Battling Expat Fat at Aspria Brussels

By - September 18, 2009 (Updated: November 25, 2014)

ASPRIA Club BrusselsIt took us four years, but we’ve finally done it – Andrew and I have joined a gym. And you know what? I actually like it.

Let me begin by saying I am not a sporty person. Normally, my most intense physical activity is walking around with my camera gear strapped to my back. I believe, if we were meant to jog, God would have given us built in sneakers. That said, I’ve known for quite some time, I needed to change my immobile ways.

Expat Weight Gain

Excessive weight gain is a problem for a lot of expats, particularly trailing spouses. Many of us have left our jobs behind, we’re often depressed, afraid to leave the house and we turn to food for comfort. I’m sure all of those factors played a part in my initial weight gain. Lately the culprit has been simply spending too much time sitting on my big lazy butt.

As most professional photographers will tell you, shooting photos is a small percentage of the job. The rest is spent sitting in front of a computer: editing, sorting, key-wording, uploading, printing, maintaining websites and self-promotion. None of these are calorie burning tasks.

I may also have mentioned once or twice here on CheeseWeb, I like to eat good food. Although I eat healthier than I ever have, Andrew and I dine out often and have been known to indulge in the occasional alcoholic beverage… Combine that with not moving around much and we have a recipe for flab.

So yeah, I’ve put on quite a lot since I moved here four years ago and I was just feeling tired and out of shape. Huffing and puffing up our 80 stairs wasn’t helping matters.

Finding a Gym in Brussels

Aspria ClubAndrew and I have talked about joining a gym since we moved to Belgium. In Everberg, it just flat out wasn’t convenient. When we moved to Brussels we didn’t have that excuse anymore.

There were two things we were looking for: a full service gym with modern cardio machines and a pool. The pool was the difficult part. There are quite a few public pools in Brussels but I knew that if I had to go separately to a gym and then to a pool, it just wouldn’t happen.

That left our options pretty slim. The gym we found ended up being just up the street from us. It’s one of the more expensive gyms in the city but so far, for us, it’s been worth the cost.

We’ve joined the Aspria Gym and so far are on the ‘mornings only’ plan. We can enter the gym any time before 11am on weekdays or noon on weekends and stay as long as we like. Every cardio machine known to man seems to be available, as well as weight machines and free weights. The facilities are extremely clean and modern and best of all there is a pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna.

Each month you get to work with a trainer who comes up with a workout plan and monitors your progress. Currently I’m doing 15 mins on the bike, 15 mins on the treadmill, a circuit of 5 weight machines, a couple of deadly ab crunching exercises and ending with 15 mins on the stair climber. Andrew’s routine is similar but focuses on strengthening his bad back. Then we meet in the pool for some laps followed by a rest in the Jacuzzi. We’ve managed to go most mornings and we’ve both already lost a bit of weight.

Best of all I just feel better. I have more energy and I’m proud of myself for finally taking better care of my body. Aspria also has dozens of classes and although I don’t have time for them now, I’m hoping to join a few during the dark, grey winter months. My goal is to drag Andrew to the salsa class. I’ll let you know how that works out.

If you like this, you might like:

Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison Cornford-Matheson
- 18 hours ago


  1. Comment by Danie Barkhouse

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Danie Barkhouse September 18, 2009 at 16:31

    Oh yes! I know the expat fat all too well.

    Does this mean, you’re with me?
    .-= Danie Barkhouse´s last blog ..Big Toe Joe And The Funny Math Teacher =-.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison September 21, 2009 at 09:28

      Hey Danie! Hope things are going well in the States! Glad to see you are starting up a new blog. I’ll have to take a sec and check it out 🙂

  2. Comment by Lilacspecs

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Lilacspecs September 18, 2009 at 18:09

    I had grandiose plans for finding a gym in Gent, but we’re not really financially able. Then I decided to swim at the public pool. Now I just got a job but it’s in Brussels so I’ll have a 90 minute commute each way. Not conducive for exercise time. I’ve lost 15 pounds since June by just eating healthy, though my possibly impacted bowel has slowed the weight loss down this past 2-3 weeks. It’s like fate wants me to stay tubby, I swear.
    .-= Lilacspecs´s last blog ..On Hold =-.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison September 21, 2009 at 09:29

      Oh no! I just read about your health problems on your blog. I hope everything goes ok and you’re good as new soon!

  3. Comment by expatraveler

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    expatraveler September 19, 2009 at 04:23

    Congrats Alison! Joining a gym was one of the first things I did when I got to Switzerland. But it was so pricey and so inconvenient. In the end, I ended up not wanting to go and enjoying the outdoors much more… Here in Canada, I joined the local req centre and began meeting people through the masters swim program. That has been my source of inspiration through my tough times here in Canada and still being an expat…

    The gym does look incredible and I’d love to hear about your progress as time goes on..

    Working out does feel good. Let those endorphins fly!
    .-= expatraveler´s last blog ..upside down =-.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison September 21, 2009 at 09:30

      Convenience was a big factor in our choice because I know how easily I can talk myself out of going if I had to walk far in the rain or get on the metro. Luckily this is just up the street. The pool is my biggest motivator and I think it will really help with the winter blahs.

  4. Comment by Andrew

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Andrew September 22, 2009 at 13:40

    It’s a great location for us, and is definitely a well maintained facility. I also am very happy that there is a pool there… my swimming has definitely suffered over the years, so it’s nice to get back in the pool and try to swim a few laps. My goal is to be able to do 2 laps each of: Front Crawl, Back Crawl, Breast Sroke, Flutter Kick, and Elementary Back. Well, to do it without having to take a break between each lap 🙂

  5. Comment by Alexandra

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Alexandra October 3, 2009 at 08:57

    I’m so happy to have found your beautiful site. Now i know where to look when i decide to visit brussels. This article is funny because my husband and I made a similar move towards gym-going here in Florence this summer. We joined the Virgin branded megagym where all the pretty people go. We thought we would hate it, but the variety is good – sounds a lot like your place.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..How to dress like a Russian with a taste for Italian fabrics =-.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison October 3, 2009 at 12:30

      Hi Alexandra and welcome to CheeseWeb! I was actually a bit surprised by Aspria. Although it has its fair share of pretty people, it does tend to get families and retired folks as well. All in all it seems very well rounded. Now if only I can get myself a little less rounded 🙂

  6. Comment by Tavus

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Tavus January 3, 2011 at 21:53

    I love Aspria! And I also must admit that Aspria simply saved me from all kinds of depressive days in the unknown Brussels in my early days here. It’s a special place!

    ~ T

  7. Comment by Alison

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Alison January 4, 2011 at 11:19

    It is a lovely spot! While I don’t work out there any more I do still think it is the best club in Brussels. I love that it combines more than just a gym. I hear they also have some nice art there at the moment lol.

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