A French resolution: How to keep fit like a Parisian
The season of resolutions is now well under way. Instead of signing up to a gym or taking a drastic and unrealistic vow of abstinence, like cutting out French cheese you could just get in shape by following the daily example of Parisians.
A question asked by many is how come residents of the French capital are so famously trim and toned – (although a few overweight ones have been spotted in recent years) – despite their love of food.
It's thanks, just in part, to their way of incorporating exercise into everyday life. As well as knowing when to stop eating the cheese.
Here a few tips to get in shape the Parisian way.
1. Take the stairs
Paris is a city in which you may not have much choice in the matter. Only 50 out of 303 metro stations have a lift, and they are about as rare in old apartment buildings, so whether it's negotiating six flights of stairs up to your chambre de bonne or the 104 steps to street level at Abbesses next time the lift decides to take a break, a workout is inevitable on any given day.
And if you really like stairs you could of course climb up some of the city's most famous tourist attractions (although Parisians themselves are unlikely to do this). Why not mount the Iron Lady or scale Notre-Dame cathedral or even better just pop up to Montmartre.
2. Run for the Metro
Parisian commuters love sprint training. And most of them do it every morning on the way to work when they hurtle down the last few steps and across the platform to catch the Metro before it departs – think of it as subterranean interval training. They also give their arm muscles a workout as they force the closing Metro doors back open.
Or you could just take the safe option and jog on the spot until the next one turns up two minutes later. But that's not very Parisian.
3. Just forget the Metro altogether
Alternatively, ask yourself if you need to take the Metro at all. With stops an average of only 500 metres apart, sometimes you're just as quick – or even quicker – walking. As the map below shows.
Paris is a compact city, only six miles across, and you can walk from one end to the other in less than two hours. Add this to the fact that driving, never mind parking, isn't exactly the most relaxing activity the capital has to offer, and you'll see why Paris is a city of walkers – so make like the locals and put your best foot forward.
4. Get on your bike (if you can find one)
And when you don't want to walk, skip the Uber and jump on a Vélib or Gobee bike or one of other bikes that you'll see parked around the city. A hit with Parisians, Vélib has been going for more than ten years now and has the highest market penetration of any bike-sharing scheme globally, with one bike per 97 inhabitants.
There have been some major problems recently as a new company took over the running of the service but things look like they are slowly getting back to normal.
Bikes are a great way to beat the traffic getting from A to B, as well as a workout – think of it as a spin class with a view.
5. Have sex like as a Parisian
There's no doubt that to faire crac crac or faire boom boom as the locals would say is a great way of keeping fit. In fact its probably Parisians favouroite way of keeping fit. A recent study revealed the average resident of the French capital has had 19 lovers, eight more than the natonal average.
6. Head to the park for a walk or a jog
Paris parks are not reserved for the poseurs' promenade – from local games of pétanque to pitching up at the ping pong tables, making use of the basketball hoops (or the Instagrammers' favourite, the technicolour court at Pigalle) to climbing at Buttes Chaumont (19th Arrondissement), horse riding on 28km of trails or rowing on the Lac Inférieur at the Bois de Boulogne, there are outdoor activities galore on offer, all of which feel a lot more like fun than keeping fit.
The most popular is of course just going for a run and the paths of parks such as Butte Chaumont, Monceau and Montsouris are packed with Parisian joggers.
7. Buy fresh fruit and veg from the market
The lack of large supermarkets due to the city's limited space is no bad thing – because in Paris you can buy quality fresh fruit and veg at the numerous markets and stalls known as "primeurs". These markets are popular with the locals and great places to get produce.
Not only will you be eating fresh, natural, seasonal produce, but you're getting a walk while you're buying it too – and a workout carrying it all up the stairs when you get home.
If shopping for shoes is more your bag (or indeed for said bag/Breton top/Sonia Rykiel cashmere sweater), bear in mind that the fashionable Parisians' favourite leisure activity counts as cardio too.
8. Throw a party and dance till dawn
Given that Parisians aren't exactly prone to rolling out of pubs and into clubs, it's no surprise that the house party (or tiny flat party) is considered the chic option among the city's hot young things. A browse of the Instagram It Girls' accounts also demonstrates that the private soirée is the fashionable way to work out, with (semi-ironic) Johnny Hallyday dance marathons the most recent trend. Surrendering to the beat behind closed doors is the perfect way to get the heart rate going while preserving the legendary Parisian public dignity.
9. Eat Parisian portions
Of course there isn't much point in all this exercise if you're going to lose it in the local patisserie and undo all your good work (however seemingly effortlessly it's incorporated into everyday activities) with a baked goods binge. Follow the Parisian example and don't deprive yourself, but stick to small portions – the city could have invented the concept that a little of what you fancy does you good.
10. Sign up for the most picturesque personal endurance tests.
There are multiple running events in Paris, which take full advantage of the city's views. The Paris half-marathon takes place on March 4th this year, with a route that takes you from the Bois de Vincennes along the Seine, past Bastille and alongside the Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis. And if that whets your whistle, the city's full marathon – judged one of the most beautiful marathons in the world – is on April 8th.
There are also 10km races in almost every arrondissement (check with the Town Hall when your next one takes place). These races are really good ways of discovering parts of Paris you'd never normally go to. And you get to run on the city's famous cobbles without the fear of being knocked over by a car.
You can also sign up to one of the regular roller blading tours of the city if you prefer wheels on your feet.
Or if long runs are not your thing you could just join Parisians in running across pedestrian crossings in the knowledge that the cars are unlikely to stop.
These multiple daily dashes and sprint finishes will keep you in shape.
This next tip is only for heavy smokers…
11. Social smoke like a Parisian
When it comes to another well-worn resolution, stopping smoking, the ideal of course is to quit completely.
But if that's unlikely for you, at least cut down and stick to Parisian-style social smoking rather than puffing away night and day – restrict yourself to lighting up only en terrasse or over an apéro. Then turn to the electronic cigarette… and then stop completely.
Finally, if the gym is more your thing, remember that it is not acceptable to wear your workout gear on the way there, and ditch the gym bag – a free tote from a suitably intellectual cultural event or your grandmother's old Goyard are de rigueur.
by Lindsey Johnstone