I might end up being in better shape than I could’ve imagined myself in an overcrowded, smog-ridden city. Seoul isn’t the most conducive environment for general health with its lack of running areas and abundance of street food. I started this trip — after a year working at a sedentary job and not playing much disc — in possibly the worst shape of my life, and I’m not the kind of person who can go the gym, pump some iron, jog on the treadmill, and call it good. My attention span isn’t long enough for that. If I’m exercising, I need some sort of mental stimulation. I’ve decided, however, to become fitter and hopefully in the process become straight up ripped.
I joined the Korea Ultimate fall league in an effort to motivate myself to play ultimate (i.e. to get out and exercise). Ultimate isn’t as thrilling for me as it used to be. I essentially lived for it while I was in college, but after I graduated, I enjoyed hanging out with people more than actually playing the game. I’m not sure if I’m jaded or if I need the routine of practices, the motivation of winning tournaments, and/or the camaraderie of a team, but I don’t get excited to play frisbee anymore. I think I simply enjoy competition, so once I get into the game, it’s a good time. While the ultimate here isn’t very competitive, the people are super cool, and every Sunday I manage to get on my feet and finally do some running.
I also joined a rock climbing gym, which has been quite the challenge. Before this month, I had climbed one rock wall in my life. The gym, however, focuses more on lateral bouldering — less forgiving to beginners lacking proper technique. Fortunately, the membership fee pays for training from the gym owner for the first month, which has been rather brutal. My hands are covered in blisters and calluses from the first couple weeks, which I continue to tell myself are badges of climbing honor.
Seoul is also surrounded by mountains, so hiking is a cheap and easy way to get some exercise. In my time in Seoul, I’ve been on two hikes. A group of us SMOE kids wandered up Yongmasan (fun fact: “san” means “mountain” in Korean) in northeast Seoul. Yongmasan is still within Seoul’s city limits, so the views were only decent, unless you’re into looking at gray, smog-covered cities.
A couple weeks ago, a few friends and I hiked to one of the peaks of Bukhansan National Park, which lies on the northern edge of Seoul if not outside of it. Looking at Seoul from the mountain, my friend remarked that Seoul reminded him of Sim City. That’s not exactly glowing praise, but once we got to a peak, we looked the other direction, and the endless green mountaintops were beautiful. For those moments, I forgot I was in the congested mess that is Seoul.
I don’t see myself falling back into the lazy habits of yesteryear. I have two weeks of Fall League left, and I’m looking into going to Taipei for a men’s tournament in December. The rock climbing is still tough, but I plan on sticking to it — at least until my fingers fall off. Some friends and I are planning a trip to one of Korea’s most beautiful sights, Seoraksan National Park, in November, which should be interesting as the temperatures drop. In that same vein, I can only dream about the first snowfall — the unofficial opening of ski season. This gives a new meaning to “I’ve things to do and places to see.”