In Sweat in the City, Coconuts looks at the diverse options Bangkok proffers for staying fit.
I love Lumpini Park. Every time I go, I see sweaty topless men pumping iron in the free gyms, sweaty topless Muay Thai fighters shadow boxing for that evening’s fight, people of all shapes and ages trotting around the 2.5k running track, and old Chinese ladies doing a spot of samurai fighting or tai chi. Every time I go I see a new activity. But none draw my attention quite as much as the step aerobics classes, which attract hundreds of participants every day.
Yesterday, I decided to join in.
I headed to the park at just before six and, sure enough, I heard the pulsing Asian trance music and scary gruff voiceover that accompanies these classes. The noise was coming from the bandstand area, where most of the classes are held (classes are also held near the main gate, though I’m unsure of the starting time). The class wrapped up just before six for the King’s anthem, then a new class started soon afterward, led by the same team. This time, one tall, blonde farang girl counted among his students.
I put my bag down in front of me, as I’d seen everyone else do, and braced myself for the giggles I would get as I started side-stepping to the beat but, actually, people barely batted an eyelash. I had a few encouraging smiles from the instructor (as I clearly looked petrified), and that was just about the only attention I received.
I’m not the biggest fan of step aerobics because I have no co-ordination at all (I can’t stress this enough). But, even I could follow most of these moves. It was simple side-stepping and a whole lot of marching with a few boxing moves thrown in for good measure. It’s slightly repetitive but never gets boring. If you’re the kind of person who can do a free group exercise class at sunset by the lake in Lumpini Park with hundreds of Thai people of every age and size joining you and still be bored, then you have no soul.
Don’t panic if you can’t speak Thai. There aren’t many verbal cues that can’t be gleaned from circumstance. One of the instructors (there are several, so that the whole group can see) has a microphone and shouts numbers, but, if you don’t understand even that, just watch one of the people in front of you.
The instructors were energetic, bobbing along to the appalling music, while many of the participants were older and took things at their own pace. The class wraps up quite suddenly after almost an hour, so most people hang around for a while to stretch it out. While it isn’t the most tiring class for those who work out, it’s a fun way to warm-up for or cool down from a run around the park. The heat ensures you get a little sweaty, and an hour of stepping around wakes up your legs.
Suitable for: Those looking for a very gentle workout or a warm-up/cool-down in addition to their run.
Difficulty Rating: 1/5
Outdoor Aerobics, Daily at around 6pm at the bandstand, Lumpini Park. There are other classes and times, but I’ve no idea when.