Since I moved to Seoul, South Korea, the first thing I looked up was Where the f’ are all the gyms at? Okay, maybe not those words exactly, but you get the idea. I was really, really shy about signing up for a gym here because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find an English-speaking gym in Gangnam.
First of all, don’t be afraid to sign up for a gym membership in Korea if you’re plus-sized or if your Korean language abilities are not up to par. I’ve seen plenty of plus-sized ladies and gentlemen (Korean or not), and I’ve found that most young staff are pretty accommodating with the language barrier. You may run into some issues if you’re training 1:1 and need more in-depth instruction, but there are plenty of English-speaking trainers located in Seoul (further below).
Let me know where you work out! If you have any trainers or gyms to add, please comment below and I’ll include them in my list! I’m always on the lookout for foreigner-friendly fitness classes in Seoul. I’ve also been on the hunt for a great spinning class like Soul Cycle, but I’ve heard some mixed reactions regarding the spinning classes available here.
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The 24/7 Gym Chains in Seoul
Though Itaewon is the easiest answer for those that live in the area, a lot of English-speaking expats do not live in Itaewon and still need to sign up for a gym. If you’re looking for a basic, no-frills chain gym nearby then you’ll probably encounter SpoAny or GOTO Fitness in Seoul, South Korea.
SpoAny is kind of like the Planet Fitness — for the Americans out there! — of South Korea. They have 82 locations in Seoul and Incheon and they’re open 7 days a week, 24 hours (ish) a day with reduced hours on holidays and weekends. You can view a full list of their branches on their website.
My Experience with SpoAny Fitness
When purchasing a membership, you can sign up for the basic gym membership and add on perks like a monthly locker rental or even clothing rental — which consists of a baggy one-size-fits-all t-shirt and bright orange shorts. Since I live close to the gym, I preferred to shower and change into my own gym clothes at home rather than use their locker room facilities. You choose your primary location, but you can also bounce around to other SpoAny gym locations if need be.
There are classes — though I can’t really attest to the quality of them as I’ve never been — as well as personal trainers that you can sign up for.
Side note: If you’ve never been to a Korean locker room, it’s interesting. People get fully naked in there and shower communally. I’ve never in my life seen so many naked little old ladies in my life, and my prudish American upbringing had me blushing, trying not to make eye contact with anyone or stare at anyone’s jiggly bits.
It’s incredibly affordable as well. I wasn’t quite sure what the prices were at first, but I contacted SpoAny on Facebook, and they had an English-speaking staff member explain the prices to me. I later found the prices on their website per branch, but it was incredibly helpful that the staff member walked me through the process. Filling out the paperwork, too, was easy. Since the staff was pretty young, a lot of them spoke just enough English to get me going.
Looking at the SpoAny Gangnam Station location online, you can view photos of the individual branch, see the trainers available, the amenities available, the hours, and the prices. The more months you sign up for, the cheaper the cost will be. Even though one month costs 80,000 KRW, one year of gym membership at SpoAny is about 360,000 KRW or 30,000 KRW per month. Personal trainers at SpoAny, however, will cost between 80,000 to 100,000 KRW per session which is a tad much for me though I’m sure you can negotiate.
Foreigner-Friendly, English-Speaking Gyms in Itaewon
Most of the English-speaking gyms are unsurprisingly located in Itaewon — the foreigner district of Seoul — but if I’m going to go before/after work, there’s no way in hell that I’m trekking that far with the daily rush hour traffic. With that said, if you happen to live in or close to Itaewon, there are some really fantastic fitness studios, sports classes, and training facilities out there.
Fitclub is a personal training studio located in Itaewon, Seoul. FitClub is located at #204 2F 646 Meungsan Building Itaewon-2-dong Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea.
Seoul City Crew is a personal training studio located in Itaewon at 302, Yongho bld, Bogwanglo 46, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. The membership package includes customized nutrition and exercise programs along with gym access. They also offer a competitive bodybuilding package with a photoshoot.
The Flow Room Yoga is a yoga studio in Itaewon that offers classes like Vinyasa, Kundalini, Zumba, and even a motherhood yoga program. The Flow Room is located in Itaewon at B1, 44-17 Itaewon-Dong (Building 47).
Pete’s Gym is a fitness studio in Itaewon that offers classes like jiu-jitsu, krav maga, yoga, and MMA fighting. Pete’s Gym is located on the 2nd floor of 5 Hoenamu-ro 13-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul.
Free Outdoor Gyms in Seoul
If you’ve ever stumbled into a public park in South Korea, you may have noticed those outdoor machines that are well-loved by South Korean ajummas and ajusshis — basically, anyone over the age of sixty. They are absolutely free to use and a great resource if you’re on a low budget. According to the article, “Outdoor exercise facilities prove popular amid the pandemic”, by JoongAng Daily, they’ve also been gaining in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic for obvious reasons.
If you really want to go old school, one of my favorite spots to go running is the paths by the Han River. Just head in the direction of the river and you’ll find your way inside! You’ll also find outdoor gyms along the way as well as public parks, convenience stores, bike rental shops, coffee shops, and public restrooms. Yeouido Hangang Park (map below) is also one of my favorite areas to end up in after a long run.
There are also mountains everywhere in Korea. Bukhansan is my go-to spot for hiking since it’s easily accessible by train and/or bus. If you don’t know where the entrance is exactly, just follow the stream of brightly clothed, elderly hikers. If you don’t actually feel like leaving Seoul, you can also head up to Namsan Tower — also known as North Seoul Tower — for light hiking, biking, and/or running trails.
Foreigner-Friendly, English-Speaking Gyms in Gangnam
Krav Maga Seoul offers Krav Maga and self-defense classes at their Gangnam studio at 839-15 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul Khan Gym – Daegyeong Bldg, B1.
B.bloc Urban Climbing Gym is a rock climbing gym with two locations — one in Gangnam and one in Songdo. The staff speaks some English, so it’s easy to sign up. The B.bloc Gangnam is located at 563, Nonhyeon-ro, Gangnam-gu, Eonju Tower. A one-day pass costs 20,000 KRW, but they also offer 1-6 month packages and 10-pass packages.
Climbing Park is a rock climbing gym in Gangnam located at Basement 3, 468, Gangnam-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. The owner speaks some English, so you’ll have no trouble signing up. Their one-day pass costs 20,000 KRW, but they also have monthly, yearly, and 10-pass packages available.
Next Level Fitness is a personal training studio owned by the trainer, Sammy Hong. He speaks English fluently and worked as a personal trainer in Canada. The Next Level Gangnam studio is located in the basement of Jinheung Shopping Center at 389, Seocho-daero, Seocho-gu, Seoul — right by Gangnam Station.
My Experience with Next Level Fitness in Gangnam
After a year and a half of working out on my own at the gym though, I realized that I needed to up my game and shift more focus on strength training. Sure, I could watch YouTube videos, but I felt like I was just going to end up hurting myself … And I did. Those years of high-intensity cardio felt like I was on a perpetual hamster wheel. I asked around for personal training recommendations in Seoul, and I ended up finding one in Gangnam that suited my needs.
I never in my life thought I’d be bougie enough to hire a personal trainer. The reckoning came in the last year during the pandemic when the gyms were closed and I was just working out at home, flailing around, and going for long walks. I’ve been working out on my own for years and years, and I’ve always been incredibly intimidated by weights. I’ve dabbled in using the machines — sometimes consistently, sometimes not — but truth be told, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Free weights were a whole different ball game to me. Since I had gotten a salary bump at work, I decided that it was time to hire some expertise.
I started going to Next Level Fitness next to Gangnam Station and working with Sammy Hong, an English-speaking trainer who worked in Canada. I was very skeptical of personal training in general, but after several months of working with him, I get it now. The psychology of spending that kind of change on a trainer and having someone watch my progress makes me feel 100% accountable. He pays attention to my form and makes sure I don’t hurt myself. If I drop the ball and skip workouts, I feel guilty for wasting the money and so I push harder. I also finally learn how to do basic and more advanced workouts while tracking my progress, and he also creates workout routines to do in-between my 1:1 training sessions.
When asked about his credentials, this is what he had to say:
Honestly, I’ve inquired about personal training rates around Seoul, and from what I’ve heard, Sammy’s prices are absolutely the norm in Seoul. He has his own studio, so you’d be working out in uninterrupted privacy. Each session is 50 minutes, and the first-time trial session costs 40,000 won. The Next Level Fitness personal training rates (1 on 1) is as follows:
- 1 session – 75,000 won (75,000 x 1)
- 5 sessions – 350,000 won (70,000 x 5)
- 10 sessions – 650,000 won (65,000 x 10)
So, if you’re looking for a personal trainer in Gangnam, I highly recommend reaching out to Sammy. He’s very responsive, and he sometimes runs promotions as well, so feel free to contact him and ask any questions.