A Beginner’s Guide to Brazilian Gyms*
*as (humorously) interpreted by a certain observant foreigner who attends an archetype of said gym / co-inhabits a home with two very athletic siblings.
- Attire: females go floral. Or funky. Or floral and funky. If you don’t already own a pair of brightly coloured and/or patterned spandex shorts, it’s time to hit the nearest sports clothing store (five of which probably exist on your street) and buy several — read: many — pairs. If you’re feeling extra motivated, experiment with colourful leggings, crew socks, slightly redundant flaps of fabric you can place over the crotch area, or, for the adventurous, spandex one-pieces that really show off your bust and butt.
For the men: well. Just wear whatever. A bro tank will work.
- Pre-Gym: feeling ready to break a sweat? Good. In anticipation of such strenuous activity, you might want to take a shower — because that makes a lot of sense, right? Post-shower, apply liberal amounts of perfume / cologne / deodorant / aromatic substance all over your body and hit the road. You’ll save the gym a great deal of the reais they’d otherwise spend on air fresheners!
- Etiquette: first and foremost, greet everyone. The lady at the reception? Bid her a bom dia. The personal trainers who are always on the morning shift? Also bid them a bom dia. The lady with the back tattoo who always kills it on the Smith machine? Nod at her as you walk to the water fountain. Greeting people is universally appreciated, and Brazil is no exception.
Now, moving on the equipment. If you’re a good person, put the weights back on the weight rack so they’re easy to find. If you’re like most people, leave the weights scattered around the gym in random denominations, so those wishing to find a pair of 2KG free weights need to traverse the entire room scrutinizing each and every machine.
Oh, and putting dumbbells away is a piece of cake: just place them wherever there’s a free space, even if a particular weight is three rows away from its equivalent. Happy searching!
- Routine: ladies, your workout isn’t complete if you haven’t done your fair share of one-legged cable kickbacks. If five of you have to crowd around two cable machines, so be it.
- Gym Hours: the gym in the early morning (5AM-8AM) is primarily populated by women, older men, and generally the more benign of the workout population. Come after lunch and brace yourself for the battle of the bros, as they try to see who can use the limited equipment (the squat rack, the bench, etc) for the longest length of time.On Monday mornings the gym is more crowded than usual. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.
By the way, an important note on limited working hours: on Saturdays the gym is open only in the morning. The same applies to all public holidays, which occur at a frequency of always. On Sunday the gym is closed, along with everything else. So there you have it: your rest day already decided for you.
- ‘FitDance’: there is a phenomenon called FitDance (pronounced ‘Fi-chee-dance’) you will never escape. To make a long story short, it’s like a Brazilian version of Zumba. As you do your bench presses, the female personal trainer on the morning shift will loom over you and go: ‘Bora, FitDance’ (‘Let’s go, FitDance’). Explain to her that you’ll go next time and she’ll continue to ask you if you like to dance until you actually show up for a class and find out it was re-scheduled for the next hour. This tends to happens a lot in Brazil.
But you have to admit, FitDance music is pretty darn addictive. You’ll hear it everywhere on the streets until another viral choreography is released.
- Ventilation: there is no such thing as air-conditioning. Instead, enjoy the fans, which will feel non-existent until you find yourself looking at one straight on and feel as if your face will fly off.
- Music: study your Brazilian hits, but don’t forget the Billboard 40 songs that you were listening to circa 2013.
- Post-Gym: congratulations! You’ve completed your workout. Now perhaps you’d like to take another shower, but one that makes more sense. Leave the gym feeling super cool alongside the dozens of others also rocking fitness gear on the streets.
- Some candid notes: for some great insight into cultural norms and behaviours (as well as a good workout), hit the gym. The experience certainly won’t disappoint. Besides, if you’re a regular you’ll meet some pretty awesome people who’ll have many things to share, like photos of their adult children or recommendations for neighbourhood massage parlours.
Welcome to Brazil! What more could you want?