Colorado Springs offers incredible outdoor spaces for trail running, hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking, all just minutes from campus. As such, it is well suited for our highly active campus community. Accustomed to such an abundance of outdoor recreation options, I wondered if I’d be able to maintain my same high activity level—in particular, in the outdoors—when I moved to Santiago, Chile for Blocks 7 and 8 with Colorado College Latin America Program. Could a bustling city of 7 million people offer the same accessible resources? The answer is yes; not only have I found plenty of resources to stay fit both in and outdoors, but I have also discovered an athletic culture that is perhaps happy and healthier than the culture in Colorado Springs.
Like many large cities, Santiago has endless indoor fitness options. From kickboxing centers to yoga and CrossFit studios, you can find some workout space on practically every street. While exploring Santiago, I have found rock climbing gyms where I enjoy climbing, and I have picked up several brochures for tango and salsa dance classes .
The bike culture is also thriving. During the workweek, commuters on bikes weave through hours of traffic, sometimes alongside roller skaters. However, Sundays are when these activities truly have their moment. From 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., major streets, including the highway, are closed all throughout Santiago. People of every age freely run, bike, rollerskate, and skateboard through the wide streets. In the parks parallel to the highway, bike shops offer free repairs.
Outdoor recreation options are abundant within and just outside of city limits, too. To the south of Santiago is Cajón de Maipo, where you can mountain bike, rock climb, and hike. Some of the hiking options truly put Colorado to shame; a few mountains are over 15,000 feet tall. Additionally, hiking areas can be highly organized. At Parque Aguas de Ramón, for example, you must choose your exact route. Once chosen, a guide will give you a full description of the trail’s difficulty and features, as well as rules and regulations of the park. Before hiking, you leave your name, phone number, route, and fellow hikers’ names with the guides and then sign back in upon return.
The park that really takes the cake is undoubtedly Parque Metropolitano. Spanning four neighborhoods on the northern boundary of Santiago, “Parque Met” is one of the largest urban parks in the world. You can walk, run, and bike through, jungle-like flora and fauna, ride the cable car or tram, or visit the zoo. At the summit of San Cristóbal Hill, located within the park, there’s a breath-taking statue of the Virgin Mary and a quaint church.
Looking back, I clearly didn’t have to worry about leaving Colorado Springs. Santiago has plenty of athletic options for a restless CC student. But what really has impressed me is how these options reflect the healthy mindset of Santiago citizens. I believe that by offering so many genuinely fun, social fitness options, Santiago allows people to stay fit, but in an enjoyable, non-obsessive way.
At CC, while fitness is a source of leisure and enjoyment for many, it also can be overbearing. It is easy to fall victim to the mentality that working out is necessary and that working out excessively is a good thing—a dangerous frame of mind. Santiago has shown me that your environment, even a very urban environment, can really influence how you keep in shape. The less enjoyable and more intense the activity offerings, the less likely a community as a whole will benefit; an extreme level or type of activity may exclude or limit others from participating.
While Colorado Springs certainly has the same enthusiasm for the athletic activities as Santiago does, it could learn something from the large, South American capital: be active, stay fit, but enjoy yourself and the company of others in the process.