Walking up the steep Gyeongnidan-gil, Itaewon-dong on an evening, you may come across people jogging toward Namsan.
The base camp for the group -- sitting across the street from Philippines Embassy -- is Runbase Seoul, Adidas’ recent attempt to make it easier for people to exercise.
For 3,000 won ($2.60), you can rent out Adidas running gear and use the shower when you go for a run. That 3,000 admission fee also allows you to try out circuit training, beginner and expert training program for marathoners or classes created exclusively for women.
Big names in sportswear are looking to promote not just their products, but to expand the culture of running and exercise to city dwellers.
Nike’s Nike+ Run Club, located in its Gangnam and Coex stores, also offers classes for runners based on their level of training. New Balance offers various fitness classes such as yoga and Pilates for women at its store in Gangnam.
“We hope to expand (the Runbase program) to other regions, so that more people can experience the joy and fun of running,” said an official from Adidas.
“Most of the participants are office workers in their 20s and 30s. The number of participants in each class ranges from 10 to 40. Sometimes they form a workout ‘crew’ and exercise together,” said an official of Runbase Seoul.
This month, the workout program on Tuesday evenings is circuit training, which trainer Jae Hae-hyun explains is “a course designed for the basic fundamentals of running.”
The comprehensive course, which starts with basic running around the room, moves on to footwork, sidesteps and shuttle runs, pushups, burpees, squats, crunches and other routines.
For chair-bound workers, even the basic under-50 minute workout is physically taxing -- some of the 10 participants sprawl on the floor or take a knee near the end of the class.
As the program progresses, Jae urges the increasingly-fatigued participants to maintain focus.
“It’s no use to work out in a wrong form. Make sure you see your belly when you get up,” he advises a man doing crunches.
Some parts of the class, including the shuttle run, are conducted in pairs, which triggers some friendly competition.
“I think the best thing about working out with people my age is that I’m that much more motivated. These people have really been working out, and I’m pushed to do even better,” says 25-year-old officer worker Ha Keum-ran.
Ha used to exercise regularly in college but her new job is making it hard to work out regularly, she says. She likes the Runbase programs because she pays a fee of 3,000 won ($2.60) each time she visits. Joining gyms typically requires monthly or yearly memberships.
Her next goal is to try her first-ever marathon.
“Of course, I likely won’t finish. But it will give me a basic record which I can aim to improve in the future,” she says.
By Yoon Min-sik