Tips For Staying Fit On The Road

paradiseAt home I’m a health and fitness nut working out six days a week and eating a diet high in nutritional value. While this can sometimes be hard to maintain on the road, it isn’t impossible. To help you stay in shape while traveling, here are some tips.

Stop Thinking You’re On Vacation

Many people often have this idea that when they’re traveling they’re “on vacation,” meaning they can eat whatever they want. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t know you’re on vacation and your metabolism isn’t going to all of a sudden be put into overdrive. While you should absolutely sample all the local foods, do it in moderation. For example, if you’re in France and want to sample one of their amazing chocolate croissants, have a small one or cut one in half and have it with fruit. And remember, while different regions have delicious desserts and rich entrees, they have healthy delicacies as well.Cut Your Bread In Half

When traveling, sandwiches are a very convenient meal on the go. Moreover, most buses and airplanes that serve food will often give you a bread-heavy meal or a roll on the side. While you don’t need to cut bread from your diet completely, you also don’t need to eat the top and bottom of a foot-long sub. I usually take off the top slice and eat the meal as an open-faced sandwich. Additionally, if you’re in a place where multi-grain bread is accessible, get it.

outdoorsGet Outdoors

Just being outside makes most people naturally want to move around more. Not only that, but outdoor activities are energy and mood boosters. Explore the landscape through hiking, biking, horseback riding, jogging or whatever way you enjoy. Not only will you move more, you’ll eat less because you’re busy and not sitting around.

Pack Healthy Snacks

My friends always joke that I’m perpetually afraid of starving to death. Whether I’m in a metropolitan city or the middle of nowhere, you can bet I have fruit and granola bars in my purse. It’s not that I think I’m suddenly going to find myself stranded for days without food – although if that did happen, I would be prepared – but that I don’t want to be forced to buy a greasy sausage or an unhealthy bag of chips if I’m hungry. Not only does this tactic help me stay slim, it also saves me money.

Instead Of A Bus Tour, Opt For A Walking, Biking Or Running Tour

For most bus tours, there is usually a more active option. Almost all cities offer walking and cycling tours. Sometimes these are even free, such as when taking a walking tour with SANDEMANs NEW Europe in various European cities, BA Free Tour in Buenos Aires, Free Tours by Foot in New York and I’m Free in Sydney. There is also something called “sight running,” which allows tourists to view a city through jogging.

fruit market Visit The Markets

Exploring local markets is a great way to get to know a culture and a city. They’re also great because they sell fresh foods. If you’re in a place where you’re nervous about eating the fruits and vegetables, opt for produce with a peel, like bananas, avocados and oranges. Wash your hands after peeling to remove any germs from the peels.

Take A Cultural Class That’s Physical

Classes aren’t always about sitting, reading and listening. In fact, there are many classes that allow people to gain insight into a culture in an active way. Try Tai Chi in China, tango lessons in Argentina, samba in Brazil or yoga in India. You may even discover a new hobby to take home.

Learn To Read The Nutrition Facts

Just because a food’s energy may be written in kilojoules instead of calories doesn’t mean your body can’t tell the difference. You can easily Google the conversion and figure out how to read the nutrition labels in the place you’re visiting. Furthermore, make sure to check if the nutrition facts are written per serving, package or 100 grams, as this will make a big difference in how much calories and fat you’re actually consuming.

hotel gym Take Advantage Of The Hotel Gym

If your hotel has a gym or pool, make use of it. If you need to motivate yourself a bit more, think of it as getting the most for your money. Bonus points if you specifically book an accommodation because it has a fitness center.

If You Have A Smartphone, Make Use Of Diet And Fitness Apps

With our technologically advanced world, there are tons of apps available now to help us stay on track with our diet and fitness goals. No matter where you are in the world, you can have access to calorie counters, exercise trackers or workout programs via your mobile. Some of my favorites are Lose It!, which helps you count calories; My Fitness Pal, which tracks your food intake and exercise and has an enormous food database; and Daily Full Body Workout, which gives you a 10 to 30 minute exercise routine each day.

Keep A Healthy Mind

Being away from home, while exciting, is stressful at times. Make sure to set aside time to really relax. Spend a day in bed reading, rent a movie, visit a spa, or nap in a hammock on the beach. While each city offers many things to do and see, remember that you can’t see everything. Don’t be too upset if you can’t do it all, as it’s just another reason to re-visit the destination in the future.

[photos via JessieonaJourney, jessieonajourney, matt hutchinson, hotelcasavelas2]

Video of the Day: Laughter Yoga

Fitness is practiced differently wherever you head in the world, whether it’s thousands running the New York City marathon, groups practicing Tai Chi in Hong Kong or in India, laughing yourself into shape with a hilarious technique called Laughter Yoga. According to technique’s founder, Dr. Kadan Mataria of Mumbai, laughter is extremely good for health, encouraging deep breathing that is beneficial to the body and mind. Dr. Mataria’s sessions encourage participants to laugh for no reason, a curious exercise that, funny enough, often results in real contagious laughter. Before you laugh off the idea, give this video segment a look to learn more.

[Thanks Jinal!]

A Canadian In Beijing: Movement of Movement

My preferred exercise is running. I usually try to run about three times a week, but I must admit that I’m usually satisfied with twice a week coupled with lots of walking. When I get a bike, I’m sure that cycling will replace a lot of the walking that I’ve been doing. Still, I admit to craving the open country roads and woodland paths for running that I’m so lucky to have at home in Canada.

Here at the Beijing Language and Culture University, there is a huge fitness center equipped with a mondo track, swimming pool, weight facilities, and much more. There is also an outdoor workout area, which is like a public gym that is permanently fastened to the cement. There are stairmasters and rowing machines and various other gadgets available for public use.

In response to the National Physical Fitness Program established in 1995, these parks were put in place to provide more people access to public health-building facilities. Did you know that Chinese people live longer on average than North Americans and currently the oldest living person resides in China? Well, there’s some impetus if you’re looking for fitness motivation! (By the way, she’s reportedly been a vegetarian her whole life.)

Well, whatever their original motivation, I think the parks are fantastic and I took a tour of one yesterday and tried all the machines like a giggling kid. It was a like a fun-park for adults with no ticket price and I loved how brightly coloured everything was. Maybe to make working out a more sunny experience? Whatever gets the public to move, I suppose.

The university also has courts for every kind of team sport including (but not limited to) badminton, racket ball, volleyball and basketball. “Western” sports are extremely popular in China and I can see the proof of that every day.

My building sits right next to the basketball courts. There are seven full basketball courts all stretching horizontally in a row just outside my window. That makes fourteen basketball nets, or fourteen possible simultaneous half-court games at any given time. Every day, the courts are packed starting from six in the morning until past midnight, even without any lighting after dusk! Those who play into the night do so by the secondhand light from the adjacent pathway, which amounts to barely any light at all. I’m always amazed by the diehards who play in the near dark. Now that’s dedication.

I’ve had to become quite familiar with the bounce, bounce, bounce sound of basketballs in motion. In fact, I can finally sleep through it and this is a huge accomplishment after two weeks! Someone asked me why, as a musician, I would have trouble with the sound. They said, “Isn’t it like a drum?”

Uhm, quick answer? No.

Unless, of course, the drummer has no sense of timing and rhythm! It’s more like the sound of. . . basketballs.

Constant basketballs.

Oh well, at least it keeps me inspired to stay in shape! The drone of sports being enjoyed just outside my window definitely prompts my own activity. And, it’s hard to begrudge a sound for being a sound. Sound is my business, after all.

So, I’ve been using the track a few times a week. Every morning from about 5:30am onwards, the walkway between the basketball courts and the track is filled with scattered elderly folks doing Tai Chi.

I walk first between basketball games and then through the graceful movements of the Tai Chi practitioners, all the while trying to see through my morning fog. When I arrive at the track (three minutes from my door), I deposit my water bottle on the side and then take my place among the spinning humans who look like dice of varying speeds on a giant roulette wheel.

At 6:15am, the track is filled with people running or walking, always counter-clockwise. Some are even walking or running backwards (why?) and most are wearing jeans and not workout clothes. Very few wear proper running shoes and I find myself worrying about their feet and the impact on their knees.

The center of the track, which is also the soccer field, is filled first by the university guards, two of whom I recognize as those who helped me carry my stuff the first day. The full battalion (what are they called in a group anyway?) are in full uniform while thick in a game of soccer for about twenty minutes as their mandatory daily exercise. Then, the soccer field is usually taken over by another group exercise. On this day, it was a group of women who were working on keeping what looked like a tennis ball balanced on some sort of paddle. I have no idea what sport this is for. Do you?

All in all, I only do ten laps, which is about a twenty-five minute run (4km) for me, and I am by far the longest distance runner I have yet to encounter. Everyone else works out for half the time and I wonder if they know something I don’t related to air quality and/or blood flow as per Chinese herbal medicine or something?!

And speaking of flow, I really believe in changing directions, too, when running on a track. Too much time spent counter-clockwise puts an imbalanced strain on your limbs and muscles. (Thanks to April Boultbee, my marathon running friend and Few’ll Ignite Sound‘s savior, for this bit of info!)

Today, I finally decide that I am going to take the plunge and just run on the far outside lane in a clockwise direction to avoid the oncoming human dice. I get so many strange looks that I nearly re-join the counter-clockwise current out of embarrassment. Still, I talk myself into pushing on and doing half of my run against the flow. Afterwards, I feel better in my body, despite feeling shy and all-the-more foreign than I already am.

Being a non-Chinese person here gives me some leeway to be “weird” and I’ve generally been open to that flexibility!

After my run, I weave my way back through the Tai Chi and the basketball games to my building and my shower. It’s a great way to start the day and even though I miss my quiet, solitary, countryside running, I feel like I’m part of some sort of Chinese fitness movement here; a movement of movement.

Sign me up.