Every year I post about how it’s perfectly possible to keep up some sort of fitness regimen even when you’re away.
For me, sometimes I do better at exercising when I’m away; the rest of the time, work gets so hectic that the break becomes as much about getting your fitness mojo back as anything else.
Usually I’m thinking up exercises to do in the pool, but this year’s holiday is a three-centre city break.
The first obstacle is that eight hour flight; there isn’t a lot of space in a standard airplane seat but, as ever, my trusted resistance band gave me a chance to do a mini thigh workout and at least avoid any stiffness when I got off.
Centre 1, Toronto
Day 1, the obligatory walking tour
Smashed all the rings on my Apple Watch: 16,853 steps, 13km
and a heart rate ranging from 56-209bpm.
It poured down in the evening so our dash to dinner involved the Toronto PATH, a series of tunnels to help you get to your destination without ever coming up for air. The PATH is not well signposted, though, and after 20 minutes of stairs, tunnels and wrong turns we still had 12 of our 18 minute walk to go. I reckon one of those sets of stairs was when my heart rate reached its peak, or maybe it was the final dash through the torrential rain.
Day 2: thank goodness for sunshine and a visit to Niagara Falls
Even three hours of driving didn’t stop us from clocking up 13k and another 17,000 steps with a high of 149bpm.
After another 15,000 steps on day three we were all a bit foot-weary and I was aching all over; 8 hours sat on a plane, lugging suitcases in and out of taxis, followed by all that walking had taken it’s toll.
Day 4: road trip number one
A thorough stretch on the balcony was the only way for me to start day four and prepare myself as well as I could for a five hour drive to Montreal. I got in nearly a full hour of stretches while two of our party went to pick up the hire car. Those stretches seemed to set me up quite well for those long hours squashed into the back of a Ford Flex with the luggage. Even that didn’t stop me. Despite so little room to move, I wasn’t giving up the chance to keep on moving – if truth be told, that was why I volunteered for that back seat.
What five hours in a car also gives you, is time to reflect.
- Is that pain in my jaw really arthritis as diagnosed by my GP? Or could it be connected to my stiff shoulder (made worse by dragging a 20kg wheelie suitcase)?
- Why is it that my knee hurts when my groin feels tight?
- Are these all just symptoms of one simple misalignment? And if so, what exercises and stretches can I do to correct it all?
It’s not that I don’t trust my GP, but they never seem to take a holistic view. While I know not everything can be cured with a few stretches, there is plenty of evidence out there that suggests just keeping moving can go a long way to slowing down the ageing process and keep us fitter for longer.
I certainly have no intention of giving in to my aches and pains; I want to do the same things now as I did in my 30s and 40s. And if that means finding a way to do a mini workout in a cramped little corner of a road trip, I’m on it! So, having started the day well, with that good long stretching session, it was time to make us of my trusted resistance band in the car. Often I take a variety of resistance bands on holiday, but this time, it was just the No Days Off band.
For about an hour of the journey, just before we stopped for lunch, I did:
- Seated leg lifts;
- Inner and outer thigh exercises;
- seated reverse crunches;
- bicep curls;
- shoulder rotations; and
- a resistance band version of a bench press (which I just learned are also called shoulder flys).
As with all exercises I do, I focus on slow movements and holding the ‘top’ of the movement for a count of at least five seconds. You get deeper muscle strength from them that way, and as you build up muscle, the benefits build too; those muscles burn more fat in the long run – not much more, but I’m in the game of ‘every little helps’.
If you want a bit more inspiration on resistance band exercises, take a look at this article I found on resistance band butt exercises.
You can’t do many of these in the back seat of a car, but a seated version of the clamshell is definitely worth a go.
Centre 2, Montreal
Day 5. Walking tour number two.
The walking tour didn’t involve quite enough walking for me, more a standing around tour really. Still, coupled with a wander through the old town and back to our apartment in the Golden Square Mile, I still racked up another 14k day – that definitely counts as active in my book.
I went round my Apple Watch rings twice on each of the three full days in Montreal, especially on day three when we set off up Mount Royal – not really a mountain in the greater scheme of things – but still a good trek, and excellent preparation for the following day’s road trip, the third of the holiday.
And what I started to notice in Montreal: my groin was less painful, which meant I was sleeping better; my jaw was hurting less and my teeth weren’t nearly as sensitive as usual. The stretches and exercise I’d been doing had realigned me. Looking in the mirror I could see that I no longer had a slight droop in my right shoulder. It was working. Exercise really is the key to so many things. That last day up Mount Royal I was literally steaming ahead and raring to go. It certainly helped that it was a beautiful day and the park was amazing.
Day 8, another road trip, Montreal to Quebec.
At least the journey to Quebec City is only three hours, which gives plenty of time for stops and a bit of exploring.
Also our hire car was a Kia Sedona, and had much more space than the Ford Flex – plenty of room for a sneaky little workout in my seat on the back row. Having realised how much good these extra workouts were doing me, I was not going to miss out, even on a shorter trip. I reckon out of the three hours, I spent around an hour moving one set of muscles or another. Definitely better than just sitting there and seizing up.
We arrived in Quebec just in time for dinner, so just a brief stroll to a nearby restaurant and a good night’s sleep before discovering this fabulous, French-speaking city.
Centre 3, Quebec
Day 9. Would you be surprised if I said we did another walking tour?
I think this one might have been the best of the three. It covered lots of fascinating history, and was more of a walk than the Montreal one. This guy really knew his stuff and made the tour very entertaining. Walking tours are often free (you tip at the end if you enjoy it) and are a great way to get early insight into a new city.
And what a fab city Quebec is. Ancient walls to walk around, a stunning boardwalk, a funicular with a great view. We carried on with our own walking tour that afternoon, racking up a total of 15,000 steps. The activity on my apple watch never looked so good.
Day 10. River cruise.
The following day we took a river cruise up to the Montmorency falls and back. Spectacular views. I love anything that involves being on water, and was especially excited to see the falls; In two days time I would be on a zip-wire across those falls, and I was certain it was going to be the highlight of the holiday. It didn’t disappoint. This is exactly why I want to stay fit as I near my 60s, to keep doing things like this.
Day 12. That zip wire.
To be fair, not just a zip wire. That was the highlight, but the park was generally stunning, with a great restaurant for lunch and a cable car from the bottom to the top. The Canadians know how to take a natural phenomenon and turn it into a cracking day out.
Day 13. Flying back to Toronto
Almost the end of our trip, two final days back in Toronto. Time to take in the last sights – and arriving back on Canada Day meant there were lots of celebrations on around the city.
The harbour area was full of music and street theatre and the weather was fantastic. So you guessed it, loads more walking.
Day 14. Contemplation and sports
Our final day started with a nice quiet morning for me. Everyone else was off shopping or having nails done; I took off with my camera for a bit of alone time in the sun. A couple of hours of quiet contemplation coupled with some shots of the local park wildlife.
We finished the day with the Women’s World cup England game in the afternoon, and a Blue Jays baseball match in the evening. Sadly the Boston Red Sox slaughtered them, but it was a great experience.
I got to use my favourite workout balcony one last time before flying home. What a great holiday. Lot’s to see, the people are so friendly, and yet again I managed to fit in some great exercise along the way. It’s just a shame the food is so good, and the portions so generous – not to mention the craft beer, so there’s no resting up now I’m home and back on my usual healthy diet…