Sunday, February 22, 2015

Workout vacation in Cuba

A week ago, I was sitting back enjoying the warmth of Cuba. Well, not quite, a week ago I was finishing a 10K run along the roads near the resort.

It's been pointed out by more then a few people that running may be one of the only sports you can take with you on vacation, after all, a pair of shorts, tee, socks and running shoes do not take up a lot of space in either the suitcase or carry on. In fact the weight differential is almost none existent.

So with my ipod touch loaded up with exercises on the Skimble Workout app, I was prepared and ready to enjoy not only a relaxing vacation, but one that would be enhanced by my workout programs.

This is not going to be a blog of profound thoughts and lessons, just recapping what I did and the ease in which it happened.

I should point out that whenever you have a balcony looking over palm trees and flowering plants, you have a good space for exercise and that is what cane with the room. The setting was a western facing balcony, so each morning I was able to enjoy the cool weather in the shade. Which was a nice refreshing way to start a morning before breakfast. With the Skimble workout, I was able to keep things going, be it the pushups, planks or ab work, none of this stopped. I know I've already written a great deal about Skimble, and so I'll leave it up to the reader to find out more information. What I can say, it was good to not have to stop. It is easy to think we don't have time for working out on vacation, or it should be something we set aside because it's not part of the 'leisure lifestyle'. However, when you think about it, taking a few minutes each day to exercise can be an enhancement to the vacation. One of the joys of staying at an all-inclusive resort is the food and drink that's available. The food is usually 'all you can eat', and the choices are such that you don't want to leave any of it out. Plus the virgin Pina Coladas are so good. Also there's the cappuccino. I don't care what anybody says, Cuban coffee is wonderful and always a joy to have. While I did spend a good time in the Ocean and pools, most of the energy is spent in lounge chairs reading, relaxing and enjoying the aforementioned virgin Pina Coladas. I don't drink alcohol, and they do make great non-alcohol drinks.

So the challenge is to stay active and workout. Plus if working out is part of the lifestyle, then it's part of the lifestyle and why shouldn't it keep going.

That was one aspect, the other was running. I wanted to do some running in Cuba. Now some may wonder the wisdom of running in another country, especially one that may be considered third-world. Let me tell you, I felt safe. I didn't take any chances, I stayed on the main roads, which is always good advice no matter where you are and stayed on the sidewalks. This was a new addition to the area, as the government is encouraging tourism, they are doing some infrastructure development. New roads and sidewalks, which aids their own people as well. The resort was on the major road, so there was no chance of getting lost. Plus the road went through an Ecological Reserve, which would have been nice to run through, but it was closed. Next time I'm in Varadero, I will start earlier and bring a few pesos to get in and try out the trails.

After the winter we've had and are having, it was such a treat to simply put on a pair of shorts,a tee, some socks, shoes and head out the door. It was liberating. What was taking me at least 10-15 minutes to prepare, took mere moments. It was then out the door and to start running. I should also say i wasn't the only one, there were a fair number of runners, I saw them in the morning while working out and when I would head out for a run. It's great to see the running community doesn't stop. It was also the feeling of a warm sun and warm weather that was also a big treat. Just to feel the warmth again, was amazing.

During my stay, I did get three runs in, the first was just in the resort, which turned out to be quite a good size, the second and third ones went outside and along the main road. I could have taken a few side roads to see more of the country, but the thought was, why risk it? Besides who's to say what will get a person in trouble. I'm not carrying any identification so better not mess with the local law enforcement people. Again I never felt afraid or worried but I also didn't want to do anything stupid.

My last run was going to be about an 8K to end my time, but it was so nice, I ended up doing 10K, which is the other nice thing about running, you can have your plans and you can always change them mid-travel. So I went down a road to another park which featured huge cacti, again, it was too late. So next time, earlier and bring a few pesos along.

The other nice factor was after the run, I was able to walk over to the beach and cool off by walking along the shore to enjoy the surf. That felt real nice on the tired feet. Then it was a matter of sitting back and enjoying the local soda:

I look back and am amazed at what a week and a few thousand kilometers will do for a person. On the day I type this, I finally got out for a run with the local conditions, no running until today, sadly I'm not risking running when the windchill is below -20C. I didn't quite have a nice balcony and a cold one in hand. This is how I looked:

All in all, I felt good running, my times for 10K were sub 60 minutes and that does feel very nice. My one run back, I was lucky I was under 7:00 minutes/kilometer. Yeah it was that bad. Still as they say, don't expect to set an PR's when you running in the winter. No kidding.

If there is any encouragement I can give, is don't stop your workout programs when you're on holiday. You can fit them in, and you will feel so much better for making the efforts. If you're going to a warm locale, then get outside and workout, if you're like me, you're probably in your basement, or by the television, stuck indoors. It feels so much better to be in the fresh air and smell the warmth. If you run, simply practice the same awareness running you always do, remind yourself you are in a foreign country and stay on the main roads. I would also say, don't wear the electronics when running, you will need your ears open. Always look for signs that will lead you some place interesting, because you don't know how your run may change, and remember where you are staying. Again, stay safe and enjoy. The good news is, there are other people running and exercising and enjoying their vacation, just like you are.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Run Like a Girl - Super Bowl XLIX

This is quite a profound message, and as a runner I can talk about what it means to run like a girl.  Or should I say, what I've observed about 'running like a girl'. To run like a girl, or a woman means you are one mean runner.  You're someone nobody  messes with, and if you want to run like a girl, you had better bring your best, otherwise you will look very stupid. Perhaps a better phrase would be to "run with a girl", or "try to keep up with a running girl".

Let me tell you an experience I had; I was doing the Re-Fridgee-Eighter which is sponsored by Waterloo Run.  One of the big news about it was the presence of Krista DuChene.  The news release of the event mentioned some of her experience and events.  She set the record for the second fastest marathon time for any woman.  She was doing the run to speak to us about the Kenyan Kids Foundation.

She ran the 8 miles, I did the 8 km.  It was a great morning for a run, nice and sunny and for that winter, not such a bad temperature.  As I was in the last couple of kilometers of the run, I saw Krista run past.  Her pace was amazing and one person who was running turned to me and said 'that's not even fair'.  She came in first overall in the run with a time of 44:57, which is a pace of 3:30/km. I felt good coming in under 48' and a 6:00 min/km pace.  She simply blew everyone out of the water.

I've been in enough races to know that women runners are good runners.

So this is what I think of when I hear the phrase "Run Like a Girl".