Running safely through your vacation travels

Posted Aug. 08, 2011, at 7:07 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 09, 2011, at 6:39 a.m.
Illustration by Eric Zelz

It is my experience that as I get older, if I stop my regular activity level for a vacation trip, I have a harder time getting back to the condition I was in before I left. Conventional wisdom says it takes three months of lethargy to lose fitness gains. That two-or three-week trip with no exercise might be a good break. But if you want to maintain your optimum condition or not lose the momentum from a new fitness plan, there are lots of ways to incorporate exercise into your vacation.

Over the years I have learned that I always feel better if I go running while I’m away on vacation. Running, walking or bicycling somewhere completely new is my way of “owning” a destination.

I always start by packing my reflective vest. When I used to visit my daughter while she was in college in Boston she would be mortified by my wearing what she would call my “reflective monstrosity.” I would tell her that I was vest-dressed for safety.

She would tell me that everyone runs in Boston and no one gets hit.

Well, there’s always a first and I wouldn’t want it to be me because I wasn’t visible enough. Believe me, on our Boston runs and walks we crossed many intersections crawling with cars and the drivers would have had to be blind not to have seen me in my vest.

My next rule of travel is to always carry on the airplane a toothbrush, toothpaste, all my running gear and, of course, a change of underwear. This way, if my luggage is lost, I can still go for a run. I never take my MP3 music player because I want all my wits about me when I run in unfamiliar locations. Some cities even have signs warning not to wear your music while running around in their town. If I could, I would bring my can of mace, but the airlines won’t allow it. If you run on a treadmill in a hotel, I am sure you will be safe.

The best thing of all is my GPS watch, always in my purse. They make wristwatches now that track distance, elevation, pace and on and on. You can later load all the data into a computer. There are lots of different fitness devices in all price ranges to help you track and train and not get lost. Once when I was trail-running in Newfoundland, I was able to find my way back only because my GPS watch told me how to get back from where I started. It is a device worth its weight in gold.

I also have a Road ID on my shoe that has a toll-free emergency number and code in case something happens to me and hospital staff need to provide help, or I forget who I am.

It has become easier and easier to stay fit on vacation. Many gyms have national and even international affiliates and offer free travel visits. Fitness magazines have online resources for rave runs, bike rides, hikes and walks. Vacation services offer age-specific trips with loads of activities so your vacation could be all about fitness. I’ve decided that my next trip to Iceland will be to trek with a bunch of like-minded baby boomers.

Noelle Merrill is the executive director of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Bangor.

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