Thursday, September 11, 2014

Climbing & Cruising

Vacations really disrupt my workout schedule and eating habits. This year's cruise to St. Martin and St. Thomas was no exception.

Having taken a cruise before, I knew that overeating was going to be my biggest challenge - and it was. There is so much  food available at every hour of the day I couldn't help myself. Sure, I still ate plenty of fruits and vegetables, but I didn't pass up any opportunity for dessert and I tried pretty much everything my taste buds desired. I left the dinning room uncomfortably full after each and every meal. Yes, I felt guilty, but I still will have fond memories of all the fried sweet plantains and slices of English bacon that I consumed.

In order to offset my feelings of guilt about overeating, I vowed to keep up my regular training schedule. To that end, I squeezed in a short workout before I went to the airport at the start of vacation and did on an uphill bike ride & push-up session the evening I returned.

Exercising at home is easy, but while I was away from home I had to be a bit creative. Here are a few of the things I did to keep in shape while traveling.
  • I did a hard stair climbing session (stairwell sprints) in the hotel I stayed at before getting on the cruise ship. The stairwell was very hot & humid (being in Miami) but I took my breaks in the air-conditioned hotel. Table 1 shows a comparison between my practice staircase and the hotel's stairwell. You can see the stairwells are significantly different, and it was fun* to try something new. Here is what I noticed:
    • All the extra turns in a shorter stairwell significantly slowed down my overall speed.
    • Using double rails gives a pretty good upper back workout compared with using only single rails. Although I didn't really notice during the workout, my back muscles were sore the following day.
    • My quads never really gave out during this workout, even though I took relatively shorter breaks. I believe this was a combination of:
      • Slower ascent times (i.e. less power used) because of all the turns.
      • More upper body power utilized because of the double rails.
      • Relatively shorter overall height.
    • My lungs were pretty raw on the last few ascents, so I know I put in a solid effort.
    • Double rails are great for descending. By grabbing both sides of the rail I could easily take two step at a time. This method was pretty fast and didn't tire out the calves (i.e. no DOMS).
*In the case of stair climbing, the term"fun" and "pain" get kind of mixed up.
  • I did another hard stair climbing workout (stair well sprints) the last day of the cruise. Cruise ships are so tall that you can easily get in a good climbing workout climbing up the main staircase. Table 1 shows a comparison between the cruise ship and my practice stairwell. Here are a few things I experienced:
    • Similar to the hotel's stairwell, I noticed all all the extra turns on the cruise ship's stairwell really slowed down my climbing speed.
    • An annoying issue was that there were people loitering on the staircase - no matter what time of day -  which added a few seconds to many of my ascents.
    • The elevator ride down is fast, but often would fill up with people stopping on every floor. I received a few funny stares.
    • My legs never really gave out. I think the extra resting break, slower ascents (because of the extra turns), and taking the elevator down played a role in keeping my quads fresh.
      Table 1
      (items in yellow are estimated)
  • The fitness center on the cruise ship (Norwegian Getaway) was well equipped and it even had a stepper and a rower. It made going to the gym a lot easier, but I still ran into a few challenges:
    • The stepper wasn't the same brand that I typically use so I had to let my breathing rate be my guide when I did my 5x4 minute intervals. I started off a bit too slow, but by the final interval I was really pushing my limit. 
    • The rower was a blessing. Having a "Concept2" rower really made my day since I was able to replicate my standard rowing workout on the cruise ship.
    • Although the ship advertised TRX cables, Unfortunately, they were only available during a few group fitness classes (which cost extra $$$). The fitness staff was always strangely absent so I never even had a chance to borrow a set. Instead I made do with wall sits, lunges, and goblet squats. I'll need to find another good quad exercise or purchase my own set of cables for travel.
    • The hamstring curl machine was a complete dud. It was in good working order, but it wasn't ergonomically sound. I think only a contortionist would have felt comfortable in that contraption (wish I took a photo). I need to broaden my repertoire of hamstring exercises so this sort of thing doesn't happen again.
When I finally returned home from vacation, I dreaded stepping on the scale. The week-and-a-half long non-stop eating binge should have added a few extra pounds to my waistline. I was in for a big surprise when I hopped on the scale and I was still at my pre-vacation weight!

I'm not sure why the scale didn't budge. I've been struggling with weight all summer and it took a few months (and lots of dedication) just to drop a few pounds. I can only guess that my metabolism was able to keep up with the extra calories because I made it a priority to stay active - which correlates well with my last cruising experience. Great lesson learned - but I'm still glad to be back on my regular healthy diet!

1 comment:

  1. Reading about the turns slowing you down makes me feel better. I started training in a 34 floor hotel a couple of months ago for the height(compared to my 10 floor regular training building)The short 8 step flights and awkward high rails SEEMED to significantly slow down my ascent speed. But could it really have THAT much impact? maybe so after seeing your chart. By the way, I'm currently scouting out new potential tall buildings with longer flights and easier turns.