The gym and I have never gotten along. All the snorting, the smelly locker rooms, the music so loud you can’t hear your own damn playlist. I’m sorry, but pumping Justin Beiber through every speaker doesn’t make me want to run any faster. The only reason I’m upping my speed is so that it will be over sooner. That’s it.
Because the thought of running in place for an hour is so miserable to me, you’d think I would have looked into fun group classes or something. But I figured the perky women on either side of my elliptical with perfect hair and NOT SWEATING AT ALL is enough of a knock on my self esteem. No need to throw in 30 more of them as I flail about in spandex and 360 degrees of mirrors. Dignity? What dignity?
No, the gym is not my thing. I go because I love pizza and French pastries with reckless abandon. Knowing that there’s nothing I can do about that, I must set about trying to undo it as best I can. So, I go. And if I don’t go, I go for a run. Even when it’s cold out, which I figure buys me at least an extra slice because sometimes it’s really cold.
When I first got to Paris I decided it would be a great idea to run from my tiny apartment in the 10th to the Jardin des Tuileries before all the tourists descended on it mid-morning. The flaw in this plan was that by the time I channeled my inner Rocky, it was prime commuting time and I was running by all those gorgeous Parisians gorgeously dressed and being all gorgeous on their way to work. At this point I feel like they just shake their heads knowingly at each other while thinking, “les Americains.”
My thought process on the other hand went a little something like this:
Trouble is, unless you know where to go, you’ll be running solo around Paris. Sure there are a few gyms peppered in here and there, but they aren’t nearly as popular as they are back home in the States. No one here gets up at 5am to Zumba followed by an hour of cardio before a quick gym shower and work. They walk or bike everywhere already, so heading into a building to do that just seems kind of redundant, non?
It’s a little tricky finding a spot where you come off slightly less awkward prancing around like the expat that you are, but the gardens of the Louvre is one of those special places. Plus that view! I mean, it beats the hell out of treadmill running in a strip mall.
In general, the beautiful people of Paris eat well without fad diets, exercise without Insanity and look svelte seemingly without even trying (thanks in no small part to what I can only assume are ridiculously great genes…and jeans).
And then, there’s this guy.
A 26 year old freestyle footballer who performs regularly at the steps of Sacré-Cœur and garners standing ovations pretty much every where he goes. Iya Traore was born in Guinea but moved to Paris in 2000 and played for several clubs including Paris-Saint Germain. These days he fills his time with things like being a finalist on France’s Got Talent, cameo-ing in music videos for Shakira and setting world records for things like ‘most steps climbed backward on a ladder while controlling a football with the feet.’ The winning number? 75. Stick that in your Jeopardy arsenal.
But of course I didn’t know any of this when I first saw Iya climb up a lamp post while simultaneously heading a soccer ball. Or balancing it on a pen…THAT WAS IN HIS SHORTS. I just sat, like everyone else, in awe. We had come to soak up the atmosphere of Montmartre, with its winding cobblestone streets and the artists that paint them. We had come to sit on the steps and drink wine in the sun (we had earned it, those steps were steep and plentiful). We had come for that priceless Paris view and to hear the buskers perform their best Lennon. Except this time that view was Iya and that music was Michael Jackson. And man it was great. Plus it gave me a little more motivation.
Tomorrow I start running again…I hope.