Oh fitness club. If I were to write a haiku about it, it would go something like this:
XA Fitness Club
Requested by so many
Attended by three
Sweet Moldovan girls
Running in fashion sneakers
Yet willing to try
Complaints of “too hard!”
Always pushed to the limit
But dancing in breaks
We will die of heat
The current is worse than death
The door remains closed
Fitness club was a fun, unexpected, and rather inexplicable aspect of my time in Moldova. It was in January 2019 when we sat down with the XA student center leaders and discussed what our involvement might be for that spring semester. Daniel and I didn’t have any ideas of our own, but we were willing to help where there was need. As a result, we found ourselves running three “clubs” between the two of us.
The beginnings of Fitness Club
One of those was “Fitness Club.” During the spring of 2019 I ran fitness club on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-4:30 PM for girls only. At the time, I didn’t know how Moldovans would respond to a mixed-gender exercise class. I mostly wanted girls who might be body-conscious to feel comfortable while working out.
As it turns out, Moldovan culture is much like American culture in regards to fitness. The girls were a little self-conscious but that was easily overcome with fun music and a positive atmosphere. The bigger problem was a more global one. Just like everyone in all corners of the world, the Moldovans liked the idea of working out….they wanted to work out…but actually doing it was another thing altogether.
Although there was decent interest initially, throughout the course of the semester the numbers dwindled down to a solid 4 or 5 attendees including myself. Though not a resounding success in terms of attendance, I think the club was a great success in other ways.
The small numbers meant I really got to invest in certain students. I watched them open up into their “true selves” at the student center. They were funny, playful, hardworking, and willing to do whatever I offered. Fitness Club laid the framework for some of my most meaningful relationships in Moldova.
Followed by its evolution
So let’s move ahead to the Fall 2019 semester. Realizing that two days a week was a bit much for my schedule, I reduced Fitness Club to just one day a week. We met every Thursday from 4-5:30 PM. But I also opened up the group to include guys.
And the result? Once again I had a group of 4-5 dedicated attendees. Together we laughed and sweated and encouraged each other. We explored nearby parks and ran all over the student center during the course of our workouts.
At Valea Morilor we did stair workouts. We also ran the 2.5 km loop and explored our way through the wooded paths back to the izvor. And OF COURSE – being the Moldovans that we are – we made sure to take at least a few selfies.
Between the fall and spring semester, I had plans of incorporating health education into Fitness Club. I wanted to talk about healthy eating, preventative care, and sleep hygiene. Ultimately I didn’t talk about any of those things – although I did teach everyone how to take their pulse during a workout and use that to inform them if they needed a break.
As I watched the students open up and listened to the ups and downs of their lives, I realized that they wanted a fun place to be active with friends more than they wanted a gym rat’s physique. So that’s what we did. And it was great.