From Iceland — Look Like a Local

Look Like a Local

Published August 11, 2006

Look Like a Local

I woke up last Sunday completely hung over, again. Between catching up with old friends and meeting a few new ones, my first month in Iceland has been spent pouring expensive liquids down my throat. Add to this mess the fact that I really haven’t been working (writing is more like an excuse to get away from the kids for an hour), and my days are left free to avoid exercise and nurse my hangovers with loaded hot dogs and ice cream. I figure that my caloric intake in the last month could have powered me through the Tour de France. Unfortunately, I don’t own a bike. Lately, the look on my wife’s face has got me thinking that my gut is starting to become a bit more “creepy” than “cute.”
I suppose this shouldn’t be a big deal. After all, I’m thirty-one years old, I’ve been married for eight years, and I have two kids. Hell, in America, I would be looked at with suspicion and mild disgust if I were in really great shape at this stage of my life. Where I’m from, obesity is an indication that your mother really likes you.
In Iceland, however, if you are a “chunky junky,” it might be hard to find a date. According to the Nordic Council of Ministers, only about 12 percent of the population is considered obese, compared to roughly 30 percent of all Americans. Where’s the love, Mama?!
Before I left the States, I had developed a respectable workout routine. Three mornings a week, I would get up early and hit the gym of the school where I taught… sculpt the guns. On two or three of my off days, I would run five kilometres along the shore of Lake Michigan. It had become so habitual that I almost thought it was fun. After a year of this absurdity, I had managed to throw out all of my pants with elastic in the waist, and get my wife pregnant (the two actions being directly related, I am convinced).
But now it’s all slipping away. One month in a country that contains fewer obese people than my high school swim team, and I’ve somehow managed to ooze my way back into looking like a “Real American.” Action must be taken. In an effort to keep my wife at least mildly interested in me physically, I visited some of the health clubs in the area. I figured there had to be at least one that I wouldn’t hate going to. This is what I found…
*All prices quoted by employees. I get the feeling that there is always a bit of wheeling-and-dealing to be done, so you may be able to do better.
World Class, Sundlaugavegur 30
Holy crap! This place is more like an aromatic airport than a health club. Just walking from end-to-end made me sweat, so… mission accomplished. Facilities include childcare, a health spa, hair salon, restaurant, massage clinic, meeting rooms, swimming pool access, and I’m sure I spotted a time-travel machine in one of the corners.
Best place to go: If you are an obnoxious ass, or if you want to be constantly reminded that you are not the best looking or richest guy in town.
Prices: 1,300 ISK per day, 47,500 ISK per year.
Hreyfing, Faxafeni 14
Looking around, you get the feeling that this place could really kick your ass. It’s crammed full of machines, free weights, and there’s even a place to hang from the ceiling. A gym-rat’s gym.
Best place to go: To feel like part of a warm, loving family… that could twirl you over its head and body slam your ass.
Prices: 6-day free trial, 59,400 ISK per year.
Árbæjarþrek, Fylkisvegur 6
This is a clean, basic gym, with enough machines and weights to satisfy all but the craziest steroid freak. Judging by the fact that I have never seen more than five people there at one time, the idea of an efficient gym must not have caught on here yet.
Best place to go: If you just want to get in and out without the frills, like a date with Carmen Electra.
Prices: 700 ISK per day, 34,800 ISK per year.
Líkamsrækt Spa, Hagatorg (Inside the Radisson SAS)
With a Jacuzzi, hair salon, and full service spa packed into the basement of the hotel, there is little room left for fitness equipment. Like World Class but one-tenth the size and twice the price.
Best place to go: If you happen to be staying at the hotel and you don’t have a car, bike, horse, wheelchair, feet or any other means to go somewhere else.
Prices: 1,800 ISK per day, 78,000 ISK per year.
Veggsport, Stórhöfði 17
The squash player’s dream gym (if that’s really what squash players dream about). There is a purposeful weight room housed in a pleasant facility with two small basketball courts.
Best place to go: If you’re looking for an efficient health club and you like the sound of balls hitting the wall.
Prices: 900 ISK per day, 35,600 ISK per year.

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