Foie gras, champagne and caviar with crème fraîche—Christmas in Paris is divine but can cause considerable damage to the waistline. And because the French are so good at living to the fullest, they end it all by celebrating the Epiphany with la galette des rois, puff pastry cakes stuffed with almond paste. One little cake wouldn’t harm anyone, but the season lasts the entire month of January, and partaking in the tradition is a social obligation at the office, at home and when dining out. By the time February is on the calendar, one of the most popular things to do in Paris is get a decent workout for the ski holidays.
Yes, despite popular myth, even Parisiennes need to work out to stay in shape, and there are lots of great options for them in the city. Running is a popular sport—because it’s free, the schedule is infinitely flexible and what could be bad about running around the Eiffel Tower or along the Berges de Seine? For serious runners, there is a path that leads from the canal Saint-Martin, along the canal de l’Ourcq, and eight kilometers (about 5 miles) outside Paris.
For girls on a budget, the city runs 38 public swimming pools, with at least one in every arrondissement. The Piscine Pontoise is not just a pool but a monument to art deco design, with a glass roof and individual changing rooms on two levels. The Joséphine Baker pool is actually in the Seine itself, with swimmers counting their laps as barges push on by.
Paris Fitness Bootcamps are held in parks across the city. Rain or shine, the charismatic coach Chris Pollard leads a faithful team of English-speaking athletes in a series of sprints and calisthenics designed to burn fat and develop strength. He also offers a diet program for those who are very serious about shedding their holiday indulgences.
For weights and machines, Club Jean de Beauvais is a favorite with the intellectual crowd from the nearby Sorbonne. It attracts a very neighborhood group that is serious about working out and appreciates the club’s private coaching sessions, which ensure that each member is getting the best workout to meet his or her personal goals.
For those who prefer classes, the Dailey Method, founded in California, is based on an original blend of ballet barre work, yoga and core conditioning that promises to tone, lengthen and strengthen the body. The teachers are remarkable, cheerful and bilingual. Held in the converted, brick-lined stables of a bourgeois building in the 16th Arrondissement, these classes should come with a warning, as they are highly addictive.