For a lot of people, travel means letting go of their usual exercise routines. It’s easy to understand whyâ€”if you’re in a fascinating new place, why would you want to waste time inside a generic hotel gym? If you only head out of town a few times a year, skipping your exercise probably won’t set you back very far. For frequent travelers serious about keeping in shape, figuring out a way to squeeze exercise into your travel is critical to staying on track. For me, the best way to integrate sightseeing and exercise is simple: go running!
Foot travel is the best way to familarize yourself with a new place. Odds are, if you in a car or train, you’re going too fast to get a good look at anything. If you are on foot, you really get the chance to soak up the sights, sounds and smells (for better or worseâ€¦) of the city you’re visiting. Running also keeps packing simple, because you don’t need a lot of equipment. All you really need is a good pair of shoes, and some clothes you don’t mind getting sweaty in. If you’re really concerned about weight/space in your suitcase, Nike makes extremely lightweight and flexible running shoes that are based on the latest footwear technology.
In the past, the most difficult things about travel running were figuring out exactly how far I ran, and remembering my route. In Houston I know that I am covering 3 miles every time I circle Memorial Park. I don’t need a fancy gadget to tell me that. But until the advent of the smartphone , when I was running in an unfamiliar city, I was left to guess. The solution? Runkeeper.
Runkeeper is a free app (you can upgrade to pro for $9.99), available on both the iPhone and Android, that uses your phone’s GPS to track the duration, distance, speed, elevation, and calories burned on your run. It also maps your route, which is extremely helpful when you are trying to relocate something you passed during your run. You can even share the details with your friends, by posting your stats to Facebook and Twitter.
Have bad joints, and can’t run? Walk or bike instead. Runkeeper works equally well for walkers and cyclists, should you feel inclined to rent a bike while you’re out of town. Weather need not be a deterrent either. I’ve run through rainy streets in NY and snow covered sidewalks in Oregon. However, if you think you might encounter some inclement weather, invest in a weather-proof case for your phone. If you get caught in a sudden downpour, you’ll be very glad you did!
If you’re also watching your diet really closely and need some extra help while you’re on the road, there are calorie tracking apps as well. My favorite is a free app for the iPhone called Lose It!. It helps you calculate your caloric intake with an extensive built-in database of possible foods (you can also enter in calories manually), and adjusts for calories burned during exercise. It’s not an exact science, but it is a useful tool when you are outside your usual environment and want to keep your diet on target.
Some vacations certainly call for parking yourself in a lounge chair for days without lifting a finger, and trying every bit of local food you can get your hands on. If it’s not one of those trips, use the technology you’re probably carrying in your pocket/purse anyway to help you stay fit this summer!