Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Gijon, Spain for the 2011 Duathlon World Championships. I was so impressed with this little city and its commitment to sports and fitness. They don’t call Gijon “the sporting city” for nothing so it’s really no accident that Gijon was awarded hosting duties for this event where athletes from 16 different countries competed in a grueling running-cycling-running competition. The 2011 Duathlon World Championship competition also included a paraduathlon where disabled athletes competed against one another. I was greatly inspired watching this international athletic event.
Before hosting the World Championships, Gijon was already dedicated to fitness and its citizens definitely “walk the walk” when it comes to staying in shape. In fact you practically have to dodge the runners, cyclists and roller bladers in the city’s many parks and boardwalk as well as along the miles of paved bike paths throughout the city and countryside. One of Gijon’s largest parks even boasts an outdoor gym - with steel elliptical machines, stationary cycles and a host of familiar and unconventional strength and mobility equipment. Everything was freshly painted bright yellow and red and was obviously well-maintained despite the significant yearly rainfall the area receives. It appeared not only well-kept, but well-used at all times of day – for we saw young and old alike using the outdoor gym equipment – even at 8:30pm at night. We gave it a try as well and found it a great way to cross-train in the middle of our daily run.
Despite the fact that it is one of the largest shipping ports in Spain, Gijon is not a place frequented by tourists, in fact most people I’ve spoken to who have visited Spain have never heard of it (it’s not even listed in the index of Rick Steve’s Guide to Spain!). Among Gijon’s citizens, English speakers were few and far between and yet the town could not have been more welcoming. I highly recommend a visit to this “off-the-beaten track” region of Spain, but be sure to bring a Spanish-English dictionary unless you’re conversant in Spanish.