walking at a turtle’s pace for an hour while you wait patiently to run. Expect stares. Expect grunting. Lots and lots of grunting. Expect spotting to be done in ways that will make you say, “Hmmmm. That’s definitely not how we do it.”

And on that note, we this post 🙂 Please add any additional information you have in the comments. I’ll post again in coming days about sports facilities other than gyms.

And here’s a link to what bai du maps pulls up for “jian shen fang” (gym/fitness center) in Hohhot: http://j.map.baidu.com/Rv3Dn

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