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  • Writer's pictureMark Tedesco

Our Italian Adventure: Keeping Fit While in Puglia

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

PART 32: It might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps we took.

We are in Puglia for the summer and part of the winter.

Step 1: We are relatively athletic and health-conscious. We both go to the gym daily, do weights and cardio, and try to eat clean. In California I go bike riding every evening. I

I strive to cultivate good eating habits, consuming protein, fresh fruit, and vegetables daily. (My weakness is cookies, so I try to keep them out of the house!)

Step 2: Gym. When we moved to Puglia, one of the first things we did was to search for a gym; we found one just a few blocks from our house.

When I lived in Italy in the 1980s, gyms were more rare, but now the gym mentality has permeated the country. There are some differences, however.

I don't want to universalize here since our particular fitness experience in our town in Puglia will be different than it would be if we lived in another Italian area, village, or city.

But sharing one's particular experience can sometimes be helpful, entertaining, or both.

So here goes:

a) Hours: The first thing we found was that some gyms in our area are closed in the afternoons for riposo; this took some adjustment since, in California, we often get to the gym during odd hours.

b) Cultural differences/Sundays. Sunday is a day that I like to focus on my workout; I don't have to think about work or errands, so I can focus on lifting. I love lifting on Sundays, so I was surprised to learn that our gym was closed.

Please don't get me wrong: I don't have any objections to a business being closed on Sundays, but it just takes some adjustment on our part.

c) Crowds: I know when to avoid the gym in California because I know when it will be packed. In Puglia, I am still confused.

  • "It's 4:30 in the afternoon, and everyone is at work! So why is our gym so crowded?" I whined to my partner, who shrugged. On another day, "It is 9:30 in the morning, and it is full; I thought everyone was at work?"

  • I am still trying to discern the patterns; when our gym in California is usually empty, the one in Puglia seems full, and vice versa. Solution? Go with the flow.

d) Exercise chart: We noticed that most of the locals at our gym have a chart they use to check off the exercises as they go through them. These charts are individual fitness plans drawn up at the gym (which I have seen in several gyms in our area). I've noticed that some gym goers stand with the chart in hand and wait for a station to be free rather than going to another.

These charts are excellent guides for beginners, but sometimes someone has been standing behind me, waiting for my station, without my noticing. Following these charts is important for many gym goers, and I am learning to become more aware of that.

e) Chatting and friendliness: In California, I am used to focusing on my workout without being unfriendly. I don't talk or engage; I want to lift weights, burn calories, and then get on with my day.

So when we started going to the gym in Puglia, I had a detached demeanor. My partner is the same but perhaps not as "stern" at the gym as I am, so he began meeting people there. After a few weeks, I softened up, and soon we had a group of gym buddies.

We chat a bit while getting our workout done.

I've found that locals are friendly and curious, especially about California.

The result of all of this is that, now, there is a friendly atmosphere without taking away from lifting.

f) Picking up after: At my gym in California, many do not put their weights away after using them. I don't mind since I am used to it. But in our and other Puglia gyms, everyone carefully racks their weights before moving on. I am grateful for this good habit.

g) Kilograms and pounds: Getting used to kilograms is vital to know if I am lifting a 45-pound weight or 60. I usually go by feel and a general conversion rate idea. But I need to get more precise in this area.

h) Traveling: Traveling and going to the gym can be challenging. Last summer, I was stressed by trying to find a local gym while visiting Rome or another area. Since keeping fit is not supposed to be stressful, I decided to give myself a workout break when I am away from home base.

Step 3: Diet. In another blog, I wrote about diet and eating in Italy. In this post, I will repeat that it is possible to eat very well in Italy and consume fresh produce daily. It is also possible to constantly eat carbs because grabbing a pizza and making pasta are fast solutions but, after a while, don't add up to healthy eating.

We have started preparing food at home in Puglia more often than going out, which helps us eat a more balanced diet that includes protein, fresh fruit, and vegetables.

Step 4: Bike riding. I love to ride my bike, and I go riding every evening in California. There are areas in Puglia that have great bike paths; Lecce, for example, has one that goes for miles. Our town has cobblestones and busy streets, but my local friends tell me there are great bike riding areas. I am just hesitant to ride on a busy street to get there. Still in my learning curve here.

Step 5: Walking. Every time we go to Italy, I lose weight, even when I overeat! The only explanation is walking.

We walk much more than when we are in California. Walking can be a great exercise if done consistently.

Consistency is key.

So I started to take a walk every evening before dinner when we are in Puglia and a twice weekly hike in the hills above Santa Caterina.

Insights: Keeping fit while in Puglia is possible and even easy, but we must make choices to make it happen. Planning schedules around gym hours, organizing one's diet, integrating walking, and continuing other activities like hiking are all components of keeping fit in this beautiful area.

Puglia is a great region, and, step by step, we are adapting, learning and thriving.

And we are grateful.

Watch for my book coming out in March 2023: "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy."

More next time.

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21 de jan.
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You answered my question! It sounds like it is quite different the gym lifestyle in Puglia.

Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco
22 de jan.
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Glad our experiences help! Thanks!

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