Fight The Bonk: Airport Gyms

ohare-airportIt was one of those “Of course that has to exist!” sort of moments when I heard about AirportGyms. The site’s selection of US and Canadian gyms to help fight the bonk during a layover is pretty in-depth with a gym in or near just about every airport I checked.  But, I wasn’t satisfied with just a website, so I checked out the gym associated with Chicago O’Hare Airport since I’m, you know, right here.  At $11 for a day pass, it’s not quite a bargain by gym standards, but consider that it’s attached to the airport’s Hilton Hotel and is a pretty nice gym. Then, consider that a soggy airport sandwich is about that much and suddenly it seems like an excellent deal. Ish.

On The Road: A (Track and) Field Guide to Omaha

The past weekend, I spoke and read at a literary festival in Omaha, and followed up with a day on a farm in east-central Nebraska. I like running in Omaha, as it is green, fairly hilly, boasts gorgeous architectural gems and has great public art in its series of parks (67-acre Memorial Park off Underwood is a good one not far from downtown and the Old Market District areas). And, the long open roads in rural areas of east-central Nebraska are an excellent place to log fast, steady mileage on foot or bike, as they’re quite flat and straight and not terribly busy.

Time permitting, start with a hello to the Omaha Running Club beforehand and check for opportunities to tag along on a scheduled group run or event. Also, check by Olympia Cycles, a cool little shop dedicated to community support and is into cyclists of all experience levels. If you find yourself in Nebraska in June, and feel gung-ho to cycle, there is a cycle-across-Nebraska event, too. The Omaha Marathon and Half-Marathon is in late September, and September in Omaha is gorgeous. The race is limited to 5,000 runners, so that means an uncrowded, cool-weather race, in my book.

But, for fitness anytime, there are some great running routes in Omaha, many with good hills, outside of the many parks, which are perfect for running, as well as good hiking trails nearby. Also, Activate Omaha is an excellent fitness site with a directory of local fitness resources and a calendar of events around town, many of which are free, such a drop-in yoga and group runs.

Lastly, I’m a big fan of supporting local, independent running shops, and Peak Performance is a great one, with two locations in Omaha.

What about you, readers dear? Do you know about a great fitness resource in Omaha or nearby I might have overlooked?

How To Keep Momentum Going When Traveling

I travel a lot. Not as much as, say, a pilot or trucker, of course, but I hold my own. Personally, I love exploring a new city by running or hiking. I might start out in a touristy or all-business area, but I’ll inevitably find something interesting off the main drag and find interesting restaurants, shops, museums or events for later or scenery and unique views. It’s difficult, when thrown out of our home routines, though, to keep our fitness momentum going. It’s also difficult because we often don’t have access to equipment, or don’t know any running routes nearby, and because we usually end up eating entirely in restaurants or at cetered events with few options, so our go-to snacks and meals are usually a bit off, too. Here are some of my favorite fitness travel tips and tools.

  • I usually just wing it and get lost in a new city and have had some wonderful adventures this way. But, it’s wise to pay better attention to safety and play around with the mapping tools on Active Trainer or Map My Run or the all-around excellent resource Run The Planet. When I do this, I try out various loops in various directions so I’m both semi-familiar with the immediate area, and to I can identify landmarks in several directions. Whether I map first of not, I always jot down the address (or grab a matchbook cover with the hotel address) and stick it in my pocket. There are many GPS devices that perform these functions, too. It’s usually worth Googling the destination city and “running route”, too, as sometimes area runners will save and post good routes in safe and scenic areas. Better still, drop a note to the local running club or a local fitness blogger (ahem) beforehand and get your fitness networking on.
  • I prefer to get out into the travel city and explore a bit, so I tend to do just the bare minimum in hotel fitness centers, if anything at all, do some reverse push-ups on the edge of the tub, my crunches series in the room, and then put my destination to work. For example, in Anguilla, I swam and sand-ran (info on beach-running here; it’s a little different). In Arizona, I climbed and hiked. In San Francisco, I tackled hills while I explored different neighborhoods. In Quebec City, I ran up and down the city’s many stairs (Psst, they have a kick-ass half-marathon on stairs. We have the Top of the Hancock race here in Chicago. Both could lead straight to training for the Great Wall Marathon. Just a thought.) In Amsterdam, where almost everyone is bicycle-happy, there are dozens of places to rent a bike for a few hours or days.
  • That said, I often put a resistance band, the yoga-to-go cards, or deck of pilates cards in my suitcase in case of crummy weather, so I can do something.
  • There are many fine books on the matter of travel and fitness. The book and website belonging to TravelFitness is filled with good ideas, many of which I personally practice. A few books I like are Travel Yoga and Fitness For Travelers.
  • I really pay extra attention to packing quick-dry technical fitness clothing when traveling because  stuffing sweaty running clothes into a suitcase is just gross. Most technical clothing will dry fast if you give them a good rinse in the sink after your workout and hang pieces over the shower rod. Add a tiny bit of shampoo or shower gel to warm water then rinse well if you prefer to wash instead of rinse. A friend of mine carries a tiny travel bottle in her bag that she’s filled with special fitness detergent for this very purpose and loves the stuff. Also, I bring a shoe bag along to keep things tidier.
  • Bring some healthy snacks. I almost always have some almonds, energy bars or something like that with me when I travel, as well as individual packets of powdered Gatorade. A friend of mine lines the bottom of her bag with pouches of heart-healthy instant oatmeal with the thought that a cup of hot water can be found anywhere, which I also like.
  • Remember that cabin air in airplanes is about as dry as it gets. Drink a lot of water on a plane. I mean, a lot. And, since you’ll be getting up to pee throughout the flight, stretch a bit while you’re up.
  • Very importantly, be prepared to stand up for your fitness. You’re going to hear things like, “Oh, you’re in great shape, blow it off!” or “Oh please. Missing one little run isn’t going to kill you!” and while that might be true, missing one run isn’t going to kill anyone, if you’re going to be dedicated, frackin’ be dedicated. Besides, there is a sense of pride that comes along with making the healthy choice and/or honoring a deal we made to ourselves. Scheduling an hour or two to do something healthy in-between events or first thing in the morning does matter to our fitness levels, and sense of well-being. As Chris Russell wrote for Cool Running’s 9 Travel Tips from a Veteran Road Warrior:

Many times the people you are working with will think your running addiction is a social disorder and will do their level best to keep you from your fun. In their world view they are saving you from yourself. Don’t be afraid to steal a run. “I’m sorry, I’ll be a little late for dinner I have an appointment, you go ahead to the bar and I’ll meet you there later.” Stick up for yourself. It’s something you need to do to feel good. It’s something that will make you more effective and clear your head. Screw them if they don’t get it. Sneak out and run.

  • Even then, sometimes I check to see if there is a local 5k race in the area while I’ll be around. It’s easy to get tired from jetlag and blow off a run, but I find having an event ahead keeps me excited and focused. Plus, it’s usually for a good cause.

What do you do when traveling to stay fit and focused?