Brussels international club gets fit by getting sweaty


If you wandered through Cinquantenaire Park on a summer evening you might ask what was going on when you saw over 200 men and women moving as one in fitness exercises. Equally if you watch ‘La Bruxelloise’, the urban women jogging event for breast cancer on September 15 in Place Flagey, you might ask, “Who are the happy-looking 50 strong team in bright yellow T-shirts?”

The answer is Friskis & Svettis – probably Brussels’ most popular international club.

And what is Friskis & Svettis? It’s the friendliest and best value way to get fit – or stay fit- and means ‘healthy and sweaty’ in Swedish.

It has over 600 members, more than 45 sessions per week (each usually an hour) in over 8 venues in and around Brussels. Sessions are available weekday and weekend, in the morning, lunchtime and evening. Once a member you don’t book a session – you just turn up and join in.

At its heart is exercise to music in a group led by a trained instructor. It is fun and effective, and has been developed in co-ordination with experts in the fields of medicine and physiology, based on scientific research.

F&S is available in three main intensities: basic, intermediate and intensive. But easy to follow does not necessarily mean easy going… tough classes are available for those who want to be thoroughly challenged – and ultimately it is up to each participant to put in the effort they feel able to.

“The great thing about Friskis is that everyone is welcome from the very fit to the want-to-get-fit,” said Julian Scola, a member for five years. “There’s no posing or showing off, everyone just gets into it as much as they want. No one’s interested if you have the biggest biceps or best trainers. It’s just about fitness in an informal and friendly atmosphere – I love it.”

Whatever the level, warm up, mobility, strength training, cardio-vascular training, slow down, stretching and relaxation are all essential elements which always are included in each class.

In addition to the main intensities there are other indoor sessions including friskis yoga, flex, core and dance, plus outdoor sessions of running and Nordic walking.

So what’s the difference from commercial gyms? It’s not for profit: every instructor and every host is an unpaid volunteer, there for the love of it and not for the money. This makes it great value for money – full membership is €110 for 5 months or €195 for 10 months (it’s free in the park in July and August).

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