Now that I’m back at sea and Running on Water regularly, I thought I’d drop some science on y’all. When people learn that I train for half marathons while I’m at sea, their brain usually melts a little bit.
“How? How can you train for a half marathon on a cruise ship?”
Then their brain melts a little bit more.
When you spend the better part of your year at sea, concurrently training for a distance race, you’re bound to learn some dos and don’ts when it comes to working out on the High Seas.
Here, then, are my top 5 tips for running when you’re on a cruise.
1. Skip the First Day
We call Day One of the cruise, “The Day of Good Intentions”. You’ll never see the gym busier than you do on that first morning. Trust me, it tapers off as the week goes on. By skipping The Day of Good Intentions, you have the added bonus of avoiding most of the lookie-loos coming in with an ice cream cone in one hand and hopping on the elliptical in their Crocs for a tight 5. If you can’t face skipping a day, go in the late afternoon as close to dinner as you can squeeze it.
Bonus points for running at 6.0 on the treadmill with an ice cream cone, in Crocs.
2. Run at Odd Hours
Speaking of running close to dinner, the gym is almost literally empty during the evening. If you’re not going to be heartbroken by missing a 70’s themed musical revue, or a late-night comedy game show, then try fitting your run in at 9 or 10 PM. Frequently gyms close at 11PM, so you can get a quick workout in before they shut’er down. Plus, then you’ve really earned those extra Pina Coladas.
Bonus points if you can get yourself to the gym at 6:00AM. You’re a better human than I.
3. Run on Deck
Most ships have a running track. Give it a try. Be ready to holler “Coming Through!” if it’s a nice day and people mistake that track for a nice place to stroll, or to gnaw on some spare-ribs they brought up from the buffet.
Bonus points for exaggerated coughing as you pass smokers who also like to loiter on the track.
Not all treadmills are likely to have TVs. And when they do, there’s no promise that they’ll work. And when they do, there’s no promise that there’s anything more interesting on than the “Front of the Ship” bow-cam channel (No spoilers, I’m TiVo-ing it). Do yourself a favour. Bring your music player of choice (if it’s a Zune, I won’t judge) or a tablet device (if you’ve got a Surface, I will judge) and keep your mind distracted as the belt of the treadmill rotates you towards fitness. You’ll also see a lot of people using their tablets, iphones or computers to follow a fitness program like P90X or Insanity. Those are probably crew members.
Bonus points if you freak them out by joining in…
5. Run on Land
Some of my favourite memories in Bermuda were of my long runs training for the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon. We found some beautiful side roads, and adorable little parts of the island I’d never have known existed if I’d stuck with the bus and ferry system to get around. Same with Alaska. Less so for Miami, but I have a grudge against that place. You might even save some bucks on Shore Excursions if you tour ports of call by running. Saying this, I feel I must also mention: NEVER run alone in an unknown port and be VERY mindful of traffic. In Bermuda, much of our running path did not involve sidewalks, we were literally running on the (tiny) road where the traffic went opposite of what we were used to (British v. North America). We wore bright colours and waved our arms out when we were coming around blind corners.
Bonus Points for being safe.
Here’s an extra tip while we’re on the topic of being safe – if you can’t walk in a straight line because of the movement of the ship (or maybe you’re drunk), do yourself a favour. Take the day. The movement of the ship can be very unpredictable, and the last thing you want to do is take a wrong step because the ground is in a different place than where you left it.
Enjoy your cruise, and enjoy being the person people look at and say “What’s wrong with that nut, don’t they know they’re on vacation?”. (Don’t worry. They’re just jealous. Bonus points for being awesome.)
Do you work out when you’re on vacation, or do you just chill out?
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I am an actor/writer/director based in Chicago, IL.