Even if you’re tied to a tour group and a tightly scheduled itinerary, adding some physical activity to your daily schedule is a great way to explore your destination. How about trying a jogging or cycle tour? And although touring a city by Segway won’t win any prizes for burning lots of calories, it will definitely tone the core from all the laughter and balancing, and it gets you out and about.
If you’re staying at home, don’t let a staycation stop you from exploring your own town as you would any other destination. It can have the same physical and mental health benefits as if you were going away.
While the term fitcation can apply to staying at expensive health resorts, we’ve chosen these simple but highly active and fun activities to get you exploring a city and feeling like a local in no time.
Sight running is a combination of sightseeing and running and it’s perfect for fitcations because hitting the pavement is one of the easiest ways of keeping fit while on the road. Sight running can be done anywhere, at any time and doesn’t have to cost a cent. While some of us are happy to crank up our favorite playlist and go and discover, others may need more encouragement, particularly when they have safety in mind. That’s where running tours are great, with fit and knowledgeable guides who take care of all the logistics, and all you have to think about is putting one foot in front of the other.
Every major city has sight running tours. In New Orleans, Jogging Tours takes joggers through the cobbled streets of the city’s historic French Quarter, the Cemetery and the Garden District. Expect to cover 6.2 miles in a 90-minute to two-hour tour. The point, of course, is that if you like what you see, you can return for a leisurely stroll later in the day.
Some running tour organizations, such as City Running Tours cover multiple cities. City Running Tours has an impressive range of guided tours in 16 cities across the country, catering to all runners, from competitive families, beginners and business travelers to “just visiting” runners who want a fun experience. The tours range from beer-themed to ghost sights and include iconic landmarks. Sign up for a personalized running tour and choose how far you want to run, and which areas and sights you would like to see.
Some running tours focus as heavily on fun as the exercise. Established in 1938, the Hash House Harriers spawned groups around the world who admit they are part of a social drinking club with a running problem. Their events combine running, orienteering and socializing in one bundle, in which “hashers” follow an eight to 10 kilometer series of trails marked by paper, chalk or flour through streets, back alleys, parks, forests or shopping malls (that’s the orienteering part). If you join one of these groups, you’ll be working up a sweat alongside upward of 20 other hashers and then hang out afterwards, even if it’s only for a sparkling water. Hashers meet on a weekly or biweekly basis and you can find one by running a Google search for Hash House Harriers and the name of your destination.
If you’re traveling with a bike, the Hash House Bikers, known as Bike Hashers, or Bashers, organize non-competitive rides using the same orienteering principles of the run, on whatever terrain is chosen for the ride.
SIGHTSEEING ON TWO WHEELS
“Bike shares” are the people movers of the future, especially in busy cities like New York, when it’s sometimes quicker to walk than catch a cab or take the subway. Once you sign up and hand over credit card details (every system works differently), bike shares allow users to pick up and return bikes to any station, and often the first 30 minutes are free! “Bike cities” are popping up in every state, with nearly as many earmarked to launch in future. This way of getting around is ideal for short distance, point-to-point trips, where you can take in the sights and get some exercise on the way to your next place of interest.
Some bike shares can become expensive for day or multi-day use so check the fine print, as it might be better to head to a bike rental shop instead.
If you want to rent a bike, there are lots of options. Capital Bikeshare has 3,000 bikes spread across 350 stations in the county. NYC’s Cite Bike has become so successful that it plans to double its bike fleet to 12,000 and add another 375 docking stations to service Brooklyn, Long Island City, upper Manhattan and Astoria by 2017. If going it alone with bike share sounds too daunting, join a guided heritage or cultural bike tour, and leave the stress and map reading to the professionals.
Then there are communities that have gone over and above to provide a friendly cycling environment. For example, Washington D.C., Arlington, Alexandria and Montgomery County have brilliant systems of bike trails, lanes and routes.
Who doesn’t love to discover a new city by following their “gut” instinct? Whether you’re looking for great cafés serving the best organic food or fine dining restaurants, you’ll always appreciate direction from those in the know, so guided walking tours for food lovers, are perfect. And, of course, walking after a meal helps aid digestion and burn energy.
Where to start? Whether it’s Cajun cuisine in New Orleans or ethnic eateries in the off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods of Chicago or Portland’s ever-expanding food truck scene, a tour will show you where to eat during the rest of your stay. There are tours of specific locations too, like Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The market is a West Coast institution and the oldest continuously operating market in the country, attracting 10 million visitors annually. In Honolulu, the Ala Moana Local Eats Tour tracks down shaved ice, garlic shrimp and baby back ribs, and balances the experience with a 1.5-mile walk.
ICONIC BEACHFRONT PATHS
Run, walk, bike, rollerblade, skateboard, or stilt walk: whatever gets you on the move along one of the country’s seaside walkways. Perhaps the ultimate hotspot for people watching and an all-time favorite at any time of the year is the beach path from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach in Los Angeles.
The path is actually part of the 22-mile Marvin Braude Bike trail so don’t hold back if you want to keep going. On the East Coast, the 2.6-mile Virginia Beach Boardwalk skirts the beachfront, linking live music venues, amusement rides, and bicycle rental shops. In New York, you can cool off during the hot summer along the Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, where some of the 2.5-mile stretch still retains wood planking rather than concrete.
Saluting the sun takes on a whole new meaning when signing up for Hiking Yoga. Taking yoga practice to the outdoors certainly feeds the soul with a good dose of fresh air and all the benefits associated with being out in nature. Offering the best of both worlds, the 90-minute workout integrates cardio from hiking with the strength, flexibility and postural awareness from yoga. It’s definitely a unique way to explore or discover something new about a city and meet locals in the process. The type of yoga practice is dependent on the teacher’s training and expertise, and the hiking experience depends on the type of terrain available in the area. The Hiking Yoga network keeps expanding, so check the website to see whether it’s available at your destination. Get earthy in Alaska, where Mother Nature is at its purest and hiking yogis take to the trails in Chester Creek just outside Anchorage or the parks in midtown. In California, explore San Diego’s Balboa Park near the world-famous San Diego Zoo or the green belt hugging the shores of San Francisco Bay.
These are just a few of the many activities you can enjoy while exploring your vacation destination. You’ll be surprised just how many options are available to you, and because you’re having fun, you’ll be surprised just how hard you work out.