Tales from a Korean Gym

This week, I finally joined the gym here in Korea. I know, I know, you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, Sheryll! There’s tons of mountains and parks and running paths! Why the gym?!”

Well, I hate working out outside, and monsoon season is fast approaching, which I’ve heard from various sources that monsoon season here is the worst thing ever. So… gym membership it is. And boy, has it been worth it.

So I live in a very, small, countryside area, so my gym is pretty small, but it has everything I need. The first day there, I got some curious glances from people, but nothing major. I ran, did some leg exercises and went about my merry way.

The next day, I was running on the treadmill when an ajosshi (middle aged Korean man), came up to the treadmill next to me. He turned to me and said, “Korean?!”

“No. Sorry!” I said politely, as I started to put my headphones back on.

So then, he decides to give me a mini lesson in Korean on how to say hello, when to bow, etc. etc. Meanwhile, I’m just really wanting to get back to my run. I didn’t want to be rude, because for all I know, he’s probably the dad of one of my students. So I just smiled and nodded, patiently waiting for him to leave.


He points to the clock.

“Aerobics class! Dance! Now!” He calls over a woman who I presumed to be his wife, or someone related to him. He points to me, talking to her in Korean.

The ajumma (middle aged Korean woman), takes my hand and leads me to the aerobics room. “uhhhh!” I protest. But homegirl was NOT having it. “Fun! Aerobics dance! You like!”

Well…if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

I walk into the aerobics room where the most glorious spectacle I’ve ever laid eyes on is before me. Ajummas are decked out in 80s style lyrca shorts and bedazzled side split pants. Some are even wearing lyrca halter tops, something I’ve NEVER seen since women in Korea definitely never ever ever show their boobs and rarely show their shoulders in any capacity. ESPECIALLY ajummas. They are the ones wearing fucking visors, long sleeves, gloves, socks, boots, in the summer as to avoid the sun.

The instructor walks in, looks at me, and is obviously surprised to see me there. I mime to her that I will watch her. She nods…and starts the music.

The warmup was fairly easy to follow. “I got this!”, I foolishly thought to myself.


The second songs starts, and the instructor begins an elaborate set of 80s style moves that EVERYONE seems to know already. I’m talking about an entire Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation style routine set to old school K pop music. It was INSANE. For the next hour, I fumbled and bumbled around and tried to not look like an idiot.

During entire time of the class I kept thinking,”How is this my life right now?” “Am I really in Korea taking the MOST ridiculous aerobics class of all time with a bunch of ajummas wearing bedazzled halter tops?!”

It was then I realized I was having probably one of the greatest/funniest/best/insanely ridiculous moments of my life.

And moments like that will turn into memories that will last a lifetime.

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