Where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan
If you are living in Taiwan and want to know where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan I got you covered. This article is targeted at the digital nomad on-line workers. I’ve met younger guys in their twenties that drink a lot, but don’t seem to exercise that much. As someone in my late thirties with a Dad constantly reminded me to take care of my health I’ve taken a healthy lifestyle to heart wherever I go. This includes exercise and eating healthy. I’m not a perfect role model by any means, but I believe I live a balanced lifestyle.
My first 6 months spent in Taipei were at the National Taiwan Normal University more commonly referred to by locals as “Shida”. If you are a student at the school you can purchase a monthly pass for 500nt. The gym offers free weights and some machines. There are limited hours for the gym, but the price is cheap and if you are studying it is a good option. The gym is located almost across the street from the Chinese school in the basement.
Public sports centers
These are the equivalent of community sports centers back in Canada except you don’t need any membership. There are numerous sports centers throughout Taipei, but not are equal. The sports centers offer a pretty modern gym with most of the free weights and machines that you need. Depending on the sports center they may offer additional facilities like swimming pools, full-size gyms, or even yoga classes. To use the weight rooms cost 50nt and they all enforce a strict one-hour policy and mandatory towel. It’s amazing how productive you can be with a paid time constraint. All these sports centers offer free water and free and paid lockers. They even offer a weight machine and high tech blood pressure machine.
My favorite gym was Songshan sports center (臺北松山運動中心) located at the Taipei Arena MRT. They have a large but busy weight room. They have punch bags that I loved to use for a cardio workout as well as a stress outlet. Songshan sports center also has a running track outside that can be seen from the weight room’s patio. I also loved that there is an Olympic sized running track 1-minute walk away. You are also minutes away from the local hip area of Dunhua Sogo area and plenty of good eats. They have a swimming pool at this center although they strictly enforce that men wear tight speedos and hair caps. Even if you wanted to wear these speedos they are not cheap. One of my favorite places to work is also near here. They serve good coffee have comfortable seating and good desks with reliable Wi-Fi. I‘ll talk more about places to work in my digital nomad guide.
Zhongshan sports center (臺北市中山運動中心) located a 5 minute walk from the Zhongshan MRT is also one of my favorites. Located in a trendy area with good eats the gym is a little quieter, smaller, and harder to find. What I like about the Zhongshan gym is that is has a pretty good swimming pool and spa facility. I used to make a long journey to the Da-an sports center just to use their pool, steam room, and water massage machines. Zhongshan offers all these facilities and is usually not as busy. Best of all you can use this pool with western style swim-shorts.
Running tracks & trails
If the gym is not your thing Taipei have plenty of good and free options for you to run. As previously mentioned I think the Taipei arena at Songshan is a good option. In addition to the sports center just beside the center there are 2 cushioned running tracks. One is smaller and the other is an Olympic sized arena. I loved running in the Olympic area. It is a cushioned track with water machines and bathrooms. The stadium also filters out a lot of the city noise and wind. It closes at 10pm
Other running options and basketball
You can also run around Da-an Park and on the trails. Even though this is the largest park in Taipei there is a lot of people and bicycle traffic to compete with. There are many bike paths on the city outskirts by the riverside that are also quieter and serene.
There are many schools throughout Taipei with basketball courts and tracks. After school is finished (usually by 5pm) the public can use the facilities. The Taiwanese are crazy about basketball, so it should be easy to find a pickup game.
Being a formerly ranked competitive junior tennis player I became a pretty decent player and brought my tennis rackets with me to Taiwan. There are courts near the Dajia riverside and Guting Riverside Park with lights. It’s difficult to get to these areas if you don’t have a motorbike or bicycle. Even if you do make it there you need someone that is at a similar level. I was lucky to meet a Taiwanese girl through a site called Tennis tonic in Singapore who introduced me to some Taiwan friends that were good players. Once you find one good partner its not a bad idea to challenge other good pairs to doubles and expand your network.
Biking can be a good way to get exercise in Taipei. New Taipei city tends to have smaller and crowded sidewalks. You can buy a bike or if you have an easy card you can easily rent a U-bike. An easy card is the public metro value card. The rate is 10nt for every 30 minutes for the first 4 hours. Once you’ve registered you just tap your card at the many bike stations throughout the city. Once you tap out it automatically deducts the value. You don’t need a helmet, but perhaps it is a good idea to wear one if you are riding in the city. The app lets you know where the bike stations are in the city as well as how many bikes are available. My favorite rides were along the dajia riverside where you get a nice view and it’s peaceful. If you want a nice long ride go from Yuanshan Park to beitou, but just be warned that there isn’t u-bike park stations there. For specific map routes and pictures you can see my digital nomad guide.
Taiwan has many hiking routes. I’m not a regular hiker, but when I do I always recommend going up to the Elephant mountain trail (象山). There are no elephants here, but this is a well-paved 30-minute one way-walking trail that offers the best view of Taipei 101 and the downtown area. Lucky you the city recently built an MRT station (象山 Xiangshan in Chinese or Elephant mountain) a 5-minute away from the start of the trail. Bring a camera, water, towel, and maybe some beers to celebrate at top around sunset.
I’m sure by the time you read this you would have heard about the Beitou hot springs located in new Beitou. The cheaper hotspring which is called Millenium is more backpacker style with a senior crowd and coin operated hot showers. The nicer hot springs are at the nice hotels, which are more expensive and require you to go nude with the same sex.
My favorite spot to relax and meditate was at the pool at Da-an sports center. I would use the spa area to water massages at the many machines. For about 110nt you can use the pool. I think it was either 3 hours or unlimited. Either way it is long enough to enjoy the water-bed and steam room.
The Dharma Drum center is a Buddhist organized offering foreigners free meditation classes in English. Don’t worry you don’t need to be Buddhist, but I recommend you try to respectful of the their beliefs and listen to the monk or instructor and you will be fine. The main center is near Taipei main and ximending MRT and classes are usually half day. I enjoyed just doing some light stretches and guided meditation in a group setting. It is very relaxing and a chance to work on your meditation in a comfortable environment.
I will mention a secret and quiet beach area in Taipei. It has almost nothing there, not many people and very peaceful. My ex-girlfriend introduced it to me and we had a beautiful day on the beach. Since it is past Tamsui you can head there after for a nice drink at sunset.
Taiwan is a convenient city and you can easily find many clean parks in your neighborhood with benches and pagoda’s. One of my favorite things to do was get some lunch and city at the park and watch the kids play at the playground. You can easily loose your thoughts and relax in the park.