April 18, 2015
I was busy during this vacation, visiting many ports. But sea days between the ports were genuine vacation. I could have just baked in the sun like most of the passengers. But, I had a moment of clarity during the first sea day: On vacation, I want to be exercising and improving myself. After all, I had a marathon coming up! And I ate a lot of really good food, so burning calories was pretty important.
The Celebrity Century had about 1800 passengers but most were much older than me. Very few used the small gym. In fact, I regularly saw more crew than passengers. And some of the performers and officers were pretty easy on the eyes.
The gym became like a second home to me. And it was conveniently only 3 floors above my stateroom. It was really convenient to finish a workout, stumble down 3 flights of stairs and then have a shower. Sometimes I would exercise 3 times a day, with a convenient, private shower after each.
Running on a Cruise Ship
My primary sport is running, but it proved to rather challenging to maintain during the cruise. The gym had about a dozen treadmills and they were never fully occupied. But the ship would shake and list a bit which made me feel unsteady. Also, the gym got REALLY warm. The gym faced the bow and the sun would beam through the glass windows. Apparently the reflective coating was not working and thus the gym felt like a 33ºC greenhouse most of the time.
So, that left me with the alternative of running on the deck on the “jogging track”
There is a pleasant breeze, especially since the ship was moving at about 20 knots! But the track was really short and required lots of turns. A 6k run required about 60 laps! That drove me a little bonkers.
Also, running laps on a moving ship creates some unusual data:
Well, going around the deck on a ship moving at 22 knots looks a lot like a straight line. A straight line where though? Let’s zoom out a little…
More accurately called the “Fitness Centre”, the gym was my home away from home aboard the cruise ship. I did visit the jogging track occasionally, but I took the opportunity to frequent the gym.
The gym was fairly well equipped, but I learned to make full use of what it had. In addition to the dozen treadmills, it had a few stationary bikes, elliptical, and a variety of weight machines. The machines were pretty lousy and needed some maintenance. There wasn’t a weight bar for squats or bench press, but I improvised using free weights and one of the two benches.
To be honest, it seemed like most people in the gym used the cardio machines. Few people ever used the free weights or benches.
On the first day of the cruise, I signed up for a package that gave me unlimited access to the fitness classes. There were classes almost each hour of the day. I soon noticed that most of the classes were actually free, but I made it a point to attend as many of the “additional fee” classes as possible to make the most of my “investment.”
There were lots of classes: Yoga, stretching, abs blast, pilates, combat cardio, spin bikes, zumba and totally tubing. I quite liked the variety and learned a lot of new exercises you can do with limited equipment. I particularly liked the “totally tubing” classes. It was an aerobics/strength training class that used resistance bands in many creative ways.
I attended so many classes that I got my money’s worth from the “unlimited fitness classes” pass and then some!
Because I wasn’t able to run much, and because I wanted to make the most of my “unlimited fitness class” pass, so taking spin classes seemed like a good start. I’ve never taken a spin biking class in my life, so this was definitely a new experience.
I didn’t appreciate how sweaty I would get in each class! I was absolutely soaked at the end of each class. I also learned that you can use the bike for lots of different exercises. For example, if you increase the resistance a lot stand on the bike as if you’re going uphill, it’s almost like stairclimbing. In one class, the instructor removed our seats so we HAD to stand for the rest of the class.
There were only 3 regulars that attended almost every class: Sue from Perth, Jane from Seattle, and myself. The instructors switched between Carlo and Maisa. Jane was intense though. She bought proper spin shoes with the clip-things from America with her for these classes!
Stand Up Paddle boarding
In terms of staying fit, there were also lots of other things to do outside of the gym. In each port we did A LOT of walking. My aunt has one of those fitbit trackers and she said we easily walked more than 10,000 steps each day, sometimes as much as 20,000. We also walked around the ship a lot; there are no cars or trains to take you from one end of the ship to the other. But there was a special activity I did in Boracay, Philippines I wanted to highlight: Stand Up Paddle Boarding.
Stand up paddle boarding seems to be the “in” thing these days. I see people doing it on Lake Ontario and other lakes nearby, but I also see it in commercials for Caribbean and other tropical getaways. So, while in Boracay, I saw someone renting them out by the hour and rented one for $500 Philippine Pesos (about $13 Canadian). Let me tell you, it’s much harder than it looks (that’s what she said :p ).
I started on my knees and had great difficulty rising to my feet. It’s really hard to balance. I was constantly engaging my legs to remain balanced.
When I see people paddle boarding, they take very weak strokes with their paddles. Now I know why: Paddling throws off the balance, A LOT! So I was only able to paddle very lightly and move rather slowly while fighting my balance to stay standing.
One saving grace is that I’m fairly experience paddling canoes and kayaks, so I was able to use a little “J-stroke” to keep going straight.
I did fall once, which I suppose happens to everybody at some point.
Shao Lin Monks teach Qi Gong
As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m learning Tai Chi. Before I learned Tai Chi I learned a series of Qi Gong exercises to introduce fundamentals of balance, posture and movement. I still do some Qi Gong exercises before my Tai Chi practice as warm up.
Tai Chi is a derivative (of a derivative of) ancient Chinese Martial Arts. During the cruise we were fortunate enough to be taught a Qi Gong class by actual Shao Lin Monks from China. They led us in several exercises that seemed familiar. They didn’t speak english, but they were still able to lead the small group of passengers that came for the exercises.
Later in the cruise they did a martial arts demonstration which was pretty epic.
Tai Chi “Class”
While away on vacation, I knew I’d be missing quite a few Tai Chi classes. I wanted to continue my practice. At this point I was finishing learning the Yang Tai Chi form. Many of the closing moves were very new to me and hard to remember. Fortunately I bought some reference material with me to remind myself of the last few moves.
It was actually really good for me to have to practice alone for a while. In class I follow the instructor. Practicing the whole form alone forced me to recall all of the moves and the transitions between them.
I would practice on the deck of the ship on sea days before breakfast. It was actually kinda tricky sometimes because of the wind and movement of the ship, but I suppose that’s just an extra challenge to help maintain my balance.
In the early morning, there are lots of people walking around the deck for exercise. After a day or two, some people noticed me doing Tai Chi and wanted to join me! I’m certainly not qualified as a teacher, but I did wind up leading an unofficial class each sea day.
Sweat at Sea
I read somewhere that salt water cures all things: Either sweat, tears, and/or the sea. I’m glad I was able to workout quite a bit on vacation and didn’t gain a bunch of weight.
I’m looking forward to another set of gym adventures on my next cruise in the fall to Panama.