Few people like to exercise in winter time: the ground is slippery, the air burns your throat, and in Beijing it sometimes feels like you have to fight your way through the dense smog that blankets the city. Going to the gym gets monotonous. Nonetheless, exercise is crucial to maintaining both physical and mental health, and the good news is that there are quite a few sports clubs that allow you to make friends and get a workout. A few of the leagues and clubs mentioned below are hibernating until March, but Spring really isn’t that far off and you’ll want to start planning now to get in shape and sign up when the time comes.
As you may have noticed, it’s winter out. Localnoodles has noticed too and their Beijing Snow Team meets every week to celebrate the frosty season by skiing and snowboarding at nearby ski resorts. They’ve also got a trip to Japan planned – a winter sports version of ping pong diplomacy? Check their site for more info.
While mere mortals are shivering at home, Beijing International Ice Hockey is making the most of the winter, playing every Saturday and Sunday at 10:00 at Houhai. The entrance to the ice is across from Starbucks and costs 15 RMB on the weekends. The club has been playing since the early 70s and early rivalry with the Soviet team has morphed into a membership of 50 core players which, according to their website, is 40% Canadian, 10% American, 10% Russian and 40% an international hodgepodge which includes, “a lone Swiss, a crazy Irish goaltender and [a] brave Greek.” The club still plays the Russians and also has a youth hockey league for young players. More info here.
If you prefer your contact sports on dry land, Beijing Flag Football might be just what you’re looking for. This is American football (the ball isn’t round, feet are rarely used for kicking) but with without all the pads and, in theory, all the tackling and pile-ons. They play every Sunday in Chaoyang Park from 13:30-16:30. More info can be found here.
For six years, GAA Beijing has been running a Gaelic football league. Though they’ve only been around for half that time, the women’s teams have already picked up several awards at international competitions. Gaelic football is an all of the above style sport: it contains elements of soccer, rugby and basketball, though it has a longer history than all three sports. More on their site.
Getting away from the whole ball thing for a bit, Beijing Ultimate is, “an open community that is dedicated to throwing and chasing plastic.” They’re not talking about shopping on credit; the group plays ultimate frisbee two or three times a week. Ultimate, supposedly invented by an American college student in 1968, combines elements of soccer/football and American football with frisbees; the result is a lot of fun. Check their website for upcoming events – there’s a whole bunch of them.
Football (soccer) players of both genders can find teams and games through China ClubFootball. There is a men’s 5-a-side league and weekly games for women – though not nearly as many and a women’s league has yet to take off. They cater very seriously to all levels of amateur football players and have kids teams as well. Much more info can be found on their website.
The Beijing Overseas Students Basketball League is not, despite the name, limited to students. This international group of players, there are both men’s and women’s teams, gets their game on every Wednesday 18:30-20:30 and Sunday 13:00-15:00 at the Sport of China Training Center (2 Tiyuguan Lu, Chongwen District, Beijing | 北京市崇文区体育馆甲2号). Email this address for more info.
They’re currently on break, but that’s no excuse not to start spring training for the Beijing Softball League. You can put together your own team of 11 people or you can contact them to be placed on a team. Players of all genders, ages and skill levels are welcomed. There are a number of corporate teams which means you get the opportunity to beat the American Embassy team at what is, sort of, their national pastime. More info here.
The Beijing Ladies Golf group plays every Thursday from March until the end of November. Start practicing your golf swing now. More info on the group here.The Beijing Golfers Club will also resume activity in the spring. Now that Tiger may be quitting golf there’s a void in the golf world waiting to be filled – is the year of the tiger really going to be your year? Get started here.
Cyclists in Beijing who want something other than the normal dash to work on their 120 RMB Forever bike can join The Peloton, a road cycling club has three levels of rides and welcomes men and women from all countries – the group counts English, Chinese and French as its main languages. More here. The Beijing Mobsters may sound scary but this MOB is actually a group of mountain bikers that meet frequently for rides. You can find up to date information on their Google group or Facebook page but you will need some sort of proxy to view either. You can also send them an email.
Fixed gear fans can join up with the Beijing Fixed Gear Club. They meet every Sunday around lunchtime and tool around town on their fixies. More information can be found here or by emailing them. If you’re not sure where to get a fixed gear bike in Beijing go their website. If biking without brakes isn’t your cup of tea (CamelBak full of Powerade?) you might want to join their Beijing Juggling Club which meets Mondays 21:00-late at Yugong Yishan or Club Obiwan. More info here or via email.
Speaking of, um, balls in hand, there’s the Handball in China club which is staying busy during winter months. More here.
The Hash House Harriers are “a drinking club with a running problem.” Fortunately for all involved, they’re no longer a club with a legal problem. Check their website for upcoming runs in Beijing and in other cities in China and worldwide.
Go karting might not seem like much of a sport but some might argue that golf isn’t much of a physical activity either. In Beijing, U-Speed is the place to go to get your road rage out. Check their site for details. If crashing into your friends isn’t enough, you can try stabbing them at the Vango Sports fencing center. Details here. If you find fencing a little antiquated, gather some friends and head out to StarTrooper for laser tag. Part disco-part war game, you’ve got smoke machines, music and crazy Terminator-style weapons with which to defend your base and attack the other team’s. It’s like Saturday Night Fever meets Terminator. Info here.
No matter whether you’re into running or skating, dribbling or kicking, on road or off, stabbing or shooting, there should be something on this list to help you get out of the house, make new friends and rediscover muscles you thought had disappeared under the holiday time bingeing. On your marks, get set, go!
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