How to Stay Physically Fit in Valparaiso, Chile

Daniel Sanders is a student at Northwestern University and an ISA Featured Blogger. He is currently studying abroad with ISA in Valparaiso, Chile.

I almost joined a gym here. I came close. I found one just down the street from my house. I looked into what it would cost and it was more or less reasonable. One day, I decided I was going to run down there (literally run and literally down there) with money in hand, but as I opened my wallet, I began to change my mind.

See, this gym is very easy to get to, but very difficult to get home from, as it’s half way down a long hill. I said ‘why should I pay money to work out when the journey there and back would be a workout in and of itself?’ I realized that this hilly city was in fact a great gym on its own that I could exploit for free. I closed my wallet and took off from my house for my first of many runs to follow.

Reasons why Valparaiso is perfect for running:

#1: Hills and their health benefits: strength, speed, stamina, and safety

Hills are the building blocks of this city, and that’s not just a figure of speech. Valparaiso is literally divided into 40+ hills, each with its own name. When it comes to running, these hills offer several benefits for your body, starting with strengthening for every muscle in your legs. Uphill running is essentially like weight lifting for your legs, as you must lift yourself up the hill, which strengthens every leg muscle. For example, the incline means that your ankles must flex more, which means your calves, which are responsible for that flexing, will do more work and build strength. Hills also allow you to improve your speed if you do it right. Sprinting for 10-second bursts make you faster by strengthening fast twitch muscles. However, sprinting for too long can produce lactate and cause fatigue. Nevertheless, hills naturally reduce the risk of injury because there is less distance between the ground and your feet during strides, which means less impact and stress for your joints and muscles. And, for your overall fitness, running uphill also burns more calories than does flat running simply because you must exert more energy to do it! The array of health benefits from hill running goes on, and you can learn more and get some suggested hill workouts from the footnotes within or from some extra links at the end of this blog.

#2: Views from the hilltops

A historic port city for Chile, Valparaiso’s location on the water offers incredible views from its many hilltops that display the harmony of natural beauty and human character of the region. Between 10-second sprints, slow down and look around at the houses and shops overlooking green valleys tunneling their way towards the Pacific Ocean as you breathe in the smell of fresh empanadas selling at the panadería on the corner. If you’re nervous that running hills will be too hard for you, the views are majestic enough to overcome it. Don’t just take my word for it; check out the following pictures.

#3: People

On my way home from my first run I got lost. I wasn’t far from home, but I was definitely lost, and it was getting dark and I was getting a little nervous. Without Wi-Fi and without a feel yet for my neighborhood, I found myself with one option – ask for help. And so I talked to four different people on my quest for home. Running forced me to talk to new people, and that’s how I realized this other benefit of running in the city to stay fit, and that is that running is actually a good way to meet people. Other than through finding your way home when you’re lost, when you run in a city, you’re quickly moving through different neighborhoods and witnessing life as it is happening. Run enough and your neighbors start to notice you. They greet you when you go out and come back, ask you about your run, and maybe start a conversation. Running can make you feel closer to the community and vice versa, helping you fit in while getting fit at the same time.

Hill running links:


The world awaits… it!

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