5 Tips to Make Your Next Trip Unforgettable!

I love planning for upcoming trips. The anticipation of the adventure, learning about a new city or country, where cities are located, travel time between them, what to do in each place, funky places to stay...I love it all. I also love seeing some fun and unique things when I travel. I look for active adventures that get me outdoors, enjoying the local city & culture and often into areas and neighbourhoods I would've overlooked.

There is nothing wrong with going to Paris and checking out the Eiffel Tower, but wouldn't you love to know about the Fromagerie that the locals shop at and has cheese so good it will bring a tear to your eye? Or discover the hidden coffee shop in Hanoi that makes a coffee with egg that tastes like creme brulee (seriously, if you are planning to go to Hanoi you MUST try this coffee!).

Not everyone thrives in pre-trip planning, or knows where to look for slightly more unique experiences, so I am sharing 5 of my super easy travel tips to help make your next trip absolutely unforgettable!

1. Google

  • Obviously a go to for everything now, but instead of just googling your destination or 'What to see in Lisbon' or try googling 'Unique things to do in Lisbon' or 'See Lisbon like a local'. Using these searches you might come across tour companies such as this one, which will give you a more unique experience.11

2. Pinterest

  • If you haven't utilzed Pinterest for travel planning you are missing out. This is a fantastic resource, particularly for people who are very visual learners (like myself). Type in the country or city you are traveling to in the search box and scan through the stunning photos until something peaks your interest. Then you can research where it is and see if you can fit it into your itinerary. The same thing goes for Instagram, search a hashtag related to your destination city/country and see what comes up.

3. Ask your guide

  • If you do end up taking a tour ask your guide at the end of the tour for suggestions. They are a wealth of resources and are likely in that job because they love talking to and meeting new people. They might point you in the direction of their favourite watering hole, a cool place they like to go relax at on their day off, the best place to grab lunch for under $5 or the coolest spot to see the sunset. If they are friendly and you seem fun, they might even invite you along with their friends. That's when the best adventures begin!

4. Travel by yourself

  • Sure it can be a bit scary or intimidating if you have never done it, but I promise it will be one of the best things you will have done. Traveling by yourself forces you to step outside of your comfort zone, meet new people & try new experiences. If you are worried you won't meet anyone and will just end up walking around a city by yourself, I can reassure you there are SO MANY solo travelers out there, as long as you are willing to smile and say hi, you will meet lots of new people. If you always travel with a partner or crew you might not have realized how many other people are by themselves. Independent travelers are often happy to grab a bite together, check out a neighbourhood or city or chat with you on the train on the way to your next destination. Not only will you likely meet other solo travelers, but if you go out to eat and grab at seat at the bar and chat with the bartender, guaranteed he will give you some amazing tips on what to see while you are in town.

5. Bring comfortable walking/running shoes

  • Some of my absolutely favourite moments when traveling have been when I was out for a run or on an epically long walk, lost in back alleys and twisting streets. Don't let painful blisters, cramped feet or sore soles take away precious time from your vacation. Pack comfy shoes, hit the streets as much as possible and I guarantee you will have an amazing experience that you would've missed if you had taken transit or a cab.

If you have a tip that you use in your trip planning process share it below in the comments!

Music Moves Me

Two of the biggest barriers to exercise are lack of time and lack of interest. If your schedule is packed and you do find youself with some extra time, are you really going to do something that you don't enjoy?

Well not to worry, my 'Music Moves Me' workouts, might be just the thing! They are short and sweet, you really don't need an hour at the gym to get a good workout in. I did this circuit below and followed it up with some sprints on a treadmill, 25 minutes max and I was dripping sweat -no need to add the sprints afterwards if running isn't your thing, just try the circuit and see how you do.

Music is so magical, it can instantly transport us, help us reminisce, celebrate, help us get energized or wind down. Think about some of your favourite songs and the memories they carry with them. The great thing about music is it distracts our mind and this can be used to your advantage when exercising.

My 'Music Moves Me' (MME) workouts are short (less than 15 minutes max), can be done with little to no equipment and just might help you put a little fun into fitness as you workouts to 2-3 songs. They are also great to do while traveling, when you may still want to do something active, but likely have a busy day planned ahead.

Some of my favourite tunes are from the legendary Michael Jackson, so the first MME workout is the MJ Workout.

First cue up your tunes, I also have them ready to go for you here on Spotify.

  1. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
  2. Don't Stop Til You Get Enough

Circuit

  1. Pushups x 10
  2. Lunge Jumps x 10
  3. Tricep Dips x 10
  4. Squat Jumps with opposite toe touch x 10
  5. Shoulder press x 10

Rest as you need to in between sets, but keep going until the songs are done, see how many sets you can do. I got 5 rounds in, and was plenty sweaty by the end.

Notes

  • You can do pushups with your hands on a bench or table top if you haven't mastered full push ups yet.
  • For the Squat jumps, jump up and extend your arms overhead, when you land touch your right toe with your right hand, jump back up and next time touch your left toe eith your left hand.
  • For the shoulder presses, if you don't have weights use what you have around the house...cans of beans, your child, a tube from tennis balls filled with rocks. Be creative, guarenteed you have something in your home over 5-10lbs.*

Please comment below after you do the workout and let me know how it goes!

5 of the World's Healthiest Cities to Explore

FitCity loves two thing, being active and exploring the world (ok maybe three, because we reallllly love Vancouver too!). 

FitCity believes the best way to see a city is active and outdoors, although we will admit, some cities are easier to explore in this way than others. Below is a list of 5 amazing healthy & active cities to explore. 

 

1. Copenhagan, DenmarkIn Copenhagen, working hours are shorter than in most European countries (which in turn is definitely less than those of us here in North America). Sports activities are paid for by the government, which encourages its citizens to adopt an active lifestyle. It has replaced its driving culture with a cycling and walking culture; commuting by bicycle accounts for 36% of all work trips. As well a new law was recently introduced, requiring all residents to be able to reach a park or beach within 15 minutes of walking, (FYI- Vancouver has a goal of having all residents have access to a park or green space with a 5 min walk!)

photo credit www.healthista.com

photo credit www.healthista.com

2. Sydney, Australia - Tons of parks, year-round good weather and a government focused on building trails and green spaces to encourage the residents to be healthy and active, are some of the factors that contribute to Sydney's constant rankings on the 'Most Liveable Cities' and 'Healthiest Cities' lists. Despite being a developed city, pollution in the city is among the lowest in the world, thanks for their focus on the use of bicycles and constant planting and maintenance of the many trees around the city.

3. Hong Kong, China - This city keeps popping up on 'healthy city' lists, much to my surprise. Although the city itself is incredibly dense with a population of over 7 million people, the island is surrounded by mountains, the ocean and other islands, which make great locations for recreational activities. The proximity to the ocean insure fresh seafood is regularly available. Over 45% of trips are taken on foot and this city has a life expectancy of 82.5%, one of the highest in the world!

4. Washington D.C, USA - Currently the healthiest city in the United States (although lists fluctuate between Washington and Minneapolis), about 96% of the population is within a 10 minute walk to a park (the city spends more per resident to take care of it's parks than any other city - $346), the city has a low smoking rate, low obesity rates (less than 22% are considered obese), and at least 80% of resident exercise regularly.

5. Vancouver, BC, Canada - Of course it had to make my list. Vancouver is one of the world’s healthiest cities and boast clean ocean air,  plenty of lush west-coast forests surrounding it and of course our stunning mountains. In 2011, the city adopted The Greenest City 2020 Action Plan designed to make it the most environment-friendly city in the world. You can learn more about the Greenest City plan on one of our tours ;)

 

Copenhagen & Hong Kong have just jumped up my 'must-see' list! What other healthy, active cities am I missing? Comment below and me know, my travel list always has room for additions.

 

Sources: 

http://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-healthiest-cities-in-the-world/

http://www.philstar.com/health-and-family/2015/06/16/1466223/and-healthiest-cities-world-are-...

See the City, Support the Community

When I was developing my business plan for FitCity Tours & Travel it was very important to me to have an element of my business that gave back, but I wasn't sure exactly how I would do that with an active tour company. 

I went through a branding exercise which was really helpful from Brands for the Heart. Through this I was able to boil down my intention to one basic statement, which defined my mission for FitCity:

This is great I thought, I will have an impact on helping people make active choices. Given that much of my potential customer base will be tourists, I thought that it would be great if there was a way to give back to my local community. At that point I realized that I would use a portion of the funds I made through tours and donate them back to a charity or non-profit organization that encourages physical activity in the local community. Each year FitCity will choose a different organization which will extend our reach in the local Vancouver community. 

When considering who would be the FitCity inaugural non-profit my mind immediately went to the Vancouver Street Soccer League (VSSL), as I had heard about them previously and thought it sounded like a pretty phenomenal organization.

The VSSL is a volunteer run low-barrier recreational league which reaches out to individuals who have been homeless, are currently homeless, or at risk of homelessness, as well as individuals who feel marginalized within their communities, or are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. The VSSL addresses these issues through inclusivity and soccer - believing we can enhance all of our lives through the principles of fair play, community building, supportive partnerships, and health & safety.

The VSSL began in 2008 and since then has sent players to four consecutive Homeless World Cups which were held in Milan, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Mexico City and Poznan (Poland). The League's various teams train throughout the week, and the League also holds regular matches against or alongside teams from the UBC Medical School & Women's Varsity Team, the Vancouver Police Department, and the Vancouver Mayor's Department.

 

I am so excited to have the VSSL as our non-profit for 2016 and I would loooove to give them a hearty cheque at the end of the year. Please help me, help our local community and take a tour or better yet, you can donate to them directly on their website.

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Eats in Vancouver

Vancouver is the land of yoga, organic food, green smoothies, local roasted coffee, urban gardens & kale galore! We like our physical activity outdoors and our food fresh, local and healthy (for the most part). In one of the world’s most active cities it is natural that there are some very good options for healthy meals around the city. Below is a list of some of my favourite.

  • The Dish - This little unassuming place on Davie St is easy to walk past, but it's worth a stop. They have tasty homecooked menu items, my personal favourite is the rice and veggie bowl with chicken, topped with peanut sauce. So simple, healthy and seriously delicious.
  • Heirloom – Delicious vegetarian restaurant at 1509 W 12th Ave (at the corner of Granville). I am not vegetarian, but their menu is so good and filling. I recommend going for brunch.
photo from bcliving.ca

photo from bcliving.ca

  • Nuba Healthy fresh lebanese food at it's best. There are four locations around Vancouver (Gastown, Kits, Mt Pleasant & Yaletown). Their ingredients are organic and local (as much as possible).
  • Tractor Healthy everyday foods such as soups, sandwiches, salads and stews. They go to great lengths to ensure each menu item is delicious while still being nutritious. They strive to use as much local and organic produce as possible. Located at 1903 W 4th Ave and downtown at 335 Burrard St.
  • Field & Social - Carefully crafted salads using fresh local ingredients and seasonal inspiration. They are dedicated to making healthy food choices delicious and easy. Lots of vegan and gluten free options. Located at 415 Dunsmuir Street.
  • Favourite healthy food truck – Culver City Salads. If not the only healthy food truck option out there, it certainly was the first. Delicious salads, comforting soups, amazing cookies and more. The best option here is their daily salad which is usually a mix of greens veggies, beans or legumes, topped with your choice of their homemade to-die-for dressing. All their food is vegan, but don’t let that deter you if you are a meat eater, the salads are amazingly delicious and so filling!
  • Sushi – A staple in Vancouver. Sushi can be a really healthy food choice..depends on what you order. Sashimi and edamame makes for a great lunch, add in rolls and tempura and the calories can skyrocket. I can't possibly list just one sushi place, my favourite place depends on what neighbhoorhood I am in, but here are a few suggestions:
    Samuri Sushi – 1108 Davie St, 5888 Cambie St, 6428 Fraser St.
    Volcano Sushi – 1861 Commercial Drive, 1991 E Hastings St
    Dragon Sushi – 614 W Broadway

What I missed? Comment below and let me know your favourite healthy place to eat in Vancouver.

The dirty little secret nobody tells newbie runners...

I used to hate running. Seriously, running 400m around a track would damn well near kill me. I would be panting, grabbing the cramp on my side and giving an evil stink eye to others who didn't seem to be enduring as much pain as I was in.

Photo by lzf/iStock / Getty Images

I am still somewhat hesitate to call myself a runner as my old 'non-runner' days seem not so distant, but when I stop to think about it, I have been a runner for over 12 years! When I think back, there is a dirty little secret that no one shared with me until years later. Now, I am blowing the top off this secret and sharing it with the world. Yes this means there will likely be an influx of people into the running community, but I say bring it! We want you to join us, hell, we would LOVE for you to join us. The more the merrier! On behalf of my fellow runners, we apologize for keeping this from you.

Before jumping right in, perhaps I can give a bit of context by way of an analogy. Running can easily be compared to driving a stick shift car, it's haaarrrrd to get going. When it's your first couple times getting out, it's so intimidating, you know it's going to be hard, but it's incredibly frustrating because you just want to be good at it right away. Even after you are seasoned, starting can be the hardest part. Once you get going, shifting to the next gear is easier and once you are clipping along, the shift from 4th to 5th is seamless. But how the heck do you get to 5th when starting and releasing the clutch is SO. DAMN. HARD?

I am going to tell you a huge secret that no one tells newbie runners. Hell no one told me for years! It wasn't until I myself was a seasoned runner and dealing with an injury that put me on the sidelines for months that a physiotherapist enlightened me.

Here it is. The first 10-15 min of running suck. Yup, they suck. They always suck. Your body doesn't want to be there, your muscles don't want to move, your lungs could care less about filling up with oxygen and your heart really would prefer to not work so hard. Here's the thing, it doesn't really get better (ok maybe minimally), but generally whether you are out for your first or second attempt at running or you have completed a number of 10km and half marathons (or more!) the first little bit is hard.

Here is some insight from someone who has been there...the run will get better. Seriously, I promise. Do your best to push past the first 15 minutes and you might find out why so many people love running.

Many newbie runners make the mistake of going out for a couple runs, pushing too hard out of the gate (think back to the analogy of driving a standard car - if you floor the gas and aren't strategic with the release of the clutch the car will stall and you won't be going anywhere). Running is much the same. A slow and steady start, giving your body the chance to warm up, your muscles to loosen up and your blood to start pumping a little faster throughout your body, will go a long way to pushing you past those critical 15 min.

I think this little hurdle is there to weed people out. It's true, not everyone loves running, and not everyone has to. However for those that want to give it a try and find it sooooo difficult, try, just see, if you can get through that critical 15 minute window and find the runners bliss that lays just on the other side of it. Before long you will likely hit your running stride, be able to enjoy the gorgeous surroundings and bask in the coveted runner's high afterwards.

That's it. Now you are in the club. You know the secret. Please share it widely and let's educate others who want be in the running club. We have lots of space and are very welcoming of newbies. If you are a seasoned runner, think back to when you first started, what were some hints or tips that you would've loved to have known then? Comment below and let's help some newbies are struggling to find their love of running.

Next week I will post a video on the FitCity facebook page which will show you a quick and easy trick on how you can take 2 minutes before your run to drastically cut down on the most challenging 15 minutes of any run. Go like the page now, so you don't miss it!

My must-have travel item

You know that feeling when you come home from vacation to your pants fitting a little tighter, your stomach a little squishier and muffin top has a little more ‘top’ than you would like? Yup, me too. 

I was active on a regular basis at home, but when I would go away for a couple weeks on vacation I had a habit of fully indulging in everything and completely ignoring physical activity. When I returned home I would pinch, squish and sigh at myself at the sign of extra pounds gained and more than anything, the negative mental effects from not exercising. Why couldn’t I just give myself a break and relax while on vacation. Well the truth is for people who have built physical activity into their life know that it is just that..it’s a part of your lifestyle. To not do anything active for an extended period has effects on your mental and emotional health, and possibly your physical health (although likely the weight gain could just be in your head. Don’t underestimate the powerful effects that exercise has on mental health).

Several years ago when trying to minimize my packing for an upcoming vacation my running shoes almost didn’t make the cut, but thankfully I thought otherwise. Bringing my running shoes on vacations is now one of my favourite things. A morning run in a new city had brought some amazing experiences, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

I have

  • Ran on the Roman grounds of the Hippodrome
  • Come across surfers in Munich in the English Gardens
  • Jogged with locals in Regents Park in London
  • Ran through orange orchards in Seville
  • Hiked over the Algarve cliffs in Portugal

And most of all, had time to really take in the local surroundings and culture. In fact, I have not had a run in a different country where I haven’t come across something completely amazing and unexpected that I wouldn’t have seen had I not tied up my shoes and gone for a run. 

In some cities I love the feeling of being mixed in with locals, getting a smile, nod or 'good morning' as I run past. In other places I get weird looks, locals not understanding what I am doing, as was the case last month when I went for a run in the (large) hills of Valle de Bravo in Mexico. An area frequented by mostly locals and not many tourists, there were plenty of confused looks and questions asking what I was doing and if I was going to exercise. I welcome their odd looks and questions. It might just be enough to encourage others to think about their own health and fitness and decide to take action and do something active that they enjoy.

One of the things I love most about exercise is the domino effects it has on others around you. When one person is exercising it always has a way to influence those around them. It may be that someone decides to park a little further away from the grocery store or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Maybe it’s a walk on their lunch break or making use of a gym membership that has sat stale for the past several months. Doesn't matter what it looks like, exercise is contagious.

The more active we are, the more active everyone else will be, and in the end doesn’t everyone want to be healthy?  I am not talking about 6-packs and ripped muscles though, I am talking about general physical health. The ability to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling winded, the option of running around with your kids outside, being able to enjoy your grandchildren and aging gracefully. 

It’s really not about trying to lose weight, or burning off calories while on vacation, it’s about maintaining something that is important to me in life, whether I am at home, or travelling. I feel centered when physical exercise is part of my regular schedule. I may not exercise everyday while on vacation, but doing something active a couple times a week has been an amazing addition to my travel experiences.

I am not alone in this discovery, active tourism is on the rise. The adventure tourism market (in which active tourism is a part of), grew by 65% between 2009-2013 and is continuing to grow. People are looking for unique active ways to travel and see the world. Which is great because FitCity's mission is to make the world a healthier place and we are so happy to see people are up for the challenge!

Many cities around the world have running tours, which is a great way to get a workout in, and see some sights. To me running around a city with like-minded people is 100% more appealing than being squished in a large tourist bus being carted around to the main sights.

It’s not just all about running though, I have

  • Kayaked the Guadalquivir river in Seville
  • Surfed off the Algarve Coast.
  • Walked the many many hills (& stairs) of Lisbon
  • Hiked through the rice terraces and hills of Sapa in Vietnam
  • Horseback rode through the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa
  • Rappelled waterfalls in Costa Rica
  • Swam to the edge of Victoria Falls and sat in Devil's pool
  • River hiked in the south of Spain (yup, that’s a thing! River hiking was new to me too, but soo much fun!)

Now when I travel I look for active tours and fun physical things to do in the city I am visiting. I have found this to be the best way to see things slightly outside the main tourist track and away from the hoards of tourists. I know I am not the only person out there that wants to see the world this way, which is why I started FitCity Tours & Travel. 

Vancouver, BC is the perfect place to launch FitCity as it is one of the most active cities in the world. To truly see this city you need to get outside and get active. FitCity will show you the city the way the locals love it.

 

 

 

What better way to start off my blog for FitCity Tours & Travel than to let you get to know the active heartbeat behind FitCity.

Hi - my name is Marisa (Ma-reese-a) Moody and I am a born and raised Northern Ontario girl. I moved to Vancouver in 2005 and haven't looked back since. The west coast gets me. It understands that I want fresh ocean air to fill my lungs. My body feels happiest exploring the city (and the province), running, walking, hiking, kayaking, yoga-ing and doing whatever I can do outside. My skin shivers at the thought of another Ontario winter and begs me to stay where it's reasonable and mild, and my brain agrees.

I love

  • travel
  • breaking a sweat
  • wine
  • all things chocolate
  • spunky dogs (my jack russel mix Eleanor is the best)
  • toucans (I have an unexplainable obsession)

I dislike

  • gender sterotypes (I can lift that, thank you very much)
  • personal hygiene on public transit (who decided clippers on a keychain was a good idea)
  • cockroaches..it's more of an intense hate actually
  • papaya

The condensed story of me is that I used to be the funny chubby girl in a group of stunningly beautiful friends. One day I decided I wanted to try running and made myself stick to it for 30 days. A month later I was hooked; I increased my running distances from 5km, to 10km, to half marathons and then later completed a marathon and triathlon. The chubby girl who couldn't run was long gone and now I was encouraging others to join me on runs and train for races...who was I?!?!

Building on how much I enjoyed motivating others to run, I became a registered personal trainer in 2010. I have since added on training as a Kettlebell Instructor, Yoga Fitness Instructor, Older Adult training specialization and have taught outdoor bootcamp for 4+ years. I have shifted away from long distance runs as I now love the empowerment that I find in the weight room. I set my sights on increasing the number of weights on the bar vs decreasing the number on the scale. Testing what my body is capable of and celebrating its strength is so much fun!

There are lots of personal trainers out there and each has their own style and personality. I specialize in making fitness fun. I believe if it's not fun, you aren't going to stick to it for long, certainly not when left to your own devices. Achieving a healthier lifestyle where physical activity is part of a regular routine is what I aim for, helping clients achieve the elusive 6 pack is not. I don't believe in restrictive dieting (although increasing greens and cutting back on cheetos and milkshakes might be a good idea), I never aim to get my clients to puke during my workouts and I definitely never yell, scream or belittle. I encourage, motivate, push and support. I love seeing people achieve more than they think they are capable of.

As I mentioned I also love to travel, and when I do, I look for uinque experiences, activities where I can be active, be outdoors, meet new people, learn something new, see some city sights, or experience a new culture.

In 2016 I decided to merge my love of physical activity, the outdoors, travel, and Vancouver, and created FitCity Tours & Travel - a boutique active tour company. Vancouver is an amazing city, one of the most active in the world. I believe to truly see this city you need to get active and get outdoors.

I hope you will join on one of my tours, get out of the city on an amazing fitness retreat and explore the world with me as my business grows.