Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy in Barcelona (after learning the hard way…)5 min read
Halfway through the semester after a long weekend in Dublin, it hit me. I had been studying abroad for 5 weeks, and my body was clearly revolting. My skin was breaking out, my face felt puffy all the time, and the struggle to get my jeans on every morning was getting more and more frustrating. Coming back to Barcelona after four days of Sheppards pie, irish coffee, and endless pints of Guinness, I had a realization. If I was going to continue with my weekend indulgences (chocolate and cheese fondue in Switzerland, Schnitzel and steins of beer in Munich, etc.), I would need to strike a better balance and change my habits when back in Barcelona. I wasn’t there for a vacation…I was actually living there!
1. Morning runs on the beach — The weather in Barcelona was beautiful about 90% of the time (of course now I realize just how much I took it for granted). While it was easy to sleep in on the days I had late classes, I learned to love to wake up and go for early morning jogs. Although I was initially a little hesitant to run alone, I eventually got my bearings and found a busy path along the beach. I would run by men playing chess, teenagers surfing, and couples out walking their dogs. Instead of listening to music, I ran without headphones and soaked in the environment around me.
2. Shopping at Markets — Barcelona is home to one of the most incredible outdoor markets, La Boquería. While they have lots of candy and treats, they also have an endless selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. I would swing by on my way to class and pick up a fruit cup and quinoa salad for lunch.
3. Cooking at Home — Initially I got a little carried away with going out to eat. I was anxious to try all the local cuisines! After the novelty began to wear off and my bank account started to suffer, I decided to attempt to cook in our apartment. When I didn’t have time to stop by La Boquería, I went to the produce stand around the corner, and I even became friendly with the butcher right downstairs who helped me practice my Spanish.
4. Healthier Options –As my time in Barcelona progressed, I gradually began discover all the healthy options the city has to offer. As a city on the water, it’s no wonder they have an abundance of seafood! I began ordering more fish in restaurants, and eventually started cooking my own at home (my parents were shocked). One of my favorite healthy options was the roasted sweet potatoes sold by vendors on the street. It’s a fall-time tradition for the vendors to sell them, as well as chestnuts, so I’d often stop by and grab one wrapped in paper as a snack on the way home from class.
5. Gym — I ended up joining a local gym right near my school. It was one of the coolest, most high-tech gyms I’d ever seen in my life! It had wristbands and finger scanners to get in the entrance and the locker rooms, as well as awesome facilities. I ultimately ended up joining the gym to take advantage of all the classes they offered. Not only were the spinning and bodypump classes some of the toughest I’d ever taken, but it was also tons of fun to try to understand the instructors and improve my Spanish. The steam room wasn’t a bad perk either…
6. Walking/ Exploring — I’ve always heard that one of the way Europeans stay so fit is from walking everywhere…and it’s true! We were fortunate enough to have an apartment in a central location, so many things were in easy walking distance. Our walk to school was a mile, but I never chose to take the metro. I didn’t mind spending the extra time exploring new paths. Some of my favorite days were spent aimlessly wandering the cobblestone roads.
7. Hikes — In addition to the beach, shopping and restaurants, Barcelona has some awesome outdoor attractions. A few weeks into the semester (about the same time I was having issues fitting into my pants), I decided to make a list of activities to do before the end of the semester…many of which included outdoor, physical activity. At least once a week I tried to go on different hikes and walks such as Tibidado, Montserrat, Labyrinth Park, and Parc Güell (which I shamelessly went to 4 times).
8. Cutting down on alcohol — As I quickly learned, drinking is part of the Barcelona culture. Many people have wine or cocktails with meals two times a day. Although I was eager to embrace the new culture, I inevitably realized something would have to give. This was worse than the freshmen 15! While I enjoyed mojitos and sangria on many occasions, I learned that I didn’t need to indulge on a sugary drink with dinner every single night.
9. Sleeping more — I know it sounds cliched, but one of the things that really helped me get back on track and feeling better about myself was prioritizing sleep. How am I supposed to immerse myself in the Barcelona culture and nightlife by staying out until 6 and turn around an go to class at 9? Whether it was staying in at night or fitting in some extra naps, I did my best to make more time for some extra sleep in the crazy Barcelona schedule.
10. Everything in moderation! — Again, this is something we hear all the time, but the difference I learned while being abroad is that it’s truly the only way to live. I knew studying abroad was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I wanted to make sure I soaked up every last bit of it while I could. Initially I thought I wanted to have Paella and gelato every night, because when would I ever get the chance to live like that again? The difference with studying abroad was that it wasn’t a vacation…I was actually living there. I was in it for the long-haul, and I knew my body would punish me if I didn’t take care of it. While I never stopped myself from trying a local cuisine or indulging in a treat, I had to strike a balance. Even all the way across the Atlantic, I found it’s never impossible to lead a healthy, balanced life.
Guest Author: Meg Palmer
Meg Palmer, a student at Wake Forest University, is an intern for HTH Worldwide. She recently returned from a study abroad experience in Barcelona.