Mark Dilworth is a former Division I athlete, trainer extraordinaire and friend whose fitness and training savvy has been recognized by Stanford University Wellsphere (amongst many others). When he asked me to share how I fit “fitness” into my travels, I sent the following (from California where I was at the time hiking through Yosemite National Park, mountain biking in Mammoth Lakes and… you get the idea… ).
The gym is unfamiliar or even non-existent. Or maybe you’re in a different time zone, struggling against your own body clock. Whatever the particulars, travel presents unique challenges for the fitness-minded. More positively however, it can also gift you with some new opportunities to energize and enhance a humdrum routine!
A little research will widen your options from what is available strictly at your hotel. Fitness offerings there can be as elaborate as a pass to a full scale health club or as paltry as a couple of dumbbells stacked in the corner of a closet-sized room! It’s good to know what you’re likely to find before you start packing. Check local websites for trails and parks. Details won’t be necessary until you arrive but know your options by getting a visual of area parks and recreation areas. Many hotels have runner’s maps available at the front desk or with a concierge, but don’t stop there. A short drive or ride might take you to a more scenic trail that you’ll remember long after the endorphins fade away.
Note: Before sprinting off into an unfamiliar area ask the right questions: “Are there any areas I should avoid?” and “Do locals or other hotel guests typically run this route?” Carry your cell phone (with the hotel’s phone number in case you get lost) and focus on the details of your new route or trail. Skip the iPod until you know the area better.
Of course cardio isn’t limited to running. Vacation travel can and should be geared around the activities you already love or want to try out. Hike or run up a mountainside; rent a kayak, a bike or a horse… Stretch your muscles and your mind with unique experiences. The best destinations offer a range of flexible options. You can build easy exercise into city stays by choosing hotels within walking distance of most meals and points of interest. Plan ahead, and then plan to be flexible.
Weight work is typically harder to arrange if you lack a decent gym. Have a plan to work with nothing more than your own body if need be. Print out some new exercises to try in your hotel room. Push-ups and crunches in a multitude of challenging variations can be done anywhere, and playgrounds have monkey bars for pull-ups and chin-ups. Pack swim goggles and resistance bands to create even more options for yourself.
~And don’t discount the tremendous value of local knowledge. Where do you think travel books and websites get their information? I make it a point to ask those I encounter for their personal suggestions and find many to be worth pursuing. Area residents have directed me to excellent snorkeling spots, challenging trails and even lent us snorkels and hiking sticks!
Business and group travel and traveling with younger children can require extra creativity in achieving even an opportunity for workout time! -But it’s always worth trying. A few minutes of something is always better than nothing at all -if only for the fact that you are maintaining a habit of health. The point is not to replicate your home work-out but to take advantage of what you find at your destination. Consider it a sampling of the local fitness cuisine. You can order “the usual” when you’re back at home again.
When travel lands you on a new playing field without all of your usual equipment, forget about your “fitness routine”. Instead, make it your routine to pursue fitness in all its varying forms.
*Some fun ways to exercise on-the-road: running, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, climbing, zip-lining, walking, hiking, biking, wind surfing… Fitness has as many “shapes” as we do!