When you have unpacked all your moving boxes and had time to feather your new nest in France, you may feel ready to take up a new, or old, sport. Are you interested in joining a sports club or a gym? Or finding a yoga class close to you? Where should you start looking?
Sport clubs and classes in France
A good place to start your search is your local Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture (MJC) or youth centre, they are easy to find with an online search. Sometimes they are called Maison Pour Tous, and the municipality runs them.
They offer all sorts of classes and activities for both adults and children.
The classes run from la rentrée (the beginning of the school term in September) until the end of June the following year.
Association des sports (Non-profit sports organisations)
If the MJCs don’t offer your sport of choice, a quick internet search or a visit to the mairie (town hall) will point you toward several associations des sports (non-profit sports organisations). Among them you will find tennis clubs, horse riding, martial arts and much more. The inscription fee is reasonable, and most sports will run from la rentrée in September until the end of June, the following year.
Club fitness or Salle de sport (Gyms)
If you have your heart set on finding a private gym, keep an eye out for a club fitness or a salle de sport. The idea of going to a gym is relatively new here in France. Depending on where you live, the options will range from a small gym with basic facilities, equipment and classes to bigger clubs, housing sports, restaurants, spa, etc.
There are a few popular gym chains in France such, as Basic Fit, Keep Cool and L’Orange Bleue – all offering cardio and musculation (weightlifting) machines, and cours collectifs (group classes)
Piscine municipale (public swimming pools)
There are indoor pools, outdoor pools, pools with waterslides and waves, in short, all sorts of pools in France.
Many of the piscines municipales share their facilities with a salle de sport with gym equipment and are often well maintained. Be aware that speedos are mandatory for men and boys, no swimming shorts are allowed! This rule usually applies for all types of pools in France, and often a swim cap is required.
The entrance fee at the piscine municipale is reasonable, and if you plan to go often you can usually buy a carnet de dix entrées (a booklet of 10 entries).
Winter sports in France
With the luxury of being close to both the French, Italian, Austrian and Swiss alps, as well as the Pyrenees, there are plenty of places to learn and practice a winter sport while living in France.
The ESF, Ecole du ski français, runs about 220 ski and snowboard schools in France, and you can start taking lessons from the age of three!
There are many types of schools and lessons to choose from, depending on the winter sport – private or group, children or adults, beginner or advanced.
If you prefer to immerse yourself in a winter sport, you can book a trip with UCPA, Union nationale des centres sportifs de plein air. It is a non-profit French organisation that organises outdoor sports holidays, for people of ages 18-45. They also arrange kids’ and adults’ camps, both summer and winter
How to join a Salle de Sport (Gym) or Club de Sport in France
Many gyms and sport clubs require you to take an abonnement for at least 12 months, paid monthly. Be sure to ask what exactly the membership fee includes, ie. entrance only, group classes, a personalised training plan with your coach sportif. For gyms, it’s also good to check the opening hours; 24/7 is not a popular concept in France, and many gyms are closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
Some sports clubs only accept new members in September, and popular clubs and activities fill up quickly, so try to sign up as soon as enrolments open. Ask if your yearly abonnement renews automatically when the time comes. And be sure to ask how you can end an abonnement, as it can be trickier than you think sometimes.
Depending on the sport, you might need a certificat medical (medical certificate) from your family doctor, especially if you want to take part in competitions. However, most gyms do not require this to join.
This could be as simple as your doctor giving you a clean bill of health to practice a certain sport, written on their letter-headed paper. Or you might be given a detailed questionnaire to have the doctor complete, sign, and stamp.
Many sports will require a sporting licence for insurance purposes. This is normally valid for a year with an associated fee. You will be advised of the requirements upon inscription of your chosen sport.
All articles by: Staff Writer