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Get in shape Madrid

Get in shape Madrid

Let me preface with saying that I have lived abroad twice before and the sight of me when I returned to the States each time was not pretty. The reasons (excuses) for my state were different each time. In London I was 20…and let’s just say that while there I very much ‘enjoyed’ myself…therefore such joyful activities trumped any good night sleep, healthy eating or extensive workouts.  While in Italy I did nothing physical unless you can include eating the food that I love most in the world. Why did I not workout? Simple – ITALIAN MEN!  It took two running attempts to realize that being followed was more undesirable than the outcome of no workouts at all.

Needless to say I am older and more mature now….I was not going to let Spain get ahold of me as well. So with that the search for gyms became a week one priority along with the apartment search, selecting a mobile phone service and starting a bank account.


O2 Centro Wellness located at Manuel Becerra (there are many locations, including a Women’s only gym) is my gym and I love it. Absolutely not a soul on staff speaks English but they’re all very friendly and were patient with our Spanish. Will and I signed up with a 2-for-1 special. We paid €110 each for the initial membership fee and then pay €45 each month. If you’re already dry-heaving…sorry, gym costs are a bit heftier than the USA. But know that my gym is killer!  It has 2 lap pools (one on the roof deck for summer time), massage pool, jacuzzi, loads of updated (with a TV on each) cardio equipment, great weights area, an array of classes and a great spa. Take a tour – you won’t be let down.

I am primarily a runner and swimmer now that my Volleyball days are behind me so here is a little of my insight to these activities in Madrid:

Swimming – Simply [and nicely put], the Spanish like to swim. Young and old. And because of this there are a ton of pools available throughout Madrid to leisurely swim or get in those workout laps. I will say that I happen to enjoy swimming and used to do so quite a bit in the States, but while I am no competitive swimmer, I do swim to get in a substantial workout. So I happen to find it really difficult to swim in Madrid – as it appears there is no socially acceptable limit to the amount of swimmers to enter a lane at a time. One day a few months ago when my lane total topped 5 swimmers I vowed to attempt one more swim or I would hand in the towel…literally. So I timed myself to the only time no Spaniard (especially the older ones) would dream of working out – Lunch/Siesta! Success!!! So my advice to the avid swimmer…go around 3pm on a week day…or learn to swim with your head out of the water.

Running – There are a decent number of running paths in Madrid. Because I live in Barrio Salamanca, Buen Parque Retiro is my best option. I clocked a run of the loop I take once in Retiro and its at about 4.3 kilometers which can be seen here. Despite the afternoon strolling crowds (mostly on the weekends…and be prepared – there are a lot!) they don’t really interfere with the outer running path so its always enjoyable. Green Canal Golf has a running path which surrounds it.  The advantages of running here are a softer surface which is easy on the knees as well as the fact that it is lined with lights for those who prefer night time runs.  I hear an afternoon in Casa de Campo is a great option too but have not yet given it a try.

For more detailed information on active outdoor activities in and around Madrid visit Anglo Info Madrid for a comprehensive listing.

And for the die-hards…I am running my first half marathon on April 11th. We are a team of IE students and partners who will get up far too early for a Sunday and run our bodies into the ground, it’ll be fantastic. For those who think they’re also up for the challenge here is the website for entry – Medio Marathon de Madrid. Good Luck and see you out there!

I know there are a ton of great gym options in Madrid (some a little more ungodly expensive than others)…tell me about your gym.

Studentsphone one of the few options..

Studentsphone one of the few options..

My husband and I arrived in Madrid, and thought we could “survive” with just our iTouch that has Skype to communicate with our families in the states.  We get to Madrid only to find that there are very few free wifi hotspots near us in which to use our little newly acquired Apple gadget. So, another American friend of my husband’s here in Madrid introduced us to Studentsphone.

Alejandro at cell number 34 607 909 706 is one of the founders for the subsidiary of Studentsphone in Madrid.  He explained the three phones they had at the time, which were two types of Blackberries and a flip phone.  They all have 3G capability, and you can download google maps (a life saver for me), Facebook, and Skype on the Blackberry.  We chose the latest Blackberry® model he had which was the Blackberry® Curve 8520. (they were just introducing it in St. Louis when we went back last Christmas, and we got ours a couple weeks before that)

The only catch is this, you have to pay for the phone and the plan up front which includes a certain amount that you can download per month, which I think its one gig.   So, unless you’re downloading huge file attachments or a lot of extra applications, then you should be able to stay within the limit. (according to Studentphone)  The grand total for two phones and the 15 month contract that comes with the Blackberry® was just about 900 euros.  Then, you have to pay 6 euros a month per phone to keep the plan.

At first we didn’t like the fact that we had to pay so much up front, but now we realize that 1.) cell phones are not cheap in Europe since you usually pay per call or text, and 2) its one of the few options we had coming from the US without an NIE number.   We’re happy that we have the phones, because we are able to blackberry message anyone for free in the world who also has a Blackberry®.  Also, another plus was that Alejandro was nice enough to sit down with us and give us a quick tutorial on the features of the phone, which saved us from having to take the time to read the manual.   He also told us what to do if you get your phone pickpocketed and the steps you would need to take to getting another phone from them (more on that later, unfortunately).

Details: Studentphone Calle Maria de Molina, 16, first floor (opposite instituto de empresa)
Madrid, 28006, 607 909 706

Re-connecting with a world outside Madrid

Re-connecting with a world outside Madrid

The following weeks after moving to Madrid had some serious ups and downs. The Spanish course was fantastic, truly fantastic. I had not laughed so hard in along time. Yes it was a Spanish course but it was actually more of a beginners guide to Spain. Almost everything in the Spanish language has a sexual meaning of some kind. Political correctness does not exist. Our teacher took great joy in singling people out (in great humour) and teaching us new expressions: Someone mentioning that they were from North Dakota gave us el culo del mundo (the arse end of the world), and someone talking about their boyfriend  meant that we learnt cursi (cheesy) (ok that one was me).

But at the same time I still had no internet or phone at home, I was waiting for insurance on the laptop, it was difficult to work without afore mentioned services and my grandmother was sick. I wasn’t the happiest bunny in town. Not being used to a stressed/unhappy girlfriend, my man also got less communicative on the phone which stressed me even more.

So here’s my first set of tips as for me, communication to the outside world is key: Internet providers

Telefonica – I have a dislike for this company which, for a while, leant towards hatred. This was the old nationalised phone company. Their customer service is terrible. They didn’t respond to two messages I sent via their English language website (, then when we finally got through they told us three times (and yes this was verified by a Spanish speaker) that they would be coming to fit the wifi and then cancelled the order every time with NO notice. Each time (after we called them) there was a different excuse 1. Telefonica can’t work in your building (then why do two of my neighbours have it?), we came and couldn’t connect you (no, I was the only person who lived there and I didn’t see you), 3. ok ok you get the picture and now I’m just whinging . The downside is that as Telefonica own most of the lines, even if you go with another provider, chances are that at some point Telefonica has to get involved which means delays.

ONO – This is the one I signed up to so this is an honest view. I love the customer service with this company. They are great. They have a number for English speakers (902 929 000) and are quick to respond to queries. The downside: despite two visits to my new apartment (I didn’t stay in the granny flat) they haven’t figured out why two computers can’t work on the wifi at the same time with out the odd cut off – slightly frustrating when we are both home but not the end of the world. Any they are one of the cheaper providors (around 40eur/month)

Jazztel – I have a couple of friends who have Jazztel and they are really happy with them. A real plus is that they don’t require a minimum contract. They are also one of the cheapest of the phone companies with regular special offers giving you the first few months for 15-20euros instead of the usual 40euros.

Orange – If you want a one-top shop then this is one of the two options you have. Orange is one of the cheaper mobile networks (they are all relatively expensive) but do offer decent internet/tv/phone deals from around 35/40euros per month. Most people I have spoken to seem happy with this service although as it’s not one of the preferred providers so maybe there are hidden problems that I just know about.

Now, I have saved the top tip for last. Whilst you are getting your wifi/broadband/phone organised – go to the Phone House (with identification including your visa if you need one, and proof of address) and get a dongle (I am not sure if this is an official term or just want my genius IT friend calls them). They are USB sticks that give you internet connection, available immediately and 100% transportable with the laptop. Usually they charge by the overall download in one day (kb/mb) – around 3eur per day is the most you should pay. You can also get this as a monthly service through StudentsPhone. Read our notes on these guys before you sign up though.

And finally I had internet. Welcome back long rambling conversations with friends and family. I had no idea that having internet was SO important but it is, and it’s worth getting it sorted. Now I could breathe a big sigh of relief….

Introducing the Guiris

Introducing the Guiris

With partners doing a full-time MBA programme we are three expat “Partners” who individually (and continuously) struggle (and sometimes succeed) to establish normal lives in Madrid.  We are independent professionals who find value in using our networks, be them people or virtual to get the best from a situation. We want to help other people in the same situation so they can enjoy Madrid as fully and quickly as possible, and save a few headaches. We like different things, same experience different outlooks so if one or more of the below sounds familiar, then read on….

Anything that is written about in this blog means that we have had first hand experience of a situation. It’s true, tried and tested.

Jodie is in her early thirties, English and has worked in media for the last ten years. Moving to Paris to fulfill an ambition of living in another country and learning another other language, she met John, an American working in the same industry. After two years together John wanted to do an International MBA at IE in Madrid. After three years in Paris, moving to Madrid should have been relatively straightforward: no visas required and she was more advanced then when she moved to Paris – she has a boyfriend, job and could already speak two languages…

Likes/interests: Travelling (which I do a lot of for business as well as pleasure); food and wine, enjoyed with friends (that includes cooking as well as eating out); change (I am not very good with routine, could also read as: gets bored easily)

Courtney is a 30-year-old American originally from sunny San Diego, California. While attending Rice University in Houston, Texas she met, fell in love with and eventually married Texan Will Ford.  For the last 6 years Courtney worked in Marketing for Oil Service companies in Houston.  Working for international companies in a global industry fed her passion for travel and the exposure of many new countries, cultures and customs.  This passion began at an early age and took her to study abroad in Italy and work abroad in the UK while attending Rice.  Will’s decision to get his International MBA from IE prompted Courtney to begin her own Marketing Consulting business which she runs from Madrid today.  Courtney openly admits to thriving on recommendations…for anything and everything.  It is recommendations which give you insight not only to a new place but also to the individual who has taken the time to share a bit about themselves.

Likes/interests: Fitness (Ex-Volleyball player who in 2010 will make the first 1/2 marathon attempt), traveling, cooking, wine, visual arts and supporting the “struggeling artist” and simply “taking advantage”…experiencing anything and everything you can when its available.

Stephanie is an American in her early thirties.  Originally from Missouri, she married her college sweetheart, Lance Widner.  They then lived in Northern California for 4 years and then Hawaii for 5 years.  Stephanie earned her M.S. in Chemistry at U.C. Davis, and then went on to work in the biotech sector for both a large corporation and startup for 4 yrs.  She then switched careers three years ago and started selling high-end real estate with a boutique agency in Honolulu.  During their studies, Lance and Stephanie traveled to India and Thailand.  Lance thoroughly researched all of his possibilities for schools both in the US and Europe and chose IE for his International MBA, because of its diverse student population and location in a vibrant european city that give him the opportunity to learn a second language.  The first day they landed in Madrid, was their first time landing anywhere in Europe.  Little did they realize, that besides the language barrier, Madrid was a very accommodating city for newcomers, especially with local friends who had lived here most of their lives to guide them.

Likes/interests: Cooking, eating, wine tasting, reading and anything in the great outdoors