I wonder how many gym memberships have gone dormant after a New Year’s resolution rush. I remember all too clearly when my trainer showed me how many folks had signed up for trainers + memberships and had NEVER used them – not once.

She opened a huge three-ring binder and flipped through the pages. Then she opened another binder and did the same thing. And this gym was located in Mililani Hawaii, a modest mid-sized town, and not the only gym in town mind you. This was about 10 years ago.

I, on the other hand, am very much aware of when I skip those gym days, but self-discipline is not really my problem. The other people are. Ha ha ha! Just kidding. Sort of. Let me explain.

Going to the gym in another country is like international travel, but with nudity, enclosed spaces and blinking. Lots of blinking.

Our pool and gym membership is located at a fancy-schmancy hotel so we get a good mix of expats and holiday goers with moolah. Now, the pool is quite generous, even by US standards, but the gym, well, is not. It does the job, yes. However, Crunch fitness it is not. The gym is the size of Justin Bieber’s closet or a small pet shop.

And in our little shop of sweaty horrors, the A/C is blasting cool air, so cold in fact, I wonder if it is beneficial. Unfortunately, it cannot mask the overpowering stench from the weight-lifting grunts and groans that I sometimes walk right back out the door.

But after much thought on the matter as to why folks smell so ripe, I have decided that people don’t shower before they come to the gym. Why not, you might say! They’re just going to work out anyway, right? Ah, ha! But it’s so nasty! There’s a reason why SE Asians take multiple showers in one day. It’s HOT and HUMID.

In addition, the men-folk sometimes go sleeveless, not allowing for a cotton sleeve to absorb some of that stank. What did deodorant do to you anyway, kind sir? My favorite was when we peeked in the gym and saw a guy working out shirtless. Ewwww! Are you touching all of the gym equipment with your oily body? Why not lie down on the abdominal bench? How thoughtful of you to mark your scent everywhere.

Of course, some stake out their claim by leaving their belongings on the benches so no one else can use them – or by controlling the a/c. (We actually had an unpleasant encounter with a guy over this.) I think people forget that this gym is not exclusively for their personal use, but rather a shared environment. Play nicely, kids!

I can’t complain because it is a people-watching paradise. Most are too absorbed in their music, TV shows and muscles to notice me side-glancing at them. They’re all surprisingly serious (especially Mr. Jazz Hands). I feel like the only one who’s doing it for fun (not working out). Whereas back in the States, I felt like the opposite, I wanted to get a good workout in while the rest of the gym-goers were practicing poor forms, pick-up lines or walking leisurely on the treadmill with a full-face of makeup on.

Are you ready to get your sweat on?

In the locker room, I’ve learned Asians from other countries are very comfortable with their bodies and walk around naked. (Looking for their misplaced towel?) They’ll even stand in front of the mirror while getting ready in the nude. (Cause it’s so breezy!) Did I mention the mirrors face the lockers? Apparently though, I missed the Chinese guy standing in the men’s locker room doorway as free and alive as can be, shouting at his wife who was in the women’s locker room.

Look, it’s not like I’m a prude (simply American), it’s just forced intimacy with strangers. I’m not used to seeing so many naked people! I don’t even want to see  close encounters of the fleshy kind. I just want to work out and be healthy. You’re right, I should be less squeamish, but still try not to bump into anybody.

I used to change at the lockers with only the white curtain dividing the room and the rest of the world, but when a coworker (a few of my colleagues used to work out here, too) walked in on me naked I decided it was time to start changing in the toilet stall. I mean, there has to be boundaries between work and working out, right?

people-swimming underwater in a pool
Boundaries and personal space. We Americans sure do like our personal space.

Generally though, I prefer the swimming pool. No skunk smell, no men spritzing their territories, no constipation noises, just the occasional gaggle of tourists giggling or bald Russians/Germans doing laps with severe focus. What I’ve decided though is all nationalities are obnoxious in large quantities. So, I roll my eyes, sigh, mutter something about how much Australians or Chinese annoy me and find a small patch of pool to dog-paddle in.

  • Band-Aids (plaster) don’t stay on. Stop wearing them in the pool, it’s gross when other people (me) find them.
  • You shouldn’t throw a ball around because you might hit my b/f in the face. #funnynotfunny
  • Almost everyone in the pool, but you and your friends are annoying.
  • Beer in the pool. Kindle in the pool. Phone in the pool. Oh, why are we multi-tasking?
  • Couples getting cozy look like they’re having tantric sex – with other people nearby. Okay, fine. I’ll watch.
  • Old guys smiling at me is even creeper with swimming goggles on. You’re breathing heavy because of the laps you just did, right?
  • Why do old men with distended beer bellies wear budgie smugglers? They never look like Ryan Gosling, ever.
  • There’s nothing wrong with your body. If you don’t believe me, just visit the pool or gym.
They call me legs.

Do you work out regularly? Do you prefer the gym or pool? What did I miss? 😉

51 replies on “Expat woes: working out at the gym and swimming pool

  1. We called them banana hammocks. Once upon a time, you would wear them…if you were Mark Spitz. Everyone else…no. Just no. They have jammers now, if you need to take a second off your lap time. Have you not seen that even Michael Phelps wears a full bodysuit?

    I’m with you — WHY with the full-on makeup? WHY? Also, clearly it’s tattooed on or you aren’t doing a real workout unless you are getting raccoon eyes.

    I’m worse than you. I can’t even stand people breathing too loudly. So I prefer walks and doing yoga at home. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I prefer walks and yoga at home, too! But alas, walking here is a nightmare (no sidewalks, dusty dirty roads, crazy traffic) and lately, I’ve been too lazy (and hot) to really get a good yoga workout.

      That’s where the pool comes in…so cool and nice in the insane heat.

      Unless you are professional swimmer, I don’t want to see your speedos! I’m too American! My eyes, please, my eyes!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha, you may have to challenge your comfort zone if you are ever going to a pool in Finland: we have common changing rooms, shower rooms with several showers and saunas for all females (separate ones for males though). If you wrap yourself in a towel… well, you’ll stand out alright😉.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG! It seems the rest of the world is so much more relaxed about nudity than Americans! My b/f told me that just today while in the locker room, a man stepped out of the showers with the towel around his neck. Then he proceeded to use the hairdryer to dry his crotch region.

      Thank god we don’t have common showers! 0.o

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, the hair dryer on the crotch is pretty random… in these issues it is easy to see how the culture we grow up in makes us biased.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I prefer going to gym however for this summer I plan to get some time also at the pool again (after being an active swimmer for 20 years of my life it seems I had enough…)
    It Europe, okay most of Europe, it is also pretty normal to go aorund the showers and locker rooms naked. So when many of my friends went for the USA to do their University on a swimming scholarship they had some weird encounters at first – same applies to their friends coming to Finland and experience the locker room, showers,saunas and lake going nude :p

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so funny how cultural differences extend into the gym and locker rooms.

      We had communal or common showers in our college dorms (like a circle), but there was a white curtain dividing the showers. But then the drain would get clogged and we would be just standing in disgusting water – no thank you!

      I can only imagine the shock (both ways). Americans have their roots in Puritian ways, you wouldn’t know it from Hollywood movies, but were rather prudish.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I laughed throughout your post, Lani! You have a way with words and I feel like I’m right there with you experiencing all that.

    The gym I used to go to was a Gold’s Gym branch. It was pretty big (maybe 5 pet shops in size) but without a pool, and you’ll be happy to note there was no nudity in the locker rooms at all. In lingerie at the most but people generally come out of the showers fully dressed (or if you’re a man, with pants on). I always thought the European gyms did the naked thing, didn’t realize other parts of SE Asia had similar gym cultures.

    Thanks for this post; had lots of fun reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you were amused. Sometimes I worry that my humor won’t come through and then it would just be akward!

      Actually, Hawaii only had Gold’s Gyms for the longest time until 24hr Fitness arrived on the scene. I’m surprised gyms made it to tropical Hawaii in the first place as many folks would simply go to the beach or walk or run outside because the weather is so great.

      I think the Japanese, Chinese and maybe even the Koreans are much more free in the locker room 😉 but SE Asians are not.

      Cheers ^^

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Eh, if they don’t get your humor, it’s something extra to laugh about. 😀 Agree, I’m not a gym person myself these days (long story though I coincidentally mentioned it in my most recent post if you’re curious, ha!) but I imagine being in Hawaii makes it easy to enjoy exercise outside. I walked everyday on the beach, and got in some surfing last I was there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is SO much easier to exercise when the weather is agreeable. Even if there is snow on the ground, as long as the sun is out, the elements aren’t too crazy, we can get out and play. Cheers, Daisy!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a great post on working out and seeing each other naked. I am not a person who works out and have never been to the gym except for a few times when a friend decided to show me around. When people exercise, people sweat and drip all over and then there is the issue of fighting for the equipment or gym space. It’s not the hygiene levels that bother me at the gym (I believe I’m a tough cookie) – it’s more of the fact that I don’t like crowds and like my own space to spin and twirl around.

    As for the topic of being naked in front of strangers in a gym, I’ll say I’m in favour to showing your birthday suit off with gusto. As you said, everyone there is there is work out and get healthy or achieve a certain body. As long as you’re comfortable, why not. Then again, I do like a bit of mystery surrounding the body…It’s always fun imagining how someone might look with their clothes off 😀

    On the topic of swimming, no. Swimming is not for me. Never been a fan of it, and probably never will. My kind of exercise is something like walking or hiking in the bushlands and taking in nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I was telling Autumn, I’m usually a solo exerciser. I’ve done gym glasses before, but generally I care to workout alone. It is nice to have a walking partner though.

      But living here has brought out the swimmer in me. And it’s a nice way to pamper and take care of myself since I’m not in a very walkable or walk-friendly place. And gyms are really great for when the weather is not cooperating.

      Maybe being in an international locker room will make me more comfortable in my birthday suit around strangers 😛

      Thanks Mabel!


      1. It is good that you enjoy swimming. When I was forced to do swimming lessons in tropical Singapore under the sun, the water felt cool on my skin, I’ll admit that. But I still always walked away with a bad tan, skin feeling tight and tingly – sunburnt no matter how much sunscreen I used 😀


      2. Ug. That’s sucks. You are rather fair. I get brown. In fact, I have a pretty brown tan right now. Not so sexy in SE Asia, but its in the genes and cannot be helped!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This post is a hoot ☺️😎

    That sure is a swanky hotel, Lani! Apart for the gym with poor ventilation, what are the rest of the facilities like?

    Of late, I have been a weekly customer at the spa of the only 5stars hotel in town. It’s only place with pool, gym, steam room, sauna and Turkish bath (spa). We only get a few customers. I don’t know about the Ladies Hour in the morning and they walking starkers.😳

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked it as it was supposed to be funny, if not amusing 😛

      The lockers are nice, I mean, we have saunas and those hot and cold pools you are supposed to dip in before/after the saunas. I’ve never used them. I suppose I should one day…

      The pool though is the best part – it’s well-kept and pretty. Although the showers are rather nice now that I think about it – strong and steamy!

      Enjoy your spa 😀 Glad I’m not the only expat indulging!


      1. They say money can’t buy happiness. Well, I’m buying the experience and cashing in on my happiness. 😎

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This had me smiling – great post! Shame the gym facilities at your local are a bit crap. Though can imagine space can be a bit of a premium and they’d rather use the space for a big pool than a gym.

    I’m lucky. The building I live in has a gym and a squash court. Me and my OH are pretty much the only ones who use the squash court. So we get a bit angry when we go there first thing in the morning and the AC in the court is down to 16C! WHY?!

    My evening gym sessions are about getting a good workout for me. Working from home can make one a bit chubby, so fighting off that! (It’s a good thing I’m not a snacker) There are a few regular gym goers I see. A couple who work out regularly together, a guy who I think is part of the Navy who’s a beast in work out mode. Sitting on the bike for 25 mins definitely goes faster when I can side-eye these people. Though most of the time it’s me on my own up there! Which …. I have to admit. I love 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like I remember seeing pics of your gym. It looked nice, too. Yeah, seeing the regulars is part of the fun! Squash! I’m horrible at it. You two go ahead and squash without me. 😛

      It is glorious to have the gym (or pool) to yourself. Now that feel luxurious and it’s a good thing you take advantage of it, as well. Working from home does make it so easy to be slugglish and immobile. I think I read somewhere that if you gym is close to your home you’re more likely to use it.

      As far as the hotel goes, I think the gym was an afterthought, like a bonus for holiday travelers and wasn’t originally meant to be a regular gym for expats, but it has become that certainly. There are other hotels and even proper gyms, but my friend got me hooked on this one!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And hey, whatever gets you hooked and works for you is what matters.

        You’re totally missing out on the squash 😉 Though it’s a bit brutal, got some war stories and bruises to show!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Lol@How thoughtful of you to mark your scent everywhere. Ha ha ha 🙂

    I’ve been fortunate to attend rather spacious gyms. The nudity doesn’t bother me. Get dressed quickly and leave. The pool in your photo is inviting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀

      Get dressed quickly. Yes, that is the key. I know it’s nice to linger and take your time, but when it’s crowded, no way. I like my personal space!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have never been to the gym! I hate running, sweating and sports in general. But last year while I was living in Shanghai I went to the swimming pool a couple of times per week. It wasn’t as nice as the one in your pics, it was covered. Chinese women love walking around the lockers and drying their (head) hair while totally naked! They would also take kids to the pool. WHY would you take kids to the pool of a gym??? So annoying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahahhaa. For years I avoided the gym, but then I guess I got health-conscious or curious to check them out and eventually got comfortable in them. I’d rather work out – outside, but when it’s not possible, they are nice.

      I think the Chinese grow up in closed spaces so there is no room for modesty. Dorms and living spaces can be rather cozy – and showers and toilets open!

      Well, thank god they were drying their head hair and not down below like my b/f saw in the men’s locker room.

      Oh, I know, kids – sooo annoying, esp. in wild packs 😛


  10. Lani, you made my day (again). I already said that in my reply to your comment prior to this.

    I can’t stop laughing from start to finish. I get all the humor in there but I also noticed how you hated what’s happening at the gym and the pool –occasionally–based on the post.

    Anyway, I exercise regularly and, right now, I prefer to work out at home. See, I recently moved out from the company accommodations to an apartment. Gym was one of the amenities of the accommodations and I gave that up upon leaving.

    So I bought my own equipment and never had a problem with all the bad smell in the gym. Yeah, I also care about that but not as intense as you. Sorry, I can’t find a better word to really perfect that sentence. Never had problems with my discipline too when it comes to exercising and that’s why I could be anywhere without losing my, should I say, exercise discipline.

    Given the chance, I’d prefer the gym and the pool. The thing is, I can’t (and didn’t) afford corporate gyms (the one with pools).

    When I was working in the Philippines, I went to Black gym. It is one of the oldest gyms in the town; it opened in 2001. Walking into Black Gym was like walking into a time-warp to the 1980s. Most of the equipment are old. It doesn’t have an air conditioning system but two big fans, which only stayed in the corner most of the time and when they were used, they’re positioned away from the gymgoers. I’ve been tied up to that since.That’s why I don’t think I will enroll to corporate gyms unless it comes as a privilege or something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you like it 😉 Humor can be tricky to pull off sometimes!

      For better or worst, I’ve only worked out at corporate or chain gyms. It seems like the other ones were body building gyms which I am certainly not 😛

      Unless you count the rock climbing gym I went to for a time. My friend worked at the front desk so I got to work out for free! Wheeee! I only did the bouldering wall though because I’m not too keen on heights and I didn’t have a partner to work out with.

      Good for you to be disciplined when it comes to working out because I’m willing to wager that – that discipline spills over to other parts of your life, too.

      Thanks Sony!


  11. That last picture is so cool!

    I don’t do much swimming lately. I got spoiled living in the Philippines and Vanuatu. In the Philippines we belonged for a while to what used to be the Elks Club. I kid you not. And then Seafront, the American Embassy compound, decided to let us join. In both cases, the pool was never crowded, and they kept it clean by frequent addition of clean water and just a little chlorine. Soo pleasant!

    Now I have a cheap membership to a nice gym. (They bought up my old gym and didn’t change the price.) The trouble with a cheap membership is you don’t feel too bad if you seldom use it. Since driving there and back adds on an extra 30 minutes, usually I exercise at home or take a walk, especially when the weather is nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think that is why I used to prefer to work out at home or go for walks myself. Just that added chore of going to the gym was just too much sometimes 😛 Laaazzzzy, but realistic, when you have to motivate to drive, get ready, etc, etc.

      I imagine the Elks Club (*giggle*) and the Embassy were posh. It’s funny when I have stepped into those worlds for school functions or passport reasons, how amazing they look behind those high guarded walls!

      Just cancel your membership! and enjoy your walks. You live in such a beautiful town and state 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The American Embassy compound wasn’t posh by American standards, but it was lovely. I still think about the plumeria around the pool. After we’d been in the Philippines for many years, they finally allowed us (the Americans who worked for the Asian Development Bank) to join.They needed more paying members. Every Monday night they had an excellent Mongolian barbecue. We used to bring our friends for their delicious brunch on Sundays.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. My gym membership doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves but it is free with my Social Security (so I don’t feel too guilty). I like the pool area but often old men seem to get a kick at of watching us old ladies during a morning exercise class! Desperate maybe? Gee! (Can’t do the nude thing either. )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How nice that your SS takes care of that! I used to take those swimming excercise classes 😛 They’re fun! But yeah, I suppose it would be weird to watched. Go away guys! We’re trying to work out!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t know how to swim. I’ve never had a gym fitness membership. The rare times, I’ve used the locker rm. to change …to get into the hot tub at a hotel, etc. after snowshoeing…I’m pretty modest.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am wondering, how naked is naked there? Because I’m also in the SE and have been in the gym, but I don’t remember encountering anyone naked. There are some who aren’t shy enough to walk around the locker room in their bras, but that’s it. I am actually a bit surprised that you’re surprised because we have always thought Americans as liberal. *curious*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhhh no. Americans are prudes. It’s the Europeans who love their nudity and naked beaches. In any case, I’ve seen full nakedness from the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese. They just don’t seem to mind. 😛


  15. Lani
    You are SUCH a descriptive writer! You put us right in your GYM!

    I have a funny story about my Gym as I sit in the sauna facing the toilets and lockers, no one knows I am in there because of dark glass, weird set up to say the least! I would say that 1 out of every 2 women who come in turn around and look at their ass in the mirror. Sometimes even pulling there pants down! Many go on to weigh themselves and then re check their Ass again! This seems to be my form of entertainment as I am usually the ONLY ONE in the brand new sauna! That just seems really odd to me as well! Why people do not use the sauna???

    I workout in packs! Dance packs!! I am like a wolf looking for a home when I come to the Gym. I think I like to be seen…. as I tell the truth here… as I work out in mass quantity’s . Not to say it is as healthy as all that nonsense of proving to myself that I can hang with the 30 somethings.
    I think I get high from endorphin’s!

    I got a trainer 2 years ago and he changed my life. I have big butt syndrome if I gain weight, (obesity on my Dads side of the family big time) so I (get big butt)and I was 20 pounds Heavier in 2012., so did not want to return to my big BUTT again!

    I put up with stinky sweat at the gym because my sweat still has odor after seeming to sweat out all the possible toxins from my body! my husband says lets wash that sh… right away when u get home! So I still sink, dammit!

    In conclusion I love my Gym because it makes me accountable as my friends look for me to SHOW UP! I scream alot in class and I think they miss my big mouth!

    I LOVE YOU GIRL! I have not returned to finishing your book. NO EXCUSE yet someday I will complete it and post a review! Heart to Heart Robyn


  16. Hahahaha I loooooove people watching at the gym. It’s just so interesting how people can go to the same room, in the same place, at exactly the same time and still be complete strangers to each other! Don’t get me wrong–that’s the way I like it, as an American, but if I think about it for too long, it just gets weird.

    But the whole naked thing in Asia–I’ve seen it. I remember going to an onsen in Japan with my parents when I was younger and seeing what I never saw before in the US. Of course, by now, I’m a little more open about it, but back then it was horrifying!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very insightful observation. Yes. We do stay in our own little bubbles, don’t we? Makes life interesting, too. And woe is the person who tries to break another person’s bubble!

      I can just imagine young Michelle seeing Japan with new eyes 😉


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