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Active Escape: 3 Heart-Thumping Vacations and How to Prep

We talk to fitness experts about the best ways to train for your next-level trip

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If you love a challenge, consider sweating a little on your next trip. Bike through one of these two-wheel-worthy destinations; hike to Machu Picchu or through breathtaking Iceland; or participate in an out-of-country marathon (the Athens Classic Marathon, maybe?). Whichever you choose, there’s certainly some training required. We got in touch with a collection of fitness experts to weigh in on how to prepare for the endeavour.

Know Before You Go: Assess Your Fitness Level

Whether you’re more of a Netflix marathoner or run 10 kilometres a day, the first step is to realistically assess your fitness level against the prospective physical challenge ahead.

“Look up what the trip requires,” says Kathleen Trotter, a personal trainer, Pilates specialist, fitness Globe and Mail columnist and author of Finding Your Fit. “Will you be cycling for three hours a day? Are the hikes moderate or intense? Then, note what you have been doing over the last six months. Compare your level of activity to what the trip demands. The greater the discrepancy between the vacation demands and your current fitness capacity, the more preparation is needed.”

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According to Trotter, a typical training plan is two or three times per week for eight to 12 weeks. “However, the less active someone has been for the past six months, the more time they should dedicate to training. If someone already works out five times per week, they will probably simply have to tweak their current program or re-purpose their training time to appropriate activities.”

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If it’s a guided trip, ask the operator about the trip’s intensity and let them know about your fitness level. If you’re embarking on an independent active adventure, get the 411 from the local tourism board.

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Get in touch with a CAA Travel Consultant who can recommend destinations, travel companies and specific packages. Call 1-800-992-8143 or visit a CAA Store near you.

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Train For: A Multi-Day Biking Trip (Think the Waterfront Trail in Ontario)

The best thing to do is to go out and ride your bike, says Arien Coppock, a former professional cyclist turned guide for DuVine Cycling & Adventure Co. “A lot of our clients are physically fit, but rarely cycle. To ensure comfort throughout the week, it helps to get used to sitting on a bike saddle.”

“Shoot for riding five days a week, but take at least one day off for your body to recover,” says Jamie Logie, a certified personal trainer, nutritionist and health coach from London, Ont. “Start out at a comfortable pace of eight to 30 kilometres each session. Slowly increase your distance each week, but ideally not more than 10 per cent each week.”

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“Cyclists usually prepare for an event with a three-month training block,” says Coppock. “I would recommend the same if going beyond your current fitness level.”

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Take a spin class, bike local trails or use the exercise bike at home—anything to vary your routine and get accustomed to saddle sitting.

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For training, Trotter suggests incorporating
posture exercises with a foam roller to counteract sitting bent over on the bike. Lie on a foam roller placed lengthwise along your spine, arms by your side. Alternate bringing one arm up behind your head toward the floor behind you. Keep the arm straight. As your right arm goes back, turn your head to the left. Then switch sides.

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Train For: A Hiking Trip (Think Haleakalā National Park’s Summit Area in Maui)

Logie says to practise 15- to 20-minute hiking intervals, adding extra steps each time to build endurance.

He also suggests getting on a stair climber. “This type of training mimics the exertion spent hiking compared to walking on a constant flat surface. Incorporate some strength training—such as squats and lunges—and core training with planks, leg lifts and exercise ball crunches.

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“Twelve weeks is always a good minimum to really build up and improve your fitness,” says Logie. “But serious climbs could take six months to a year.”

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To get a feel for the real deal, traverse diverse terrains, from paved paths to rugged tracks, and strap on a heavy backpack during the journey. “Five extra pounds may not sound like a lot, but when you’re tired, it can feel like carrying a car,” says Logie.

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 Improve your balance, recommends Trotter, using a Bosu ball to do
step-ups, sideways step-ups or body-weight squats and lunges; or doing push-ups by grasping the sides of a Bosu with the flat side up.

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Train For: A Marathon (Think the Great Wall Marathon in China)

Preparing for marathons means “getting strong all over,” says Trotter. “Running is hard on the body. I always tell my clients, ‘Get in shape to run, don’t run to get into shape.’” She recommends lifting weights about two to three times per week to help strengthen your lower body and core, and practising exercises to pump up your running muscles.

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 “Do exercises on one leg—consider standing in the middle of a Bosu and trying to balance,” says Trotter. “Strengthen your glutes with bridges, squats and lunges as well as your core with planks, side planks and v-sits.”

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Trotter suggests investing in compression socks if getting to the race requires a long flight, and to get up and stretch regularly. She also recommends packing a travel roller to roll out your calves when you arrive.

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Give yourself ample time to prepare, training three to five times a week for at least two or three months. “Progress slowly! A good rule for beginners is to increase your long run by about 10 per cent per week,” Trotter says.


Illustration credit: Breanna Rawn