Norwegian FjordsFor serious die-hard endurance athletes (and me!), the idea of going on a cruise may be anathema; let’s face it, a cruise kind of conjures up images of folks loading up piling plates of food at the 24 hour buffet before collapsing onto a deck chair by the pool to top up that tan. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, if that’s the type of holiday you enjoy- but if you are reading this blog this probably isn’t your idea of an ideal trip. However sometimes circumstances are such that a cruise is a necessity- family plans, bribe to a spouse so you can enter an ultra etc- but if you are serious about exercising and maintaining your fitness levels then you may feel that a cruising holiday could derail all those plans…

… or will they? I recently went on a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords for my Mum’s 70th birthday; I decided to try to fit in as much exercise as possible whilst still enjoying plenty of relaxation and exploring everything the buffet had to offer!

So if you have signed up for a cruise, how can you still maintain your fitness (or at least go for damage limitation!)?

Stavanger

Stavanger

The most obvious option is to use the on-board gym. These usually have pretty good facilities and generally open early enough for you to fit in a pre-breakfast run. I also managed a couple of sessions on sea days- I thought the gym would get too crowded with over 3,000 passengers on board, but it wasn’t (which was lucky but also rather sad!) Of course, if you are there with someone else then you may need to negotiate some gym time.

Approaching Olden

Approaching Olden

Utilise the swimming pools fully. Yes some pools will be crowded with kids, but if you hunt around you should be able to find a quieter or adults only pool- I managed to swim lengths for an hour twice during a week long cruise.

Plenty of room in the pool!

Plenty of room in the pool!

Take the stairs. Most people will crowd the escalators for even just one floor, but every time I was on my own, I resolutely marched up and down the stairs instead. This involved climbing from Deck 5 to Deck 16 (although there is no Deck 13 in cruise ships) every time I embarked the ship after visiting a port. A great workout for the legs!

Each cruise ships will have one deck with a walking/ jogging track on it. There were always plenty of people resolutely marching around this and you have the added advantage of great sea views.

Approaching Andalsnes

Approaching Andalsnes

Instead of taking one of the organised trips in port, try exploring on foot. Pick up a map from the Tourist Information Office- there may be a local walk to a viewpoint or place of interest. Again this will depend on who you are with and whether they are willing to join you or give you some free time, but my most enjoyable exercise were the walks I took on my own; I knew from research that there was a hike to a viewpoint on Mount Huaren in Olden, so once the others returned to the ship for lunch I set off along the easy, gently ascending gravel track towards it. At one point a mink ran across my path, and when I reached the large, flat rock that formed the viewpoint I had it all to myself; I sat there for a while, just drinking in the view, and thought how lucky I am that there are such lovely places in the world to explore and enjoy.

Viewpoint on Mount Huaren

Viewpoint on Mount Huaren

My second walk took me to another viewpoint on Rampestreken, high above the village of Andalsnes. This started off easy enough, ascending on metal ramps, but the path soon started to climb steeply over exposed tree roots- it was hard work and I was  pretty tired; stone steps had been added in places, with chains drilled into the rocks for support. Mindful of the time, I reached a certain point and made the decision to stop there, as I was unsure how long it would take me to descend. I was just preparing to go back down when a couple passed me and told me the viewpoint was only 15 minutes further on. Realising that I had to at least try to make it, I marched ever upwards, puffing and sweating; the path soon became steeply exposed as it wound around the mountainside, stone steps providing access to the viewpoint.

Rampestreken viewpoint

Rampestreken viewpoint

And what a viewpoint… I was not quite expecting it to be a long, thin metal platform jutting steeply away from the rock face, right over a sheer drop straight to the valley floor far below. It took a fair amount of girding of the loins to walk along it right to the end, stepping over the mesh metal floor and peering over the railings at the amazing view. What an experience! It’s one that will stay with me for a long while.

The view from Rampestreken viewpoint

The view from Rampestreken viewpoint

So if you are going on a cruise but want to keep your fitness levels up/ go for damage limitation, it is possible!

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