Dana Filek-Gibson discovers new ways to work up a sweat with this month’s best alternative workouts. Illustrations by Tara Lou McKenzie.
Hitting the gym can be torture. While some might feel at home amid humming ellipticals and the clink of weight machines, many among us have hopped on a treadmill only to become discouraged when, two minutes later, we realise that we are not, in fact, moving. Of course, the alternative – a hot, steamy jaunt through Saigon’s pollution-fogged streets – isn’t necessarily much better. But fear not: options abound for those looking to get their endorphin fix, and nowadays neither a monotonous cardio workout at the gym nor sweating it out on the streets of Saigon are a requirement. Instead, look to these places and organisations to get fit and have fun at the same time.
Saigon Cycles mountain bike ride
For an early-morning adventure, pedal down to District 7’s Saigon Cycles. Beginning at the peaceful hour of 6am, a crew of mountain bikers heads off-road every Sunday for a scenic long ride beyond the city limits. Rides usually last around four to five hours and cost VND 100,000 per person, which includes breakfast noodles and drinks. All adults are welcome. Be sure to bring along water and plenty of sunscreen, as you’ll be out in the sun for a few hours.
51/1 Sky Garden 2, Phu My Hung, D7
Spice up your average workout with a little fancy footwork at XSalsa. The Latin dance studio, which has been around since 2005, teaches a range of salsa classes from beginner to advanced as well as bachata lessons, another style of Latin dance originally from the Dominican Republic. Both class cards and drop-in rates are available, with the latter starting at VND 110,000. For those who would like to try, the best place to begin is at La Fenetre Soleil on Wednesday nights, where XSalsa holds weekly salsa social dances from 9pm and you can get a preview of what each XSalsa class entails.
76 Mai Thi Luu, D1
Twice a week, Anna-Selina Kager and the VietShred crew get together to hone their longboarding skills in front of Saigon Outcast. Founded in October of last year, VietShred aims to introduce longboarding to those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn. All levels are welcome, from complete beginners to seasoned pros, and there is plenty of equipment for novice riders to use free of charge. Though the group was originally formed with Vietnamese longboarders in mind, Kager encourages everyone, expats included, to join in. Most newcomers learn the basics from one of VietShred’s more experienced riders and then are free to practise on their own. VietShred meets on Thursdays at 6pm and Sundays at 4.30pm. For more information, check out the group’s Facebook page.
188/1 Nguyen Van Huong, D2
For a new spin on your traditional gym workout, AquaFit VN offers weekly classes in District 2. Using aquabikes, aquatreadmills and aquaelliptical machines, each class provides a challenging workout in which participants are submerged in one to 1.5 metres of water. By exercising in a swimming pool, AquaFit minimises the impact on joints, limits your risk of injury and adds a bit of fun to the conventional workout. Sign up for a free trial, opt for a single class at VND 330,000 or invest in a class card. Both morning and evening classes are available, though you’ll want to contact AquaFit for more information as classes can fill up quickly.
48 Tran Ngoc Dien, D2
Saigon Jiu Jitsu
For something a bit more full-on, Saigon Jiu Jitsu holds Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) classes out of a studio at The Manor’s Star Fitness. Modified from traditional Japanese martial arts, BJJ focuses on grappling and ground fighting for an intense workout. The group trains both with and without the traditional gi, or uniform, and everyone is welcome to attend, from beginners to pros. Saigon Jiu Jitsu’s classes tend to be mostly male, however women are also invited. For beginners, the best day to train is Wednesday. Each session runs around two hours. Class cards are available, as are drop-in rates. Join a single session for VND 100,000. One of Saigon Jiu Jitsu’s grappling coaches, Kotani Hisanori, also runs a separate karate class at the same studio on Monday and Friday evenings from 7.30pm-9pm.
Star Fitness, The Manor
91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh District