Since the passing of my father last December, I have been eating a lot, and food became my comfort blanket. Recently I started working out, not only to lose the weight but to keep fit physically and mentally.
Aerobic exercise gets the blood pumping and endorphins running, boosting both your cardiovascular health and your mood.
I had heard about an aerobic exercise instructor who leads nightly classes on the riverfront and decided to try his class one Sunday evening. Kicking off at 5:30pm, the evening workout will cost you 1,000 riel ($0.25) for four hours of aerobic exercise, Khmer dancing and hip-hop. Khmer songs boomed out while we moved to popular Khmer dances like the Saravang, Ram Vong, Lam Leo, and classical Khmer dance, as well as other dances, like the Madison.
After the third hour, I stopped to watch because the hip-hop workout was a little tough for me, as I am not familiar with the moves. It felt really good to finally get into the workout regimen again, despite the tourists and locals gazing on while we sweated it out.
“I work out every day because it releases stress and it’s fun,” says Soeum Soren, who works for an NGO providing legal assistance to abused women and children. “I do two hours of aerobics and Khmer dancing.”
Fellow exerciser Nin Rath prefers to work out alone but still chooses the relative tranquility of the riverfront, for evening runs.
“I do two big rounds which is about an hour or so, a total of three or four kilometres.”
Even the calming flow of the Tonle Bassac isn’t enough to make exercise enjoyable for everyone, however.
“I exercise six days a week, and I hate every single minute,” one expat admitted to me on the condition of anonymity. “All of these people who say they exercise and love it, good for them. Every day I struggle with making myself exercise, but I do it.”
Sophina Chan, a university student, thinks a lack of public green spaces doesn’t bode well for the large number of people who turn up to exercise.
“I think working out in Cambodia can be fun but the heat is sometimes too unbearable. Also there aren’t too many spacious parks people can work out at, since most of them are crowded at peak hours. Gyms are probably the best bet but they do cost money,” she says.
If you plan to enroll in an aerobics class, stop by and observe the class first, this will give you an idea of the fitness level required and length of time. If you do like what you see and decide to get in on the dance action, here are some tips to help prepare you:
Wear workout attire that moves and breathes properly, including tennis shoes.
Warm up with stretches, to increase flexibility and avoid injury during the exercise. At the end of your workout do a few minutes of gentle exercise, so the body can cool down and return to its normal heart rate.
Taking the first step to working out is the hardest part, but once you get into a workout routine, your body will look and feel better.