There are many ways to stay fit while in Bishkek! Below are suggestions for gyms and training clubs within the city that former SRAS students have recomended.
Geological Street, 17
(It’s the first alley on Baatik Baatura after you pass Vefa walking from the School)
When I first arrived in Bishkek I decided that I’d like to continue my martial arts training. I had done a few different forms before, but I had always been interested in Jiu-Jitsu. Luckily, I found a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Dojo not far from the London School. I contacted the coach and asked him if I could start training even though I’m not fluent in Russian and had little jiu-jitsu practice previously. He said “of course!” He told me where I could buy my uniform, and told me to come to practice the following day. I’ve been training at Top Team three days a week for three months now, and it is an incredible experience. The main trainers speak a little English, although in general I converse with them and the rest of the dojo in either Russian or Kyrgyz. Everyone is very friendly, helpful, and supportive. It’s a great way to practice Russian, but also to train in martial arts while making great friends. Some of my closest friends in Bishkek are from this Dojo now and my Jiu-Jitsu ability has improved immensely this semester. It costs roughly $12 a month to train and lift after practice. I will definitely continue training next semester and I recommend the dojo to anyone who studies in Bishkek.
67/1 Baatik Baatura Street
Although I have many hobbies, my favorite pastime for the last seven years has been lifting, especially powerlifting. When I came to Bishkek, I was honestly worried that it would be difficult to find a decent gym, or at least a decent gym near my dorm. Luckily, I found Fitness House – an incredibly nice, modern, and comfortable gym only two blocks from the London School. The gym is fully stocked with modern equipment, free weights, and cardio machines (although I never use those). There is also an upstairs where classes like yoga are taught. For roughly $30 you can buy 12 gym visits to use over a one-month period. You can also pay extra for a personal trainer. Everyone in the gym is friendly and speaks Russian, but honestly gyms aren’t great places to socialize so don’t expect to make many friends. I’ve gotten to know a few guys who train all the time, but we haven’t ever gotten closer than just talking about lifting in Russian. In general, if you want to stay in shape, Fitness House is perfect since it has good equipment, a clean locker room with showers, and a sauna, all for a fairly good price.
Thanks to a couple of local friends, I had the opportunity to check out an extreme sports place called On the Wake, which I don’t think I would have ended up finding otherwise. I was told by my friends that this was an indoor trampoline park, which was true, but there was also a lot more to it – with rock climbing and gym equipment also available.
The place is not easy to find and going with a local person made it easier. Their address is 1/31 Ankara Street, located in the northeast corner of the city. However, to find it, you must first turn left onto Vinogradnaya Street and then off a small side street to your right shortly after turning left onto Vinogradnaya. There, you will find On the Wake on your left-hand side.
Upon first glance, it did remind me of a Kyrgyz version of America’s Sky Zone indoor trampoline parks, which usually attract multitudes of little kids with moms waiting passively as their children jump. There were a few little kids there, but I wondered if a parent or relative also worked there because these kids were all so good at gymnastically jumping that it seemed like they frequented the place.
The entrance fee was 800 soms per person, or approximately 12 USD, which is a bit steep for most locals. Thus, this is not likely to be an entertainment that many take often. My one friend, Luiza, who I was there with is considerably younger than me, about 15 years old, and some other friends of hers, who are around my age, were there. The older girls weren’t as fond of jumping. They seemed to find it exhausting, so I proceeded to jump with my younger friend. Since I have not invested in a gym membership during my time here, I used this as an opportunity to fit in a mini workout in, which was made even easier by the other equipment offered in this center.
I noticed that rock-climbing was available, but I wasn’t sure if this included an additional cost and didn’t see anyone else doing it, I didn’t pursue doing it. At the end, however, when I took their business card, the card boasts that they are the largest rock-climbing site in Kyrgyzstan.
In addition to rock climbing walls, the trampolines fed into a foam cube pit, which brought me back to the days of childhood gymnastics. There were also high-rise blocks lining the walls, in addition to a runway that you could jump from and into the cube pit.
On the other side of the trampoline and rock-climbing segment, there was a ping pong table and a mini gym. I played ping pong with my friend for a while. At a slow point, I decided to start utilizing the dumbbells and sit-up equipment available there. There was also a balance board, which resembles a very small surf board that you needed to balance with a rolling, hard foam cylinder underneath. While I am normally terrible at these, I was able to place it under some hanging gymnastics rings for support, and was able to get the hang of it. There was also a vault, which, too, reminded me of my days of gymnastics. In this area, there was also a rope you could climb, or swing on, as my friends liked to do.
Luiza found it strange that I felt comfortable exercising and using the gym equipment in front of men. I then remembered that the reason why this was a shock to her was because gyms in Kyrgyzstan are divided by gender, which is common in dominantly-Muslim countries. I explained to her that gyms in America are co-gender, which was why I didn’t even think about it when exercising.
After finishing another round of sit ups and bicep curls, everyone was about ready to leave. I jumped on the trampoline one last time with my friends before we all headed home for the evening, sometime around 8 PM. We had been there in total for about four hours.
Although considerably smaller than Sky Zone, I enjoyed my time both on the trampoline and utilizing other exercise equipment at On the Wake. I appreciate that I had this experience with locals, because it allowed me to learn a variety of new vocabulary words in Russian contextually, such as those for trampoline (батут), jump (прыгать), arm wrestling (побороться руки), etc. It was also interesting to be able to compare this type of experience with the ones that I’ve had in America and how they are alike and different. For that reason, I would recommend visiting some sort of sports complex for anyone abroad long term. Not only does it help with contextual language learning, but also with cultural understanding.
By Mikaela Peters