Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 2 in Provence: How to Stay Physically Active on Vacation

Colin Milner, Buenos Aires

Chris Berger in Dallas, ACSM Conference Dallas, 2011
Together, let’s explore what it takes to stay fit while making the most of your vacation.   This advice comes just as I contemplate how to meet my personal challenge of not gaining weight while vacationing in Provence, France.

I spoke to fitness experts Colin Milner and Chris Berger who agreed to share their secrets for staying active while on vacation. 

Colin Milner is the CEO of the National Council on Active Aging, an organization dedicated to changing the way we age.  Chris Berger from the George Washington University, chairs the Healthy Air Travel Task Force of the American College of Sports Medicine.   

Q:  How did you get involved with physical activity, and what kinds of physical activity do you enjoy most?
Colin:  My goal growing up was to become a professional soccer player. I trained extensively. On my 21st birthday I went to Jamaica to celebrate. Three months and 20 lbs later, I had a problem, with soccer trials just around the corner.  I joined a health club to shed the weight, and was offered a part time job as a weight training instructor. Thirty years later I am still in the field, doing what I love to do, changing people's lives.  My personal preferences have always been strength training, walking, and playing soccer. 

Chris:  I’m an exercise physiologist who always wanted to be a commercial pilot.  I knew I would need to be in good shape to pass FAA physicals so that is how my interest got started as a kid.  I like going to the gym, running, swimming, and everything else.  It is not just a task on a list I have to check daily.

Q:  How do you do prepare ahead of time?

Colin:  If I am doing a family trip I will take my kids on training walks so they get used to what is going to be coming at them.  Let's say we’re going to be climbing the Great Wall of China, we will do extensive hill training. 

Chris:  I know that travel schedules mess me up so I am not hard on myself if I miss a day here or there.  Travel gives me an opportunity to try a new gym (most sell day passes), swim in a new pool, or run a new route.  I never travel without a swimsuit, goggles, running shoes, or other workout attire. 

Q:  What advice can you give us for enjoying physical activity on vacation?

Colin:   Know where you want to go and plan your route so you can see if there are any challenges.  What we like to do is to take a “hop on hop off” bus the first day in a new city, noticing what will be of most interest.  Then set up walking or cycling routes to these areas.  Always ask if there are certain neighborhoods that you should avoid. Many cities have bike routes, ask about this and use them.

You can get a great workout climbing the stairs of Notre Dame or the Bastille in Paris, the Great Wall of China or Shelly Road in Hong Kong.  This will give you a very different appreciation for these tourist destinations. Another tip is to always have water, snacks, and know where the restrooms are located.

Chris:  Most U.S. cities are pretty good for walking.  If you add a 10 lb backpack with a camera, water bottle, and map, you have basic physical activity right there just seeing some of your destinations.  For the more ardent exerciser, check parks department Web sites for cities, states, and federal parks for everything from kayaking to hiking.  Many of the large-chain gyms in the U.S. will let you buy a day/week pass for use while you are in town. 

Q:  What advice do you have for families with children or people 50 plus?

Colin:  The main tip is preparation. Know where you are going, and how you will get there.  Example:  are there any issues you may face, based on your abilities?   Stay in locations that are central, and that have easy access to transit, dining, medical services, and destinations.
Also, always be aware of the weather. If you are going out for the day and the temperature is 90˚F be sure you are prepared and take breaks from the sun.  It really comes down to the basics.  As an example, if you are walking all day be sure you have good shoes, insoles, padded socks, and if need a second set of socks, along with a mini kit for blisters.

Chris:  Leave young children at home with somebody you know and trust.  They get nothing out of travel and will stress you out the entire time.   
Just remember that some of the movements you make may involve muscle patterns you do not normally use.  It can be tricky to safely remove a suitcase from an overhead bin on an airplane.  If your upper body strength is limited, get somebody to help you.  People often get hurt when movements are novel.  

Q:  Anything else we should consider?

Colin:  The most important thing is to experience and enjoy your trip. Being an active traveler will enable you to do this much better that being a bystander.

Chris: Take it easy on yourself.  If you miss a day here or there, it will not immediately de-condition you.  Take travel as an opportunity to do something new with exercise and recharge your batteries. 

Q:  What resources do you suggest?

I would buy two books. The first on the city you are visiting. Study it. Know it. This will save a lot of heartache.   I also would by a book on how to address the small, frustrating health issues that potentially will happen.  Examples are blisters, upset stomach, etc.

Chris:  The Aerospace Medical Association has some great resources for flyers: and the American College of Sports Medicine site is also loaded with exercise tips and good information for the general public:

1 comment:

  1. Lots of useful advice here! A bike ride through Provence is a great way to stay in shape and enjoy the beautiful countryside.