Keeping Fit While Traveling in The UK and Ireland

gym

Updated 13/3/17

In the UK you will hear the terms, “She’s Fit, He’s really Fit”. Yes, the pick up crowd at bars are really into guzzling the alcohol and watching for the really sexy, hip, fit crowd to come tumbling in. Not applicable to you? Well, really let’s think about this. Being healthy is a good thing, and well if you are spending weeks traveling, you should be fit. Why? You need to make it through the whole experience and traveling is a workout.

To get ready for this years travel, I spent 9 months at a gym getting ready for my trip, that and I had joined My Peak Challenge 2016 last year to support Bloodwise UK, actor Sam Heughan’s charity. I figured I would challenge myself to get ready to travel and spend 10 hours a day going non stop exploring every part of the communities and sites I was seeing. I started going to the gym 4 to 5 times a week, started to add My Peak Challenge to the routine again (on second year). Then I met with my first personal trainer, Tommy, who doesn’t yell by the way, and told him my goal. I wanted to be able to walk 10 to 18 miles in a day, climb castle ruins, see all I can to enjoy another country. He said, “let’s go”. Some months after that November day, I was more fit than I had been in about 20 years, yup back to university days weight and size. However, I still had not done enough. Last year I encountered a great may cobblestone streets, and paid the price.  If you live on the west coast or mid US, you don’t know cobble stones and wynds. When at the gym, train your feet and ankles, and get really good walking or hiking shoes. 

Let’s look at the reality of travel. It’s a workout. From lugging cases around that can be 50 pounds in weight, to hiking, biking, climbing over ruins, and walking beaches and strands. You want to survive it and not end up getting medical help on your vacation. Start getting ready now. And of course if you plan on doing hiking, biking, Monro climbing (a mountain that is over 3000 feet high) and just plain hitting the streets, you are a travel warrior. Train in advance.

Start Walking

If you live in a city, or have a fairly large one nearby, spend a few hours just walking as if you were the tourist. We have mostly cement in the US and yeah, this will hurt your knees and back. Get good shoes and find a store that will work with you on your stride and fit. Get a pair of good walking shoes and arch support. Pack a backpack with some items and explore for a few hours and do this a few times a month, then weekly.

Hike

Walking all over town can be a hike, depending on the pace you take. But when you travel to great countries with mountains and hills like Scotland and Ireland, finding a hiking tour or group shouldn’t be too hard. Tour groups can be costly, but you also get locals who know the terrain. If you are a student, check with local universities and colleges to see if there is a hiking club that  wouldn’t mind if you joined them. Many universities have summer programs with this kind of activity. There is also Meet Up app, where you can find groups that do day walks. If you are traveling alone, as I often do, don’t go on a long hike without mates. It can be dangerous especially if you don’t know the area and terrain. Besides, it’s more fun in a group.

Walking Highlands is a directory of tours and trails. Check their site out.

Irish Trails is a directory of trails in Ireland. If you find a trail to your liking, search for groups that hike it.

Walking Clubs N. Ireland is a site with groups mapped out so you can see who is hiking in an area you have interest in and contact them.

Bike

All over the world, people are riding bikes again. Some countries never stopped. Cities have bike rentals now and you can even take biking tours of many major cities.

Public Bike Share v. Private Rentals

You have seen them probably in your city, those brightly colored bikes and racks at the city center encouraging you to ride the town by public bike. In America, like here in PDX, these are often sponsored by private companies as an advertising campaign. The idea is great, but if you walk by the multitude of racks in the city, half the tires are flat or semi-flat and while a great idea, maintenance sometimes just isn’t happening. But other cities have embraced this and actually run the public bike schemes. They are bright, visible, and you can park them at another rack, go about your touring pleasure, pick up another bike later if you desire. This is a great way to get around and you usually pay as you go, or can get a day pass via credit card.

Private bike rentals and tours may be a good route if you are not too keen on single gear bikes, want a bike similar to the one you have back home, participate in a tour, or support local small businesses. Remember, community is world wide and small families can depend on the income, so if you want to be supportive, this is a good way to go. They people at the bike shop can also be informative on best routes that may suit your style of biking. Don’t forget to get the app.

Next Bike – Biking in Some UK Cities Belfast, Stirling, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Coventry, Bath, Exeter

Bike and Go £3.80 per day – Is hooked up with rail stations across the UK. Check their site out.

Dublin Bikes €5.00 3-day ticket- Stations all over Dublin

Bike Share Ireland €3.00 3-day ticket Galway Corporate sponsor Coca-Cola

Gym and Cross-Train

There are gyms all over the world. True, you are on vacation so why hit the trudge mill? If you are constantly walking and doing no other form of activity, you are over taxing your muscles and not training or stretching out the ones you have. Take it from me, I thought I was cross-training well  on my last adventure. I came back with tendonitis. So, giving yourself time at the gym a few days a week while on vacation helps you stay healthy and hopefully have the stamina to go the whole day and night.

When  I was in Scotland, I found a gym that was reasonably priced and straight forward. If you like the fight type gyms and attend one at home, research online based on this type of gym and contact them in advance to see if they do day passes. For a straight up get in and get done situation, Pure Gym has facilities in many countries. It’s a pay as you go situation, you can create an account at a kiosk on site and use a code to enter. Some are open 24 hour and great if you are still adjusting after jet lag when you are wide awake and everyone else is asleep. Many hotels and boutique hotels have fitness areas that are fairly limited and help in a pinch. If you like the serious fight/garage type gyms and are a member, talk to management to see if that gym is affiliated or a member with other gyms in the world and has reciprocating rules. Some of these gyms are very members only and don’t do day passes.

When working with trainer, talk about luggage. You need to be able to lift that 50 pounds. Train for that. Why? You don’t want to throw your back out.

Some Clubs With Day Use Policies

Pure Gym ££ has facilities in UK – Britain, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, no contract pay as you go, you can get a week pass.

NUI Kingfisher € Galway Ireland €8 per day but limited hours 7-9am, 2-4pm and 8:30pm-9:30pm.

Glasgow Club Pay as you go, many locations

Bring an Exercise Band

They weigh next to nothing and fold up well. This handy toning tool is flexible and easy to use while traveling. You will be doing a lot of cardio walking, but should check with your trainer and set up a travel routine with things at hand, including the water bottles that come in the room. Not sure how to use a band, plenty of demos online at YouTube or meet with a trainer. Best place to attach in the room is a door handle.

Links to Articles

Cheap Gyms UK

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