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Training for Active Travel with Kids


Lagoa do Fogo, most brilliant in the sun, but lovely in the fog

After being inactive for a long Winter and, if I’m being honest, most of the Spring, I began exercising again.

Today, I completed Day 7 of an hour-a-day fitness training streak. It's a streak that I plan to maintain until our trip in 37 days. Not that I'm counting down.

I like exercise. I love competing with a team or getting out in nature. But I don't care much for running or going to the gym. I admire those friends who go to Orange Theory or maintain a Peloton routine. And my husband who runs ultra-marathons.

A mile hike down to Lagoa do Fogo

For me, my fitness level depends on something else.

I exercise for travel.

Like training for a marathon (or even a 5K), I consider baseline fitness key before a big trip.

Here is why:

  • We’ll be on our feet all day. I don’t want to go from couch to long international flight to feet. We won’t make it more than a day. ...Even with a pool or sauna at the end of the day.

  • It opens up the possibilities. When we see a volcano, we can hike it. If we want to try surfing, it’s not our quads holding us back, it’s our fear of sharks.

  • When I'm fit, I feel better and can more easily adjust to the jet lag.

  • Did I mention photos?

So what does this mean specifically?

Before our trip to the Azores, I learned the importance of training for travel. If you've never heard of the Azores, you're not alone. Part of Portugal, the Azores are an archipelago (meaning, volcano-formed) in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I discovered them through a TravelZoo weekly deal email. Passports and Pacifiers describes the mountains as, "a brilliant green, and the sea beyond is a dark blue. It's like a 120-box of Crayola crayons, composed entirely of differing shades of blue and green." There's only one problem. Volcanic landscape means hiking.

Mountains of hiking.

Short hike at the bubbling pools of Furnas de Enxofre, Terceira

In order to truly experience the wondrous Azores, we needed some base fitness.

All of us.

Athletes know this, but what does that look like with small kids, specifically three of them, four and under?

We hiked. A lot.

During the week, we walked to distant playgrounds. For two months, we did a long hike every weekend. AJ and I found a four-mile hike around a nearby lake. I wore our nearly one-year-old, my husband encouraged the three-and-a-half-year-old (while carrying an Ergo for when she got tired), and we prodded our five-year-old with fruit snacks and granola bars.

The training contained something for everyone—winding trails through the woods, an immense eagle's nest, a paved path, an open meadow, water views, and river crossings.

At the top of Monte Brasil, overlooking Angra do Heroismo

By the time we got to the Azores, our five-year-old became an expert hiker. (Kind of.) Our three-year-old dramatically improved. AJ and I strengthened muscles in our legs and shoulders to help us easily carry a kid. We hiked around Cabeco Gordo Volcano, a mile-and-a-half around a caldeira, we descended to Fogos Lake in the clouds (and back up with weights on our backs). We didn't just see the island, we experienced it.

For our Out West trip this summer, we're planning to walk around Yellowstone and hoping to do some good hikes in Yosemite. I want to climb mountains and see bubbling pools and grizzlies (okay, the last from a distance and preferably from a car). I also want to minimize complaining. (I'm talking to you, Baby Boy.)

That's why I have started walking or running for an hour every day, in addition to my daily push ups and squats. The kids walk to and from school (carrying an overstuffed backpack that will make our travel backpacks feel like cotton candy), and take long daily bike rides. I'm hiking four miles once a week with the kids. AJ is doing his usual hundred miles of running. (I'm kidding of course, kind of.)

So here's my challenge. Get moving. Make it purposeful and make it manageable. Set a reminder. Preferably, do it outside and with your kids.

When you reach your summer destination and you want to rent bikes, go canoeing, or embark on a hike, you'll feel comfortable. You'll see a great view.

And maybe, you'll even feel great.

Sete Cidades, the Island of the Seven Tribes

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