fitness · traveling

Fitness Tourism Keeps It Fresh

I’ve got some travel lined up over the summer, starting with just over a week in and around Zurich, Switzerland. I confess that I had some concerns going into this because I’m in a great routine with my workouts at the moment. Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program is working for me.

But I don’t want to slide into old obsessions, where vacations–which I am very fortunate to have–become scary and dreaded because of the impact they might have on my routine. That’s both ungrateful and harmful (the way any obsession that interferes with the capacity to enjoy other good things in life is harmful).

So rather than give into that, I’ve taken a different approach. My vacation strategy this time is to explore fitness options that aren’t available to me at home. That could be something as simple as a new running route (for example, running in Zurich is not available to me at home) or as novel as checking out the fitness park (called the “vitaparcours“) down the road from my aunt’s house.

My aunt lives in Jona, a charming area near Rapperswil on the shores of Lake Zurich. Her street is up on hill with a gorgeous view of the lake. The walking and running opportunities around here are outstanding, especially if you want to do some hill training.

Yesterday, she told me about this Vitaparcours. I’d just arrived earlier and wasn’t up to a full-on workout, but we ventured out in the rain so she could show me where to go. The route to the fitness park takes a country lane along a ridge overlooking town and the lake, sloping down on the other side to farmland where a few sheep graze in a lush green pasture. We passed by some stylish houses in both contemporary and traditional designs, a restaurant with outdoor seating that looks out over the lake with the Alps in the distance, and then down a steep slope to the road.

The entrance to the fitness park is about 2 kilometres from the house, at the edge of the woods. There are fifteen stations, clearly marked and numbered, each with some equipment and a sign (in German) explaining what to do. Like this:

There’s also what they call a “Finnish trail,” which is basically a soft bark trail through the woods. We strolled along that for a bit too, and my aunt translated the instructions for a fitness test that you could do there if you wanted to.

All of this got me excited to give this park a try as soon as I could (though not yesterday because not only was I exhausted, but also it poured rain throughout the day and evening, with only very short breaks of clear weather).

This morning my aunt’s partner dropped me off at the Vitaparcours on his way to the grocery store. It was perfect weather for a run through the forest.

I had my Garmin to tell me distance and time, just so I knew how long I’d been gone, not because I actually cared about time today. I’ve been reading Summit Seeker by ultra-runner Vanessa Runs, and she makes trail running sound so fabulous and captivating. I adopted her suggestion of having a willingness to stop and take in the surroundings. What a good decision because the setting is idyllic. You run mostly in the woods, across a bridge over a river, uphill at the beginning, then downhill after that.

It’s a relatively short loop (2.9K) with a station every 150 metres or so. They have pull up bars, rings, stumps for doing step ups, beams to test your balance on, and lots of other activities. I was more interested in running and stopping to take photos than in doing any of the activities, though I did all of the stretching and made a heartfelt but failed attempt to do an unassisted pull-up.

I encountered very few people — a woman who was pole-walking, a couple of teenaged girls out for a run, and towards the end of my time in the woods, some school kids who looked like they were doing some sort of nature exercise or orientation assignment.

When I got to the end of the trail, I kept going, back out to the road and up the long climb to the residential enclave my aunt lives in. I ran past the restaurant and the grazing sheep, along the ridge and through the narrow lane, back past the exquisite rock gardens with lush greenery abloom with spring flowers, to the house.

In all, I covered less than 5K, but somehow being in a new setting with novel surroundings made it the most memorable less-than-5K I’ve ever run.


On tomorrow’s fitness tourism agenda: Alpa Mare.