Summer Lovin’

In even the best of conditions, staying healthy can be a challenge. Literally all the stars in the world could align — you’re in your own kitchen, your shelves are stocked with nutritious offerings, the weather is perfect for a run and your schedule is blissfully free — and you still somehow end up prone on the couch ordering pad thai.

If staying healthy is tough when you’re in complete control of your surroundings, it’s doubly hard when you’re not. Whether it’s because you’re sleeping in an airport or traversing Siberia on a train, chances are you’ll find yourself this travel season in a situation where adhering to your normal routine is downright impossible.

When that undoubtedly happens, the question is: what do you do about it? Throw caution to the wind and engage in a few days of consequences-be-damned eating and sedentariness? Or try to maintain some semblance of order in a situation where healthy choices are very much an uphill battle?

I’ve been known to do both, and read my lips: there’s nothing wrong with occasionally saying yes to all the local culinary options in order to experience your vacation to the fullest. (If you spend a week in Italy and don’t partake in the local wine and pasta on account of a rigid diet, you’re dead to me.) But on other trips, there may be some easy ways to keep your lifestyle in check and return home without a couple extra pounds of baggage. Here are a few ideas from me, gleaned from my time last week aboard my father’s boat.

Travel Tip 1: If possible, keep up your normal fitness routine. Sure, it’s tempting to sleep in when in vacation mode, but there’s often no reason you can’t pack your running shoes and log a few miles from the lake house (whatup Keanu?) or the beach. In fact, the roads and trails around most bodies of water are delightfully flat, making a vacation jog all the more pleasant. For me, my four-mile morning run from Liberty Landing Marina took me by the financial district, Ellis Island and Lady Liberty herself. Not a bad view for an easy weekday workout, plus getting it out of the way before breakfast allowed me to enjoy my on-board wine more that night knowing I’d earned it.

Travel Tip 2: If you can’t do your normal workout routine, get creative. Is there a pool you can swim laps in at your vacation destination? Is there a trail you can hike? How about a stand-up paddle board? More and more travelers are finding ways to stay active on their vacations, and if you can manage to work up a sweat every day in some way, you’ll thank yourself when you go to buckle the seatbelt on the flight home without an extender belt. When in doubt, you can always do squats and pushups in a hotel room, but engaging in some kind of location-specific activity is so much more fun. Just ask Ben.

Travel Tip 3: When it comes to food on vacations, I try to follow my Christmas-party rules. What do I mean by that? Allow yourself to enjoy the treats that are only available because it’s Christmas (pecan pie, roast beef, etc.) and avoid the junky items that are available any day of the year (Lays potato chips, peanut butter cups, etc.) The same general concept can keep your eating in (relative) check on vacation: say yes to the lobster rolls in Maine and the paella in Spain, but say no to the candy bars and pretzels you could have any old day. It’s not foolproof, and you may still end up with a belly ache if you eat in the quantities I do, but it will help you from bursting.

Travel Trip 4: Even if there’s no way to eat well or exercise on your vacation, you can still exit the trip healthier than you went in. Instead of working on your diet or muscle mass, prioritize something else important, like your water intake or your sleep. Bank enough hours under a cabana and you’ll return to your normal life refreshed enough to throw yourself into your workouts again. My mom and I can verify this claim.

How do you keep yourself in check while enjoying a vacation?


Anne Vs The Machine

If you’d been attacked by a lion in second grade and broken your leg and your parents thought you were faking it and made you walk to and from school on your lion-mauled limb for 3 days before finally taking you to the doctor and learning you’d fractured it, it’s conceivable you wouldn’t go out and buy yourself a new pet lion for many, many years. 

Substitute lion for bicycle, and you understand my plight.

I grew up in a bike-friendly Baltimore suburb, where I was a modestly confident cyclist after many afternoons looping the high-school track, exploring the neighborhood and cruising the Gunpowder trails with my Girl Scout Troop (whatup 1106!) But then my 8-year-old self took a turn too sharply in the playground parking lot and broke her left leg, and my confidence on a two-wheeled death machine has never quite recovered.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been atop a bicycle more than a few times since that early 90s downfall, from joining a casual college triathlon to taking the occasional beach-bike cruise — but I’ve never been enthused enough to go out and buy myself a new bike with the express purpose of, you know, using it.

And I DEFINITELY wasn’t about to get one and ride it in Manhattan, essentially one giant mini-golf-windmill constantly trying to knock cyclists off their saddles with opening car doors, turning motorists and potholes the size of De Blasio’s head. No thank you, Lance Armstrong. (Is he still a prominent cyclist? No? Whoops.)

But then I moved out of Manhattan, and suddenly the idea of cycling around the neighborhood wasn’t so terrifying. In Long Island City, the traffic is thinner, the roads have more bike lanes and — most importantly — my building offers indoor bike parking for just $10 a month. Above all, I’m trying to be more active in everyday life (running 4 miles in the morning and the sitting still rest of the day isn’t exactly balance), and I figured having a bike to my name might be just the trick to get me out the door.

So after several failed attempts to purchase a used bike off Craiglist, my fiancĂ© and I went bike shopping last weekend, and I purchased a brand new blue Felt hybrid and all the token accessories. (I’m tentatively naming him Bagic Bike in honor of my favorite Steven Soderbergh film, but it’s a working title.) The bike salesman told me I didn’t need a “ladies bike” because that’s a myth we need a different frame, but my non-flexible leg could barely get over the high bar of the others I tried, so this was the baby for me.

My first day of bike ownership, Ben and I rode to Roosevelt Island and explored the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, a memorial I’d probably never have visited if the bike hadn’t made it so easy to get there. Then last night, I faced my biggest fear: biking over the 59th St. bridge and into Manhattan. Despite my worries my untrained legs would fail to get me over the incline, I made it over and back in one piece and not in tears, like I’d been expecting.

I’m not a strong cyclist yet, but I’ll get there with practice. And while I’d been nervous I wouldn’t remember how to ride after so many years off the saddle, I can assure you: it’s just like riding a bike.

Do you bike in the city? Any tips for a novice hoping to live through at least November?


Summer of Sloth

If the year 2011 feels a long time ago to you, it was. That’s the year Will and Kate got married, the year Amy Winehouse sang her last note and the year the world got its eighth and final installment of the Harry Potter film franchise. (Why, yes, I do measure the years in British pop culture. Don’t judge.)

For me, personally, 2011 was also memorable for another reason, though I didn’t yet know it at the time: It was the last summer before I started doing annual marathons. I spent that summer footloose and fancy-free — staying out late, saying yes to every happy hour, choosing vacation destinations without wondering whether I’d be able to find 16-miles of passable terrain for a Saturday morning long run, literally dancing to Kenny Loggins’ Footloose. It was my final summer of absolute freedom. (Well, as absolutely free as a mid-level employee working 45 hours a week with a NYC rent to pay can feel. But I digress.)

Then summer 2012 arrived and I caught the marathoning bug. I was suddenly arranging summer social activities around my speed work and rest days, sounding a collective chorus of “who IS this girl?” from friends and coworkers alike. Summers 2013, 2014 and 2015 looked eerily similar — early to bed, early to rise — and I’d all but forgotten there was any other way to pass the months between July and October except laced into trainers.

So imagine my confusion when this summer hit and I found myself without a race to train for for the first time since the 2011 English riots. I’ll be perfectly honest, folks: I have no idea what to do with myself.

Case in point: last Friday night, I stayed in, made a healthy dinner, hydrated well and went to bed early — for absolutely no reason except that it felt normal heading into a summer weekend when I’d normally be up with the sun on Saturday to run. To be fair, my fiancĂ© and I DID have to leave early the next morning for a visit upstate, but still, old habits die hard.

Now don’t get me wrong: I am finding some pleasure in all this newfound free time I’ve discovered. I’ve been taking some weekend fitness classes. I’ve been getting out of the city. I’ve been swimming laps in my new building’s pool, despite it being the length of a glorified bathtub.

But at the same time, I can’t help but feel I’m wasting all of these extended hours of sunshine. Sure, training for marathons can be a terrible life-suck, but it can also be a great motivator to get you outside and active on days when it’s tempting to stay inside in sweat pants and crank the AC. I mean, did I really need to rewatch Good Will Hunting on Netflix on July 4? Anne of past summers would have been cruising along the East River, rather than watching Morgan sing for his double burger. Who have I become? 

Now don’t worry: I’ve already sworn to everyone I know that I won’t be doing another 26.2-mile race this year — I figure wedding planning is pretty much its own marathon — but it feels too strange to spend the whole season not working toward at least some kind of goal. So I’ve taken a page from the compromise handbook and signed up for something a little more reasonable — a 10-miler — that I can work toward this summer. I’ve never done the Bronx 10-miler before, but if training for it means I’ll force myself out the door a few extra days this summer, then I think that’s a summertime goal worth sweating for.

Still, training doesn’t start for two more weeks, so I get to enjoy a few more weekends of lethargy before getting back into the swing of things. If you need me between now and then, I’ll be at the pool.

How are you staying fit this summer?