By Warwick Ford
The Fitness Hazard for Travelers
Frequent business travelers face considerable challenges in keeping fit:
• They spend larger than average amounts of time in sedentary situations such as sitting in aircraft, vehicles, restaurants, and bars;
• They are likely to suffer from more stress and poorer sleep owing to time zone changes and extended work hours;
• Their diets may suffer owing to the temptation to increase intake of comfort foods;
• They are deprived of many of their regular fitness generating activities, including their sports partners, sporting and social clubs, family members, and local team activities.
One of the few fitness fallbacks that travelers have is the hotel gym. However, the average hotel gym is not a particularly attractive place – often hot and stuffy, with less equipment than one would like, and not quite the right companions. Such factors typically cause hotel guests to spend less time in the gym than they really should to maintain fitness.
Some travel advisers advocate exercising in the hotel room but that idea is of little help. Any trainer will confirm that a good exercise session demands breaking a sweat, which is simply not practical in the hotel room. Any hotel room activity that approaches an adequate workout will unquestionably cause more of an annoyance to neighboring room guests than it provides benefit to the person exercising.
Why Not Just Run?
There is one activity that can keep a traveler fit, while increasing wellness generally – running (or jogging or athletic walking) outdoors. This activity is very efficient, requires carrying only a pair of running shoes, shirt, and shorts, is invigorating in fresh air and a new environment, can be done alone or with company, and is very inexpensive. In fact, there are so many good qualities one might wonder why more travelers do not systematically run outdoors in places they visit.
The resistance to running outdoors stems mainly from concerns about possible security risks, possible road traffic incursions, and other unknowns that might lead to some form of unpleasantness.
But all cities have some places where one can run with other runners around and without substantial concerns of the above type.
Plan Your Routes Wisely
A traveler needs solid, reliable information to help make an on-foot outing a truly enjoyable experience. This will motivate the traveler to actually venture out. Here are some general factors that combine to make an on-foot route irresistible:
• Good underfoot conditions;
• A “good” neighborhood; nasty surprises are unlikely;
• Not too many other people and not too few;
• Minimal disruptions from intersecting auto roads;
• Pretty scenery; interesting sites to pass along the way;
• Public transit to the start and finish points;
• A loop route is more enjoyable than an out-and-back route;
• A suitable place to wind down for a refreshing beverage or snack at the end.
Taking into account all the above requirements, plan your routes wisely. Ask your local hotel staff for route recommendations but treat their recommendations cautiously since many staff members have limited first-hand knowledge of running or walking conditions. More importantly, buy and consult a good local runners’ guidebook or map.
When in an unfamiliar city, get outdoors and run or walk as much as you can. Plan your routes well. You can find this activity enormously enjoyable, educational, and great for your fitness.
– Warwick Ford, a marathon runner, was a frequent business traveler before retiring as a corporate executive. He and his wife Nola have personally researched the top running and walking routes in many major US cities. Their book Fun on Foot in America’s Cities describes the running conditions and most visitor-friendly routes in 14 major US cities. They also have detailed running/walking guide books on the Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia regions. Their books and much other relevant information are available from their website www.funonfoot.com.