Tackling the great indoorsIt’s the middle of winter. The weather is cold and dreary, we’re bundled up in our coats and swathed in wool scarves, work is piling up at the office and the lines for the ski lifts stretch all the way to Seoul. Getting out of town for the weekend seems about as realistic as teleporting to Bali. Fortunately, enterprising citizens of the Korean capital have conveniently boxed up the great outdoors and moved it inside.
If you’ve looking to get a bit of exercise without getting a bit of frostbite, look no further: We’ve compiled information six popular sports or activities that can be done indoors, including phone numbers, fees and Web site URLs.
Indoor skiing is perfect for people who want to learn how to ski but fear the embarrassment of wiping out in front of their friends or don’t have time to trek out to some far-off resort.
Indoors skiing is not only a helpful way to learn or to brush up on your technique ― it’s also much less likely to result in serious injuries than outdoor slopes. What’s more, it’s affordable and warm, with the temperature set to around minus 20 degrees centigrade (68 degrees Fahrenheit). Feel free to leave your fur hat, thick sweaters and gloves at home. Most visitors wear a T-shirt over pants or even shorts.
Gangnam Seocho Sillae Skijang, which opened in 1998, is the oldest and largest indoor ski center in Korea, with a total floor space of 662 square meters (791 square yards). The arena has three 20-meter-long slopes. The first is a fixed slope made out of soft synthetic resin, which feels like frozen snow; at just 7 degrees, it’s for beginners. The two other slopes use giant conveyer belts that move downward at 9 and 12 degrees for intermediate or advanced skiers, respectively. Gliding down leathery slopes to practice elementary techniques such as a “Stem Christie” or parallel turns is nearly as much fun as skiing on real snow. The center also caters to snowboarders. Only snowboarders at or above an intermediate level are advised to try out the course, however, as boarding is generally considered more difficult than skiing.
Membership costs 230,000 won ($234) a month, which includes ski rentals and 12 instruction sessions. Snowboarders must pay 250,000 won. Gangnam Seocho Silla Skijang is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m daily, though it’s closed on the weekends in February. The nearest subway station is Seoul National University of Education station, line No. 2 or 3, exit 10. For more information, call (02) 592-0934~5 or visit the Web site, www.indoorski.co.kr (Korean only).
Sport climbing is a type of rock climbing that features handholds installed in the wall instead of rocks. Sport climbing can be as vigorous as rock climbing, as an hour of climbing works out nearly all of the body’s muscles and burns a great deal of fat. For that reason, sport climbing is considered an excellent way to get in shape.
Although sport climbing emphasizes the strenuous aspect of rock climbing, it requires less equipment. Climbers typically wear comfortable clothes such as spandex pants, a T-shirt and rock-climbing shoes, which can usually be rented for a small fee or purchased for about 80,000 won. Before heading up the wall, powder your hands with magnesium carbonate powder or chalk powder. Don’t worry about falling: Impact-absorbing mats cover the entire floor and prevent serious injury.
Art Climbing Sport Climbing Center, established in the Jongno district, central Seoul in 1998 by the well-known mountain climber Kim Hyung-joo, is the oldest climbing center in Korea. The center is relatively large, with a total floor space of 330 square meters. Multi-faceted walls of the center are slanted from 90 to 110 degrees and have over 5,000 holds. The center also has lockers, shower rooms and training facilities.
Art Climbing Sport Climbing Center is located near Jongno-5-ga station, line No. 5, exit 1. A daily pass costs 8,000 won. Lockers and basic training are offered for free. Membership costs 80,000 won for one month and 360,000 won for six months. Members can use both the Jongno center and its outdoor branch near Sookmyung Women’s University, which will reopen on April 3. For more information, call (02) 765-0764.
Seoul has about 20 indoor sport climbing centers. Some of the better-known places are Mad Gym Climbing Center (02-776-8968) near Seoul City Hall; Climbing Academy (02-990-5014) in the Gangbuk district; Seoul Climbing Center (02-929-7398) in Dongdaemun-gu and Climbing Gym Crimp (02-676-1932) in Yeongdeungpo. Most centers have classes for beginners and the price of a one-month pass ranges from 50,000 to 70,000 won.
Kouk Sun Do
Kouk Sun Do is an Korean form of calisthenics said to be a thousand years old. It was designed to promote overall fitness, emphasizing relaxing one’s body and mind and restoring one’s spirit through light exercise and meditation.
Kouk Sun Do (or one of its other numerous names) was reputedly passed down by Korean hermits. In 1967, a Zen priest codified the technique into something more accessible to the public. Since then, Kouk Sun Do has steadily become more popular and now there are about 200 centers for the technique in Korea.
Kouk Sun Do is recommended for those looking for an easy form of exercise. The first step in Kouk Sun Do is learning how to breathe properly: Masters encourage students to breathe with their gut rather than their lungs, which they say is a good way to burn fat and purge bad substances from the body. The breathing technique is said to reduce the levels of sugar and fat in the body and is recommended for those with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty livers.
This breathing method is then combined with simple body exercises. The point is to make large, slow and smooth movements. Kouk Sun Do comprises 430 movements, including 60 kinds of warm-up exercises. Masters say practicers must do Kouk Sun Do for three months before they see any benefits.
The Kook Sun Do headquarters is located in the Jongno district, northern Seoul. It first opened in the ’70s but was renovated last March. Registration can be made one-month, three-month or six-month periods and costs 80,000 won, 230,000 won, 450,000 won respectively for students; the price for adults is 100,000 won, 280,000 won, 550,000 won. First-time students must also purchase a practice suit for 30,000 won and pay an initial membership fee of 10,000 won. Kouk Sun Do classes are available at 5:20 a.m., 6:45 a.m., 10:20 a.m., 12 p.m., 3:30 p.m. 5:50 p.m. and 7:20 from Monday through Friday. (Saturday classes are available at 5:20 a.m., 6:45 a.m., 10:20 a.m., 12 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5:25 p.m.) An additional class is held on 5:25 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call (02) 764-2361 or visit the Web Site kouksunin.com.
The marathon runner Lee Bong-joo is known for combining marathon training with water sports. The feeling of weightlessness in the water allows swimmers to exercise in ways other athletes can’t, using muscles not normally exercised on land. Water sports are also good for one’s joints.
Hygienic and therapeutic, aquatic fitness is recommended to those who suffer from osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, menopause or back problems. Pregnant women can also benefit from the sport as it can help keep them in shape. The only thing one needs is a swimming pool.
Most indoor pools keep the water temperature around 27 to 28 degrees centigrade.
Before signing up for a class, be sure to check that the pool has a trainer authorized by the Korean Aquatic Exercise Association and has the necessary equipment, such as specially-designed aquatic suits, shoes, poles, dumbbells, pins and rings. In Seoul, there are about 30 sports centers meet the requirements. A training course costs 50,000 to 120,000 won for three sessions a week.
Its 50-meter pool has five lanes, the swimming pool at the Olympic Park Sports Center is the largest in town and the center offers six different courses. One can choose from two types of three-day courses, on either Monday, Wednesday and Friday or on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Classes start at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Night classes start at 8 p.m. on Monday and Friday or on Tuesday and Thursday. The three-day-a-week course costs 77,000 won a month; the two-day course 55,000 won. The nearest subway station is Olympic Park station, line No. 5, exit 3. For more information, call (02) 410-1696.
Yangjae YMCA has six 25-meter lanes and offers four courses. The morning course starts at 11 a.m. and has three options: Monday through Friday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. A five-day course costs 80,000 won, a three-day course, 58,000 won.
The nearest subway station is Yangjae station, line No. 3, exit 1. For more information, call (02) 2055-1335.
Whether bowling is really a “sport” is open to debate, but two things are known for sure: it requires a great deal of practice and repeatedly tossing a 13-kilogram ball in the course of a game burns a lot of calories.
Two decades ago, bowling used to be one of the most popular sports in Korea, but it has lost much of its appeal as people sought out more extreme activities.
There’s not so much enthusiasm for bowling these days, but there are still over 100 bowling alleys in Seoul. Beewon Bowling, which opened in 1996 behind the Hyundai Building in Jongno district is equipped with high-quality facilities. In 2002, the alley became the first in Korea to be awarded a “ISO9002” certificate, issued by the International Organization for Standardization to high-quality products and service.
Beewon Bowling has 20 lanes and uses a computerized system. It also offers Internet access, a billiard room and a lounge with a large-screen television. The center is open from 10 a.m. to midnight daily, and from 1 p.m. to midnight on holidays. A game costs 2,800 won for adults, 2,500 won for college students and 2,000 won for teenagers. A three-month bowling class is available on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. and costs 90,000 won. The nearest subway station is Anguk station, line No. 3, exit 3. For more information, call (02) 742-0707 or visit the Web Site, www.beewonbowling.co.kr (Korean only).
Lots of people are interested in scuba diving ― being submersed in an exotic environment with beautiful creatures has an appeal that seems to be nearly universal. But before you strap on an oxygen tank and jump into the water, you need to be certified by a scuba diving association.
The open water course, the basic course required for certification. Students begin by learning how to use the equipment and how to dive safely. They then practice swimming while carrying heavy equipment in a diving pool three to five meters deep. Few scuba-diving training centers, however, are equipped with a diving pool that deep, so most use nearby diving pools. After four or five diving pool lessons, divers learn how to carry around 20 kilograms of heavy equipment ― including an air-tank, a gas pressure regulator, snorkels, a mask and scuba suits ― which is much easier to do in water than on land.
At the final stage, most local trainers offer trips to the sea (part of the certification test must be done in actual conditions rather than in a pool). Most schools start offering practice tours to the ocean in the spring, but some offer trips to Southeast Asia for those who want to practice abroad and get a certification early.
The Aquamarine scuba diving equipment shop and instruction center offers courses for certification by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Most scuba diving centers around the world recognize a certification from any scuba diving organizations, but the PADI certification is the most popular and most widely recognized.
A class for the Open Water Course costs 150,000 won and includes admissions to swimming pools and rental of air-tanks and other equipment. Training at sea costs about 200,000 to 300,000 won and an additional 100,000 won for certification. Aquamarine has a main center in Daebang-dong, southwest Seoul, open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. To get to Daebang center, get off at Boramae station, line No.7, exit 1. For more information, call (02) 815-0373. There is also a branch in Daechi-dong, southeast Seoul. open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The nearest subway station is Samseong station, line No.2, exit 3. For more information, call (02) 539-0445 or visit the Web Site www.scubakorea.co.kr.
by Kong Jun-wan