Friday, 22 April 2016

Running - the best way to fight jet lag

Once upon a time, decades ago when the word jogging hadn't been invented, it was faintly embarrassing to be seen running in the street. "You're a bit late for the Olympics mate", people would yell at you from passing cars weeks after the closing ceremony, or "Come on Brendan Foster". To avoid looking too conspicuous I would run in corduroy trousers and - until my first knee injury sent e shopping for some purpose designed footwear - a pair of Hush Puppies. But, as a frequent long haul traveller, I quickly twigged that a bit of vigorous exercise was the best way to combat jet lag. No sooner had I checked into a hotel in Los Angeles following an afternoon arrival, say, than I would pull on the gear and hit the pavements for a half hour or so. The worst thing about jet leg is not feeling like dinner when, wherever you are, it's dinner time. Exercise is a short, sharp, corrective shock to the body clock. And even if it's a short haul trip, running blows away the cobwebs and loosens muscles atrophied by confinement in a cramped aircraft seat. Modern running shoes weigh only a few ounces. OK - I know far more hotels now have fitness rooms than when I started - and swimming is an alternative - but running on a treadmill is boring and getting out in the streets can represent a quick and efficient introduction to a destination. This has been recognised in many cities by small tourism operators who have launched organised jogging tours taking the local sights. There's a long list at gorunningtours.com but in case your destination isn't covered just Google running tours in whichever city you're planning to visit. I've run in well over 300 places around the world. From Hawaii to Delhi I have braved the embarrassment of crossing posh hotel lobbies in shorts and a T-shirt and sharing lifts later, lathered in sweat, with guests who wished they could put clothes pegs on their noses. I have been tracked by a dingo in the outback of Australia's Northern Territory, laboured through yielding white sand around Bird Island in the Seychelles, encountered a poisonous snake in Tasmania and what I took to be a bear (admittedly at fairly safe distance) in Ontario. After astonishing the locals in sub zero temperatures during a visit to Beijing in 1980, not long after China opened its doors to foreign tourists, I discovered to my dismay that the water was off in my hotel. There was nothing for it but to wash with the water left in a flask for tea making. While on the subject of water I've learned, the hard way, the importance of hydration. On a fearsomely hot and humid summer day Tennessee, I was forced to drag my feet slowly for at least two miles back to my hotel (where else but a train carriage at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel?) after a sudden, dramatic draining of energy. I've also learned, after feeling my heart rate zoom in the US Rocky Mountains, that even if you're conditioned to ski at altitude, you might find running a bridge too far. Occasionally as in Petra, Jordan, dogs have driven me off the streets or potholed, uneven pavements - as in Sofia and Puebla, Mexico - have forced me on to hotel treadmills. But I've run some lovely routes, which I plan to describe in a later article.

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