The Wild Pair

Get Fit For Your Trip: 5 Expert Tips To Get Your Body Adventure-Ready

In Adventure Travel on March 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm

We don’t know about you, but we seem to possess the adventurous logic-be-dammed attitude of  25-year-olds, the curiosity of a 6-year-old and here’s the rub, the bodies of  midlife computer geeks. It’s one hellofva wild combo.

Enter Marcus Shapiro, adventure traveler, fitness specialist and founder of the new website Shapiro and his team spent five years researching and producing adventure-specific workouts to prepare travelers for anything from rafting the rapids of the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River to summiting Kilimanjaro.

The Wild Pair recently spoke with Marcus about ways any traveler can get physically primed for their next adventure. Whether you’re a beginner preparing for a hiking vacation in the Canadian Rockies, a long distance runner booked to cycle the coast of Sicily or an elite mountaineer headed off for a multi-day kayaking vacation in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, here are five expert tips to help you get fit for your trip.

1) Change from a general fitness program to a trip specific workout

Within 8 to 15 weeks of your departure date, replace your general fitness program with a trip-specific program.  A general fitness plan is the perfect strategy for everyday fitness, but a trip specific program prepares you for the movements and stresses you will encounter on your trip.  It will also help you avoid the most common injuries associated with the activities in your itinerary.  For instance, if you are attempting to summit mountains, you will be trekking on steep grades, which really beats up your Achilles tendon and calf muscle complex.  A masochistic workout on the stepper (i.e. StairMasterÒ) will strengthen your thighs and gluteal muscles, but it will not sufficiently strengthen and lengthen the muscles in your lower leg.  Walking on an inclined treadmill, or better yet, hiking steep grades will decrease your chances of straining your lower leg on the trail.  Also, add some pack weight to your treadmill workout. This, and other trip specific exercises, will prepare you for long days of trekking.

2) Train for movement not muscle mass

Sticking with the mountain climbing example, you will need to train the muscles, nerves, and ligaments in your legs to work together synergistically to successfully hike the steep grade. Reverse lunges, for example, force you to use your quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, gluteal muscles, and core muscles simultaneously.   If you are preparing for alpine scrambling, performing a machine chest fly, a tricep pushdown and a side shoulder raise will strengthen the necessary muscles, but push-ups will do better. The various parts of your body are learning to work together to accomplish the specific task you are setting out to do.

3) Train in phases – increase the intensity and complexity of your workout as your trip approaches

To prepare for a trip, you want to systematically change the exercises, level of intensity, repetitions and other elements of training over a period of 8 to 15+ weeks to ensure gradual improvements in your level of fitness leading to a peak level of optimal physical performance at the exact time you depart for your adventure vacation. Split your training into three phases – each phase made up of four-week blocks – adding intensity and complexity over time.  In the first phase, establish a base level of fitness working mostly on strength: perform basic squats, deadlifts and lunges.  In the second, add a little more complexity that involves the core muscles and balance: eliminate the two leg exercises (i.e. squat, deadlift) and include single leg squats and single leg step-ups to a high bench.  In the third phase combine strength, balance and add power and agility: perform single leg jumps, walking lunges with a powerful skip, single leg step-ups onto a bench jumping as high as you can.

4) Taper your workout the week before you leave for your trip

Tapering means a reduction in workload and intensity at the end of a training regimen.  If you’re an athlete, you probably already taper your workouts prior to a major competition. Tapering properly the week prior to your departure will allow your body to completely recover and heal from the demands you have placed on it over the course of your training program.  This does not mean stopping completely, but a reduction in volume, intensity and duration.  Your goal is to maintain mobility and joint movements but let your neuromuscular system fully recuperate.  A safe way to accomplish this is to return to basic exercises and reduce your resistance training workouts to one set per exercise, around a 12-15 repetition range where you feel no “burn” at all.  Additionally, reduce your endurance training to half the duration and 2/3 the intensity. It’s a good sign if you want more and it feels like you are not accomplishing much in your work out.  Just remember, it is better to under train the last week than overstrain.

5) Modify your diet slightly while you train for your trip

Your goal is to reduce body fat while not losing muscle so that it’s easier to paddle, trek, climb or cycle your way from point A to B.  One’s diet is personal and each body operates at its prime on a unique set of dietary choices, but generally the best way to reduce body fat without losing muscle is to replace some of your carbohydrate calories with additional proteins.  The most important thing to do before your trip is to feed your body the nutrition it needs.

Photo Credits:  flickr by Xevi V ;by Kathy Dragon of


5 Tips for Traveling Sisters

In Travel Tips & Advice on December 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Is traveling with your sister on vacation a recipe for disaster? It doesn’t have to be as long as you lay down some ground rules first. Here are a few travel-tested truths for keeping peace in the sister hood.

1. Leave the baggage at home. Traveling with sisters should be easy. You carry the same DNA. You’re alike. Right? Wrong. Sibling relationships can be fraught with the peril of childhood roles, divergent interests and unspoken resentments. So, no matter if you’re the big sis used to being in charge or the baby accustomed to being indulged, leave the birth-order baggage at home. Commit to appreciating each other as you are NOW and let the magic begin. The bonds born out of the shared experience of upbringing is like nothing you can ever have with a friend, partner or coworker. Let it blossom.

2. Privatize: Allow for private time in your itinerary. Even if you and your sister(s) are BFF, heading off on separate adventures gives you something to chat about when you regroup. Compare wish lists and decide which activities are best suited to individual exploration. If you love tromping through museums and castles and she thinks the perfect vacation is watching life from the seat of a café table, then one of you is going to be disappointed or resentful. Make time to break away and do your own thing. It will enhance your experience and the quality of time spent together.

3. Get thee to chocolate. Not much sweetens a disagreement or hurt feelings better than chocolate. If you start to get snarky, or she does, take two chocolates and another in the morning. If symptoms escalate, wine is also recommended.

4. Play well with others. Remember those grade school report cards with a check box for plays-well-with-others? Well the rules haven’t changed much. Return home from your vacation with top marks. Say please and thank you a lot. Show respect, admit your mistakes and never be a tattletale. What happens in Nevis, stays in Nevis.

5. Money, money, money. Communication is important when it comes to money, especially if one of you has to watch your pennies more than another. Sharing the expenses can be a big motivator for traveling together. But, don’t insist on eating at the most expensive restaurant in Paris and expect your unemployed sister to split the bill. Or, book $150 Cirque du Soleil tickets on a whim and then ask to be compensated after the fact. Be sure to discuss in advance your expectations for sharing costs, the level of accommodation or how paying for meals is to be handled.

Hat tip for some great suggestions from our virtual Twitter sisters: @swellwomen; @pen4hire; @ableimes. If you’re not following them, you should be!

Sister Getaways

It’s a big world out there. For those ready to hit the streets, or trails, here are five sister-friendly faves to get you started. Bon Voyage!

1. Soul surfing. Right around February when you’re shivering on your living room couch somewhere frozen and landlocked, a Swell Women Surf Retreat in Maui is gonna sound just about right. Warm and tropical, you bet your lily-white legs. Better yet, how hard will it be to convince that penny-pinching sister of yours to agree to delicious meals, surf lessons, massage and daily yoga? Sign me up!; 1.800.388.MAUI.

2. Must love food. Does the new film “Julie & Julia” have you craving a gourmet getaway to Paris but you don’t know foie gras from faux pas? No worries. Add Paris’ top culinary travel specialist, Wendy Lyn, to your Rolodex and launch your own behind-the-scenes food-focused vacation armed with a customized food and wine itinerary of insider favorites.; 1.850.303.0697 (US); (Paris)

3. Back to school. The towering rock walls and vivid colors of Abiquiu, New Mexico, are so unlike the cinder-block-cells you may associate with learning, you’ll actually WANT to return to school. Pack your creativity and learn to paint the landscape where Georgia O’Keefe painted for fifty years enrolled in a Ghost Ranch ‘plein air’ workshop. If your sister won’t, we will!; 1.800.821.5145

4. New you. Jumpstart a new, healthier version of you at southern Utah’s Red Mountain Spa. The resort’s Girlfriends Spa Road Trip Package includes all the necessary components: welcome gift & spa treatment; stylish villa suite; healthy gourmet meals; complimentary bike; guided hikes; unlimited fitness classes; cooking demonstrations and nutrition classes; healthy living lectures; and full use of resort facilities.; 1.877.246.HIKE

5. Road trippin. If you’re looking to connect and spend some quality time together, there’s nothing like a road trip for chatting, reading, solving the world’s problems or, god forbid, your own. A Wild Pair fave? Coastal California, Route 1 from L.A. to San Fran, top down, iPod pumping, no-holds-barred, baby. Tack on a few days touring the wine country and it’s the perfect chick trip. Enjoy!; 916.444.4429

BON VOYAGE from the Wild Pair!

ABOUT THE WILD PAIR: Ellen Barone and Judith Fein,

They’re smart, sassy, savvy, award-winning travel journalists and photographers and now they’ve joined forces to become THE WILD PAIR, bringing you cutting-edge information and tips on how to turn your next vacation into a life-enhancing experience.

© Ellen Barone and Judith Fein. All Rights Reserved.

What To Do When The Hardest Part Is Going Home

In Travel Tips & Advice on November 2, 2009 at 3:55 pm

The worst part of travel isn’t the security checkpoints with prison-issue wands, puffs of air blowing in your face or gloved agents pawing through your belongings. It’s not the airline seats with their lumbar supports that spear your spine or the $2.25 you pay for a small bottle of filtered tap water at airport restaurants.  It’s not the jetlag—which can be so brutal that your left foot doesn’t know where your right foot is walking—or the suitcase that vanished with the travel clothes, gadgets and gear you have spent half a decade assembling.

The worst part of travel is actually coming home. One day you are in Peru, gaping at Machu Picchu or in Quebec City, learning about why the English and the French both coveted the area. Maybe you’ve been cycling in Italy, trekking in Nepal, cruising down the Nile in Egypt, or sauna hopping in Finland. The next day, you open the door to your digs and…chaos.

The answering machine is blinking, there are hundreds or thousands of emails, the snail mail spills over the edge of a huge tub and stares at you from the floor.  There are bills to be paid, deadlines to be met, appointments to be kept. Your hair needs new highlights, your car is due for servicing, there’s a leak in your office, you forgot to send your sister-in-law a birthday gift. The exotic fades as you slip into the quotidian and start trouble-shooting, catching up, returning calls, and squirming in the dentist’s chair.  Hooray! You are home.

I have not yet figured out how to make homecoming a celebration.  But I have a few tips if you are as overwhelmed as I am when you step over your own welcome mat.

1) Even if you are committed to NOT being wired when you travel, try to check your email at least once before the big return.

You will have a good idea of what awaits you and can perhaps forestall a crisis or two.

2) Set the vacation response on your computer before you leave on a trip. It can say something like, “Hi, there. Sorry I will be a continent away from my computer from (fill in the date) to (fill in the end date). I will respond to you upon my return.” This lets folks know that you weren’t ignoring them, and they learn when you will be back so they can re-contact you then.

3) When you set the vacation response, allow yourself a day or two to land. Pick a return date that is day or two after your actual homecoming.

4) Don’t schedule too many things for the first week of your return. Allow yourself to re-acclimate slowly.

5) Do something pleasurable for yourself. A bath in Dead Sea salts. Print out your favorite photos from the trip. Go for a wrap and massage. Go to bed early. The emails will not evaporate if you don’t answer them right away.

6) Tell selected friends and family a few trip highlights, so the memories stay vivid and fresh in your mind.

7) Contact a new friend from the trip and moan a little about how overwhelming it is to come home and how you wish you were back on the trip again.

Bon voyage and bon retour. If you have any other tips for landing softly, by all means let us know. If you get an automated vacation response, you will know that the homecoming was too much, and we’re on the road again.