Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Traveling Healthy Strategy 2: Running to sightsee and maximizing hotel gyms

My name is Raymond Tsai, and I'm a foodie. I love trying new foods and will go out of my way to find delicious food. Though I can do it in moderation during my normal routine, there's just too much amazing food here in Taiwan. I do make efforts to eat as healthy as possible, which I'll go over in a future post, but my main strategy right now is trying to exercise regularly. My original goal was 3-4 times a week, but I'm working out even more since I found a way to use it to enhance my sightseeing. I have three main strategies to keep up my exercise regimen while on holiday: 1) Jogging to sightsee; 2) Making the most of hotel gyms, and; 3) Incorporating exercise in everyday activities.

Vacation Exercise Log

Day Type Activities and Time Notes
Day 1 Rest Arrived into Taipei at 5am, slept at 8pm
Day 2 Run Ran 6.18 miles in 59m 16s To Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Day 3 Run Ran 3.18 miles in 32m 45s To Taipei 101, then got tired and took metro back
Day 4 Hotel Gym Elliptical 15m, free weights chestx3 sets of 10 and biceps x3 sets of 10 with 15 burpees between sets
Day 5 Run 4.75 miles in 51m 5s With brother-in-law who doesn't run much so wanted to support his fitness efforts and walked a mile with him in the middle
Day 6 Hotel Gym Elliptical for 20m, burpees x60, situps x20, back hyperextensions x20 and lat pulldown bar x4 sets of 10
Day 7 Run turned hike 4.63miles in 1h 23m 35s Got lost, then distracted by the sights

Running through Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
At first, I was just planning on running regularly to train for the 200 mile, 12 person relay I'm doing in May. So the first day, I got on my running gear and took off in a random direction, and while on my run I passed by the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and a light went off in my head... wait a sec... what if I ran around to see the sights of Taipei, then I could hit two birds with one stone. It seemed brilliant at the time... until I tried to do it again the next day and ran to Taipei 101. I was running slower and overall felt pretty tired, so instead of doing my planned 6 miles, after 3 miles when I reached Taipei 101, I turned myself into a mall walker (i.e. shopping quickly with gym clothes on, which if it were an olympic
Ran unintentionally to Wen Wu temple, at the end of the trail mentioned at the right picture caption, you can go up the 5 flights of stairs to find the temple and take a break before going back. Do not pass the stairs, it dead ends.
Shueishi Trail is a great running trail along Sun Moon Lake's NW side (Googlemap of road along trail, the trail isn't mapped out yet, just find stairs (there are multiple) going down off the road to lakeside to find the trail), around 3.5 miles roundtrip, and well paved
event, I think I'd do quite well... I'm a fast shopper. In Taiwan, the store clerks say, "歡迎光臨", pronounced "huan ying guang lin", as you enter and again when you leave the store. It essentially strings together "welcome" and "thank you" efficiently. I make it even more efficient because I peruse the store as they get out the first 歡迎光臨, and usually am already on my way out so they'd just repeat it again immediately after. If you're in the mall with me, you'd just hear a repeating echo of 歡迎光臨 as I run in and out of stores one after another... I think Taiwanese store clerks hate me). There was clearly a kink in my plan because I was burnt out running two days in a row already, but I do like the strategy of using running as a means to sightsee, because you get to learn the landscape in a way you can't appreciate if traveling only on public transportation. Be prepared though, that sometimes you'll get sidetracked from running. For instance, this morning I was running by Sun Moon Lake, and was thwarted by getting lost, finding a big temple I decided to walk in, enjoying the views, and seeing a pretty snail on the ground... it really was quite pretty and worth stopping to watch it travel across the trail. And these stops turned my normally 10 minute mile into a 19 minute mile, but that's ok, I still got out, saw sights, and ran for a lot of it.

Enjoying Taiwanese wildlife during my run: Snail with a pretty shell (I'm easily amused)
Tiny hotel gym with lake view at Fleur de Chine
Since I can't run all the time to sightsee because my legs get burnt out, I decided to add hotel gyms to my regimen. Unfortunately, hotel gyms aren't the most equipped because I don't think there is a big gym culture here in Taiwan. For instance, take a look at this gym with a wonderful lake view at Sun Moon Lake's Fleur de Chine Hotel, a 5-star luxury resort that was otherwise impeccable, but the gym had 2 treadmills, 1 eliptical, 2 bicycle machines, and a lat pulldown machine. That's it. Oh and a cushioned bench. So I turned into a gym MacGuyver and just started adapting things to my own use. I used the elliptical machine to warm up for 20 minutes, and then did 2 rounds of 15 burpees on the tiny floor space, 10 lat pull downs, and 10 knees to chest sit ups by pulling out a nice cushioned bench they had against the wall, putting its pillows on the floor, and laying a towel over it to turn into a flat bench. I then did another 2 rounds of 15 burpees, 10 bicep lat pull downs, and then laid stomach down on the lat pull down seat, hooked my legs into the machine away from the weights, and did 10 back hyperextensions. All in an hour. The hotel staff looked at my like I was insane as they were bringing me a towel and water and I was sprawled out on their floor doing burpees and their gym furniture was rearranged. Lesson learned: Every gym has a floor, burpees can be done anywhere, and then you can just mix in whatever else the gym happens to have.

Choice of a squatting or sitting bathroom stall in Taiwan
Finally, my third and final strategy for increasing physical activity while traveling is taking every opportunity to exercise, even in mundane everyday activities. For instance, I found a restroom in Taiwan, and was given the choice of stall to either squat or use a toilet seat, so I always choose to squat in order to maximize time for working out. Ok... that last one is a joke, that might be a bit overboard, but the previous two strategies of running to sightsee alternating with maximizing hotel gyms still stand.

I'm exercising so much because I really am eating so much amazing (and often unhealthy) food here in Taiwan that I feel like I need to offset it by something. Plus, as mentioned, running to sightsee is actually quite rewarding and fun. However, in homage to the food of Taiwan, my next post will be a foodie post about greats finds that are definitely worth putting aside any diet, and I'll follow that up with how I make food selections to be as healthy as possible.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Traveling Healthy Strategy 1: My dirty little secret to portion control

In order to eat as healthy as possible while still indulging in the culinary delights of Taiwan, I have a really bad habit for which I'm not particularly proud. I'm ashamed. My name is Raymond, and I will waste food to be healthy.

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts about me trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling in Taiwan. One thing that I hear quite commonly is how hard it is to be healthy when away from home, so here begins a documentation of my own attempt to do so, and I have no idea how successful I'll be.

Example 1: Leaving behind the men in ramen to be healthy
Example 2: Leaving behind the rice at dinner
Strategy 1: Don't eat anything you don't want to. One of the great pleasures of traveling is eating out and trying different foods. However, the food I order often comes with stuff that I don't want, or I just want a taste without making a meal out of it. The solution? I just don't eat what I don't want to eat. It is my way to portion control when I'm not cooking and serving myself. Ideally, I would customize the order, but that's not always an option. For instance, yesterday, I had a hankering for ramen noodles, so I got some, and ate my favorite parts: the broth, the meat, the veggies, and tried the noodles. For the most part, however, I left the noodles and accompanying bowl of rice untouched. Similarly, for dinner tonight, I just didn't eat the rice that came with the meal.
Chen Ji Noodle House has arguably better Oyster Vermicelli than Ay-Chung

Though when all is said and done, I am on vacation, so sometimes it is worth it to indulge. I just always ask myself, is the pleasure I will get from eating something worth the break from my healthy eating? The answer should usually be yes to try a bit of something and enjoy life, but no to go overboard and eat the entire thing. Sometimes, however, the answer to eat the whole thing can be yes because you know you will enjoy yourself

What's worth breaking a diet for: oyster vermicelli noodles.

 What type of things warrant a yes for me? How about oyster vermicelli noodles? Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodles are arguably the most famous in Taipei (No. 8之1號, Éméi St, or if you get off the Xi Men MRT stop, cross Zhong Hua Street and the alley should be on the left). However, today, my friend diverted the scooter to a place he likes better, because he claims Ay-Chung is too sweet. We went to the Long Shan Temple Station's Chen Ji Noodle House (No. 166 Heping West Rd, Sec 3) instead, and I agree. I think it is better. The flavor is great, but the oysters are bigger as well.

Arm westling at the arcade by Ximen
There you have it, one of my traveling strategies, as well as a suggestion for going off the beaten path for one of my favorite Taiwanese foods. Stay tuned to the next post where I'll go over exercise while traveling, which involves more than just arm wrestling at the arcade, though that's fun too.