Fitness on the Fly- Exercise Tips for Travelers

Below is a guest post from Mike Manning, a fitness and health blogger.

Changes in routine that come with travel can make fitness and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle difficult to maintain. Research indicates that individuals who are away from home 20 days or more each month struggle with greater health concerns than others. The rigors of the road, including unfamiliar surroundings, time changes, demanding schedules and dietary changes can take a toll on any person’s health. Fortunately, these stressors are not completely out of your control. By planning ahead and maintaining a degree of self-awareness, you can successfully maintain your healthy habits on the road as well as at home.

Before you leave, do some research about your planned destination. Locate a good health market where you can pick up healthy snacks to keep in your room and fuel your daily activities. Check out accommodations and look for a hotel with convenient fitness amenities. On a recent trip to San Francisco I was able to book a hotel with a great 24-hour gym by doing some research on a travel reviews site. This site gave me a list of San Francisco hotels and from there I was able to click through and see different fitness amenities. If you belong to a health club, discover if you can gain access to a local gym during your stay.

En route to your destination, take time to stretch and perform simple exercises in your seat. Whether you fly or drive, moving and stretching during travel will help you avoid many of the discomforts associated with spending long hours sitting in cramped quarter. Stretch your back, roll your shoulders, do a few knee lifts, point and flex your feet and so on.  During layovers or rest stops, take the opportunity to walk and stretch.

At your hotel, familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Locate the fitness center and various amenities. Before going to meetings or activities, take the time to settle into your room. Do a little stretching or move through some basic yoga poses to help you center yourself.

During your stay, maintain realistic expectations. While your exercise time may be limited, you can take the opportunities that come and make the most of them. Little things like taking the stairs or walking instead of driving or riding to restaurants or meetings will make a big impact on your overall fitness. Implementing these simple tricks will help you feel better throughout your trip and arrive home more refreshed.


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Moderate Levels of Physical Activity Are Good for the Mind, Body and Soul

Below is a guest post from David Haas, a cancer patient advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. He writes and researches for the betterment of cancer patients around the United States. 

Conventional medical wisdom once led physicians to tell patients affected by treatment for mesothelioma and other cancers to take it easy after a diagnosis.  However, through reviewing the results of various in-depth studies, doctors are now taking a different stance.  

Today, more doctors than ever are encouraging their patients to make physical activity a part of their daily lives.  One study conducted in Great Britain suggested that patients who engaged in approximately 150 hours of physical activity each week showed marked health improvement.  Side effects of cancer treatment like depression, fatigue, heart disease and even osteoporosis can be ameliorated by regular fitness activity.  Such exercise has even been shown to reduce the risk of recurrence or death in patients with cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Doctors have now concluded that regular exercise should be a part of every cancer patient’s life, whether they have just been diagnosed or are in remission.  So what form of exercise do they recommend?

According to the American Cancer Society it is not necessary to become a dedicated endurance athlete to feel the benefits of regular exercise.  A brisk walk or working in the garden can both qualify, as does a leisurely lap swim.  It’s important to consult with physicians before deciding on the right kind of exercise, but there are plenty of alternatives out there.  Physical activity can be connected to social activities.  Take a ballroom dance class or go line dancing.  Join a softball team or a bowling league.  The dual approaches of increased social interaction and physical activity are stimulating, fun and healthy.

Activities with an eastern influence, like yoga or tai chi, may also be extremely valuable.  These practices encourage balance, harmony and reflection.  They can significantly reduce stress levels while also giving muscles a challenge.  Such ancient exercise methods are good for the body and the mind.  

Even on days when it’s not possible to go for a walk or take a dance class, it is still possible to find ways to fit in a little physical challenge.  Choose the stairs over the elevator or ride a bike to the corner store instead of driving.  Ride a stationary bicycle while watching television.  While at work, walk to a coworker’s desk instead of calling or sending an email.  Do a little extra housework.  It’s surprising how many calories can be burned just by mopping floors.

Exercise has so many benefits that it is difficult to enumerate them all.  It helps to maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.  It keeps bones dense and strong.  Exercise is good for the mind as well, since it has the power to promote healthy psychological well being.  It’s important to understand that it’s not necessary to train for a marathon to feel the benefits of physical activity.  Instead, making moderate activity a part of everyday life is as simple as cleaning the house or enjoying a walk with a good friend.  





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Running And The Great Beyond

Death is the great equalizer.  It levels the playing field.  Material possessions do not matter as do matters of the soul.  The death of a 21k runner at the recently concluded 34th Milo Marathon Manila Elimination Race brings to fore the frailty of the human species.  Our weaknesses were exposed and highlighted.  Our strengths were reduced to the minuteness of our existence in the universe.  Not even the experience of previous similar runs could offer any substantial collateral.  There are no bragging rights anymore.

Finishing a previous race does not guarantee a free ticket to the finish line.  Each race is unique and must be treated with respect.  Conditions vary greatly and may nullify the assumptions you have made during training.  Complacency isn’t only to blame.  Running is unlike boxing in which your corner can throw in the towel once the outcome becomes inevitable.  You alone have to decide whether to push thru or not.  You cannot pass the buck.  The thought of not finishing a race swirls through your mind like the “Sword of Damocles.”  To quit now is to hurt your ego, which has now grown bigger for you to contain.  You turn deaf to what your body is telling you.  Listening now will jeopardize everything.  You have reached a point of no return.  Pride eventually kills.

Running is good, but it is not a panacea.  It is just one aspect of total wellness.  It is not a license to get reckless.  We can always blame the organizers for their inadequacies, but in the end, it is ultimately ourselves who will determine our success and survival at the tape.  Running can be either a friend or a foe.  It can work for or against you.  It is how you use it which will decide whether you can do a side-stepping move or step forward to the great beyond.

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We Will Never Run This Race Again

Life is a race.  The moment the sperm and the egg unite, the fertilized egg never stops multiplying, as it is given a timeframe of only nine months to prepare the fetus for birth, ready to live outside the comfort of its mother’s womb.  As the baby is delivered, it grows so fast that after a year, or even less, it has learned how to laugh, talk and to walk.  This makes you wonder why the baby is such in a hurry to grow up.  Some parents will want their babies to stay young and cute forever.  But such will not be the case, as each individual is tasked to fulfill a mission on earth within a given period of time.

The race continues as the child starts its quest for knowledge, interaction and fulfillment of its goals.  You want to be ahead of life.  Destiny is not your cup of tea.  It is for the frail, weak and faint hearted.  Your primal instincts tell you to fight lest you want to be eliminated from the pack.  Competition sets in.  There’s a frantic rush to outdo yourself through the dictates of your family, environment and your inner soul.  It’s the quest for self-fulfillment, of pride and of being somebody to be looked upon by your peers.

Ah, it is nice to savor the fountain of youth.  It brings with it the charms, challenges and recklessness of life.  You are at your prime and no one dared to question your will, strength and capacity to endure pain.  It seems that you can take on everything life has to offer.  You live your life as if there’s no tomorrow.  You treat your body, as if it were made of steel, to endless bouts of merry making, booze and late night outs.  Who cares about physical fitness?  You recover as fast as you can say “Good Morning” the following day.  As they say, “You can be young only once.”  Enjoy it, and live it to the fullest. 

As you reach however four decades of life on earth, things begin to head southward.  Your reflexes, strength and recovery do not seem to be as they were before.  Your health also seems to be not as good.  Then, as you browse through the nooks and crevices to find some answers, you stumble upon an old buddy just waiting for you to reach out – running.  There seems to be an instant connection, an outright appreciation and a sense of belonging.  You feel revived, rejuvenated and exhilarated.  You say to yourself, “Why didn’t I meet you sooner?”

You are now the best of friends, and nobody will be able to separate you from the comfort of each other’s embrace.  The sunset beckons ahead but you feel relaxed and confident as ever.  Together, you continue the race of life towards the finish, determined and never wanting to look back.  You strive hard.  You pour in valuable time, effort and resources to finish it in the best way you can.  Life is short, and you will never run this race again.

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Drowning In The Heat Of The Valley

El Nino is on the loose.  The Nature Valley Run was right on its heels.  The throng of runners, who heeded the call for this event generated more heat than anyone could ever wished for.   The barker announced that a total of 11,200 registered for the event, although the results showed a tally of only 9,031.

I was really worried about the heat, as this can precipitate an attack of cramps.  I was getting paranoid so to speak.  I did not want to suffer a third attack.  I did not feel good about my chances of getting a PR for this race.  My knees hurt during training.  I have to listen well for body signals, lest I want to reach the finish line in an ambulance.

When I entered the starting corral, I noticed several bouncers in black.  It seems that these guys are fast becoming permanent fixtures in races.  Are they getting paid more than the usual marshals? 

The 21k race started promptly at 5:10 a.m.  Soon after, I was already perspiring profusely.  The sweltering heat was taking its effects fast.  I felt my legs becoming rather heavy.  Surprisingly, at the half-kilometer mark, there was already a water station – a long table with an ample supply of electrolyte drinks.  The organizers really anticipated the runner’s extra need for hydration given the unusual heat brought about by El Nino.  I always carry though my own hydration bottle, which I usually drink after the first 10k.  But this time, it was different.  I had to take sips after each kilometer.

The kilometer markers were present, and they tallied well with my Garmin readings.  

The first 10k seemed an eternity.  I felt pain in my knees.  My legs were tiring.  The heat was all too real and becoming to be unbearable. 

At 16k, I started listening for signals of cramps.  Luckily, there were none disturbing.  My hydration bottle was now empty.  I had to make stops at each water station.  I was like a castaway stranded on a deserted island yearning for a drop of that precious, refreshing liquid.  But I had to drink only water, as my stomach could not tolerate the isotonic drinks they were serving.  I was afraid I might get stomach cramps. 

The last two kilometers were the hardest.  I seemed to be motionless.  I was like running on ice.  When the finish line came to view, I let out a final grunt and sprinted to the finish in 2:19:57.  Not a good time.  The only consolation I got was that I did not suffer any cramps.  Good enough to boost my confidence for the third and last leg of the RunRio Trilogy.  A daunting, difficult task.  I have never run a 32k yet.  Nonetheless, I still can grin.  By that time, El Nino won’t be around to cheer me anymore.

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Tit For Tat

Ever since sweeping the three international marathons in 2009, namely, the Smart International Marathon, Philippine International Marathon and the Quezon City International Marathon, Kenyan runners have continued their participation in local races.  Stamping their class, they have won but one race, the Century Tuna Run, where local hero, Eduardo Buenavista, showed them the stuff that gave him the gold medal in the men’s marathon at the Laos SEA Games in 2009.

We can only second guess the reason that made these Kenyans decide to campaign here.  However, several things worth noting may lead us to their motives.  First, they only zero in on big-ticket races, where prizes are expectedly much higher.  Second, sensing the low-caliber competition, they may have found here a perfect place to train while earning bucks simultaneously to finance their participation in more prestigious races abroad.  Although this strategy may backfire on them, owing to the weakness of the local field, the lure of easy money presents a bargain that is hard for them to ignore. Thus, these Kenyans may not be actually training here but only just raking in the money supposed to be won by Filipino runners.  We can never really be sure, however.  We may be proven wrong if one of these Kenyans win a higher caliber race abroad.

This situation, however, opens a window of opportunity for Filipino runners.  This is an avenue for them to experience competing against these running machines.  Of course, we cannot let Buenavista solely handle the Kenyan challenge.  Others have to step up.  They have to use this to hone their skills against much better opposition without having to go abroad.  Although these Kenyans may not really rank that high in the world of elite runners, we definitely have everything to gain from running against them.  We should not take their presence here for granted.  As to what extent they are worth their stay, we will never know.  Only time will tell, when the equilibrium will be reached.  As they say, running with slow guys makes you slower as adaptation sets in.  Let’s just hope that we can stage more international marathons in the future to attract new, faster Kenyan talents to our country.  We must sustain the momentum that 2009 had generated.  For now, let’s just make the best out of the situation and milk these Kenyans dry as they continue their stay here.  The balance must shift in our favor.  It must be tit for tat.

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Not A Second Time

Run For Home 2010 was my 21k test run after my first leg-cramp experience at the Century Tuna Superbods Run on February 21.  Going into this race, I was confident that I would clear it without problems, since I put in additional kilometers into my training.  Except for the new route, which was to start and end at the Makati Central Business District, I thought that the degree of difficulty of this run was nothing to worry about.  Or so I thought.

We arrived at the starting area at about 4:45 a.m.  The area was already bustling with runners doing their respective pre-race routines.  Nothing unusual about that.  What’s odd though was the presence of burly men clad in black shirts with the word “bouncer” emblazoned on their backs.  The scene was reminiscent of a night club entrance or a presidential walk-through.  I find this very pathetic, an unnecessary show of force at the wrong area and a display of pure arrogance by the organizers for a miniscule number of runners.

The race started promptly at 5:20 a.m.  I was at the back of the pack since I had to relieve myself just before the gun start.  I thought I started just right, but my Garmin said that my pace was hobbling at only 7:22, which was rather slow.  Maybe, this was due to the winding route at the start and the difficulty of weaving your way through the runners.

Upon reaching 3 km, my pace improved to 6:16.  I steadily gained speed until I reached a plateau of 6:06.  The race route had large, visible kilometer markers, although I found them lagging behind by as much as three-fourths of a kilometer.  There was ample hydration for everyone, both water and Powerade.  The tables were longer.  Ice cold sponges were also freely distributed to runners.  

Inside The Fort, road intersections became the battleground between the runners and the motorists.  The motorists, turning impatient, blared their horns to no end in utter disrespect for the security marshals.  In retrospect, it would be better had the organizers deployed “bouncers” in these areas to showcase their intimidation skills.

The route at Heritage Park was a new one, giving the runners more uphill climbs.  My pace went down to 6:11 as we made our exit from the park.  I began conserving my energy for the last quarter push.  I did not mind the other runners, who were now passing  me.

I started to meditate and pray that cramps would not set in before our second ascent of the Kalayaan Flyover.  I increased my hydration intake, but I still maintained my pace.  My fears then started becoming real, as I began experiencing sensations of cramps at km 18.  I said to myself, “This could not be happening to me – not a second time!”  I tried to slow down to calm down my leg muscles.  It worked.  Soon again, I was picking up my pace, which will prove to be my undoing.  After completing the Kalayaan Flyover towards Buendia Avenue, the attacks became more frequent and intense.  I slowed down, but the trick did not work this time.  I was virtually dragging my feet in the last 250 meters (a marshal shouted to me that I was very near the finish line, seeing that I was fading very fast).

I crossed the finish line with an unofficial time of 2:17 over a distance of 21.78 km.  Interpolating from this, my expected 21 km time would have been 2:12, which is almost the same as my time at the Century Tuna Superbods Run.  However, my legs had to work extra harder for this race since the course was more difficult.

Several reality checks came to fore in this race.  First, there were several uphill climbs along the route – twice the Kalayaan Flyover (the homestretch run, being the killer one), Bayani Road and the new Heritage Park circuit.  Then, there was the hot ambient temperature, which caused me to sweat more than usual.  Third, but which ultimately decided my fate was my failure to listen to body signals of impending cramps.

Oh! well, it’s back to the drawing board for me.  I will have to put in more hard kilometers to my training and see if I can turn the tables the next time around.

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