If you can remember far enough back to my time in Kutaisi, second semester I found a gym. It being Georgia, I didn’t expect much and equipmentwise it filled its expectations. But on the personnel and experience side of things, it went above and beyond anything I could have imagined. Olimpi Kutaisi turned out to be the location of many cultural incidents and amusing moments. I look back on everyone who worked there with great fondness. I had a personal aerobics instructor, I knew the owner, got a free massage as well as cake, wine and spirits at various points in time.  The music choice was usually terrible, but in a funny energizing way. All in all, looking back, I really liked Olimpi Pitness Center.

I am now in Sokolov, Czech Republic, a part of the first world. While not speaking the language is always a barrier, both my boyfriend and I work with near fluent English speakers. Having asked our English speaking acquaintances and them in turn having asked their other friends, we were told to try the gym in the basement of the hotel in the park. Fair enough, it should be nice enough since we are in the middle of Europe.

Ha! Admittedly the equipment in this fitness centre is better and has a much larger selection of free weights and weight machines, there isn’t a single non spinning cycle or treadmill…Even the Georgian gym had a treadmill or two. Being me, I am more inclined to use the weights and weight lifting machines anyway, but I do appreciate the option of a warm up jog or sprint.

In the Georgian pitness center, I was a bit of a celebrity. Not only was I an American, but I was also half Georgian AND I had played rugby (a sport WOW!). The days I was able to go to the gym in Georgia were limited because they only had one changing room. That was a bit of an annoyance, BUT it meant that there were only ever women there, with the exception of the owner. And not to toot my own horn, or really even exaggerate, I was probably the fittest one there. I got plenty of stares, but at that point I was used to it and no longer cared.

Also in Georgia, I was used to the stares, the comments and the general excitement/confusion of my presence in the country. In the Czech Republic, I have become once again accustomed to anonymity. So when I walk into the Czech fitness center and get a few stares for being female, it is a bit unnerving, not that the stares are hostile, more just curious. I especially get looks when I use the squat rack and free weights rather than the leg press and weight machines.

Despite knowing that these people don’t care beyond a curious glance, I get intimidated by the machoness of it. The gym is FULL of big, I mean BIG, men who grunt, sweat profusely, grind teeth and in general try to prove their masculinity with each and every repetition.

Then there is the music….Somehow even the playlist manages to be overwhelmingly masculine or just terrible. I would rather hear the FIFA World Cup South Africa Shakira song every time at the gym that Eminem’s song about licking balls….ick.

All in all, I find it interesting that the quality of gym isn’t nearly as different as I anticipated between the two cities- one in a developing country the other in a developed country. Again, I am sure that in Prague there are top notch gyms, but once outside the capital city (same as in Georgia where Tbilisi is fairly modern, but everywhere else is decidedly not), things are a bit more worn out, crumbling and well communist looking.

We will just have to see what kind of fitness center or gym my next city has to offer.