This photograph shows me emptying gravel from my homemade ‘dumbbell’ after completing a final bootcamp in Cortona’s public park on May 29. Inventiveness and dedication are often necessary in order to pursue fitness while traveling, especially during extended periods away from home, far from a proper gym. I was recently in this situation for 52 days, teaching and doing research in Cortona, Florence, Siena, Rome, Arezzo, and Paris, but still managed to work out over 45 times. I post here a few pictures of my training during this period, sending a special thanks to the students in my ‘Bodies, Sex, and Death in Early Modern Italy,’ course who gleefully participated in morning bootcamps, letting me boss them about in the park before I bossed them about in class. [Aside: I actually get paid for this shit!].
While we were finishing one session with some side planks, a parks recreation truck pulled up beside us. The two men inside looked aghast, making hideous facial expressions while raising their hands in a questioning manner. We eventually understood the silent message: ‘get the fuck off the grass you crazy American dumb asses.’ So we got the fuck off the grass.
I regularly boiled up fresh eggs and handed them out to subsequently exhausted students as they boarded the train for one of our field trips. Don’t get the wrong idea. I am not usually this nice to students, but it is hard to remain an angry honey badger while eating eggs purchased from an adorable old lady who sits in the piazza selling them from a metal bucket.
One morning we did a partner workout, featuring squats, resisted skipping (both shown above), ox pulls, and some ab work. On other days we did giant sets for legs, with bench jumps, sprint drills, burpees, squat jumps, and lunges. We alternated upper body sets with jogging, and did a variety of circuits. I especially enjoyed 100 pushup day, and I am pretty sure that the students did too, despite being too shy to say so. Although I had brought with me from Canada an inflatable ball and some exercise bands, it was difficult to work our backs fully, since we could not find a proper place to perform chin ups. Italian playground equipment is made of thick square wooden beams that are too large for lady hands to grasp. Plus my continual scanning of jungle gyms put me on the official Italian ‘pervo watch’ list, and I had to admit defeat, allowing my lats to wither. [Aside: I am hitting those lazy bitches hard now, having done over 60 chin ups since my return home].
Glute training is unavoidable in the hilltop town of Cortona.
After wrapping up my course in Italy, I headed to Paris, jogging in my neighbourhood until the arrival of the fabulous PDDs, shown above. We ran the 1,000 stairs to the second level of the Eiffel Tower, a heartrate raising feat which costs only 3 Euro and bypasses the long lineups for the elevators.
The stairs are conveniently numbered.
What are some of the benefits of this healthy lifestyle? Gorgeous views from the Eiffel Tower and the ability to sprint by huffing, sweaty Germans while shouting ‘fitness pays off!’ [Aside: Honey badger returned with a vengeance in France!].
I often jogged from my apartment to the Place de la Bastille and back. Running through the streets of Paris requires both dexterity and the ability to enjoy alternating smells: pee, freshly baked baguette, diesel fuel, pee. I think you get the picture.
One day PDDs and I ran stairs and jogged in the Tuileries, the gardens beside the Louvre Museum. It was freakin’ great.
We ate lots of protein pancakes, but the training and 6-8 hours of daily walking allowed a few indulgences, such as soft, sweet medjool dates purchased from our favourite shop on the faubourg Saint-Antoine.
One jog led us to the Thursday market on the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, where we met this entertaining character, aka Georges the salt man. And if you think that I am wearing the same workout clothes in every photo, you are correct. Underpacking can sometimes be a mistake.
During my last full day in Paris, I splurged on a pass to the Club Med gym, training chest to failure in 5 x 5 sets that left me feeling exhilarated, remembering why I love weight lifting. This session also calmed me down and made me less snippy, much to the relief of my lovely house guests.
As far as I can tell, the French work only their asses and their abs.
So it is possible to have a fantastic European jaunt without becoming out of shape or gaining a lot of weight. I am now happy to be home in the fresh, cigarette-smoke free air of Edmonton, hitting the gym with my girls.
Awesome! I couldn’t think of a better workout than running the Eiffel Tower stairs. I went to Paris for three weeks and didn’t do a single workout. I did walk for, on average, eight hours per day so it all evened out.
Great post. Living in Austria this past year meant a significant increase in walking for me. I understand what you mean about a few additional indulgences. On trips longer than a week (to places where gyms are nowhere to be found) I will use my duffle bag suitcase as a dumbbell. P.S. Your course sounds excellent!!
Thanks and good luck with your workouts.