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How to take an exercise class in Japan

Taking an exercise class in Japan can turn up some surprisingly challenging words. GaijinPot presents a guide to getting the most out of your classes and your language studies.

By 2 min read

Taking an exercise class in Japan should be simple because all you have to do is follow the teacher. On top of that, many of the most important words are loanwords that are the same as English: yoga is ヨガ, exercise is エクササイズ, warming up and stretching is ウォーミングアップ and ストレッチ respectively. So far, so good, right?

Despite these easy words, taking an exercise class can actually present a lot of challenges to learners as there are a lot of words and ideas that are only used for sporting activities. So while words like ウォーミングアップ are easy for English speakers, the Japanese equivalent 準備運動 junbi undo (light exercises done to prepare the body for more strenuous activities) is a lot trickier.

Some of the trickier words are the words for muscle training. Generally speaking, kinトレ is the most common way to describe any type of training involving muscle conditioning. If this word is difficult to remember, thankfully, the English term ウェイトトレーニング is also used in Japan. Its meaning is slightly different to 筋トレ as 筋トレ also includes bodyweight training and other exercises that don’t involve weights.

When you are in a class that involves lifting weights, you will often hear the verb 持ち上げる mo chi ageru used for when it is time to lift something. This may be further divided into 引っ張る hipparu and 押す osu depending on whether you have to pull the weight or push it, respectively.

If you are more of a bodyweight exerciser, you will need to know words like 腕立て udetate (pressups). If the conditioning is mostly concentrated on sit-ups and planking, you may also hear the word 腹筋 fukkin (the core muscles) used as well. This may then be followed by an instruction to 一直線にする chokusen ni suru (align yourself correctly).

After all that weight-training, you may then want to take a relaxing yoga class. Of course, yoga has a lot of tricky words too. 伸ばす nobasu is a Japanese word often used for stretching, so pointing your toes would be 爪先を伸ばす tsumasaki o nobasu. So similar words include 広げる hirogeru for spreading open and 曲げる mageru which is the word for flexing,

In addition, there are some words that you will likely only hear in a yoga class. If you have overextended your stretch and been thrown off your balance, you may have been told to 安定させる antei saseru (find your balance point). Another tricky pair of words that you rarely hear outside of yoga or dance classes are the ones used to tell you which way to face. You will be told 仰向く aomuku if you should lie on your back facing up or うつ伏せになる utsu fuse ni naru for the opposite.

After all that working out (and studying), the only thing left is to find the シャワー (shower) or サウナ (sauna) and relax. お疲れ様です.

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