My life tends to feel like a permanent vacation, which ends up making it slightly difficult to uphold any level of motivation to exercise regularly. Pair that with the fact that 357 days of the year it is 85 degrees plus… equal that for the level of humidity. So I’m already sweating by the time I wake up in the morning, throw in a load of laundry, and walk out to the street to take the garbage out. The idea of any moisture leakage above and beyond that sounds about as appealing as standing in an endless line at the road traffic office to renew my vehicle registration. On the remaining 8 days of the year when it gets “cold” (temperatures plummeting into the 60’s) all I want to do is bundle up in my hoodie and curl up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and a good book. Exercise never seems to fit in the agenda.
Several years ago my sister thought it would be a great idea to try and convince me to run a marathon with her. My sister lives in Oregon. She has endless roads, trails, and tracks right outside her door. The weather is mild with a relatively merciful level of humidity year round which makes for perfect conditions for her to train for running events at her heart’s content.
At the time she asked me to run a marathon with her, I was living on a remote private island while working on a construction project. We typically worked 10 hour days, 6 days a week. My single day off was spent away from that rock in any way, shape, or form and it usually meant being in the water, on a boat, or at the closest beach bar a few islands away. At the bottom of my list of a pleasant way to spend my free time was running… in the heat. But I decided to give it a good ole college try anyway.
The island was about 800 acres and had a paved road circling it. After close examination of Google Earth, and a very technical analysis involving the Google Maps mile-ruler tool, I judged that the road was about a 1.5 mile loop.
I tentatively started my marathon training. It wasn’t until I actually looked at the marathon training schedule that I realized that as part of the preparation, I would have to run a full marathon at some point. Not to mention all of the in-between 6 – 20 mile jogs.
How can there possibly be so much running involved in actually running a marathon?
I did the math: running 26.2 miles meant 17.5 loops around the island. Seeing the same palm trees, the same lizard sunning itself on the road, and waving at the same gardener building a rock wall over and over again was going to get really old, really quickly. Paired with the fact that the asphalt road radiated like an oven on broil and by the time I was done running even 3 miles, my face was as red and melted as an over-ripe raspberry and the only place I was allowed a cool-down swim on the private island was in the Man Camp (the armpit section of the island where 350 construction workers and myself, the lone female, resided) where a rather large barracuda and his buddy the lemon shark claimed their stake on the aquatic territory.
I had to gently let my sister know that I wasn’t up for training for a marathon. She went on to run and complete a marathon in Washington State where the weather that April morning was overcast and the temperature was a balmy 62 degrees.
During my brief stints in Nassau (which is usually just an interim in between moving from one remote island to another), I have had the luxury of a gym membership at a legitimate first-world style gym. The gym is just around the corner from my Nassau home and is a state of the art complex complete with air-conditioning, TV monitors, and over-energized aerobics instructors. They offer daily yoga, Pilates, Zumba, strength training, and cycling classes.
I had returned to the “real world” of Nassau after living on the male-dominated private island construction site for a year and a half and was having a difficult time adjusting to society again. Feeling like I needed to whip myself back into shape, I signed up for “Hard Core in 60 Minutes”. It was maybe a little overzealous of me to jump into that class after spending 10 hours per day sitting in an office, and in hindsight I probably should have considered starting out with the “Nice ‘n Easy” class. Live and learn.
In the midst of struggling through “Hard Core in 60 Minutes”, my energy level dropped to a point where I didn’t think I could go on. My heart was racing and I was struggling to catch my breath so I paused to take a breather and a swig of water. The instructor, with her hands-free headset, immediately screamed at me through the loudspeakers:
“Keep going, Blondie! Don’t stop! We don’t like slackers in this class! That’s it, everybody start this circuit over from the beginning!”
All eyes on me, don’t pass out, don’t cry….
I held my chin up and painstakingly labored my way through until the end and then collapsed into a broken heap near the water cooler.
Upon surviving that class, I decided it was best to take a substantial resting period. Weeks later I mustered up the courage to return to the gym and meekly looked for a quiet corner, inserted my head phones, and went at my own pace on the gentle elliptical machine.
I’ve since moved to Harbour Island (the latest in a long list of out-islands that I have called home) and seeing that I am technically unemployed and have a lot of free time on my hands, I figured I should seriously be considering a structured exercise regime instead of the sporadic bursts of intense exercise followed by lots of downtime.
There’s a gal on the island who teaches a combination of circuit training, yoga, Tai Chi, and water aerobics twice a week. On a tiny island with a limited population of roughly 1,500 residents, I feel grateful that we have someone who is enthusiastic about offering an exercise program. However when I get wind that she will be doing a boot camp style class, I tend to make an excuse to arrange a meeting or get the car serviced during that time. After my 60 Minutes of Hell escapade, I’m hesitant to embrace military training drills as a form of calorie burning, especially since the classes are not held in a pleasant air-conditioned space, but outside in the heat and humidity.
Other than excessive sweating, the only other problem I’ve had is timing. She offers one class at 10am that fits right in with my stay-at-home-wife schedule, but the other class is offered at 5pm which drastically cuts into happy hour and cooking dinner for my hard-working husband. So by the end of the week, I’m typically participating in one hour of aerobics (unless that week’s 10am class was boot camp, in that case, at least I was able to catch up on my banking). Not quite enough exercise based on the copious amounts of weekend alcohol calories that slyly congregate around my midsection.
After a year and a half on Harbour Island and dabbling in online yoga and Insanity work out videos, I’ve deducted that in this climate, the absolute best possible way for me to exercise, and actually enjoy it, is being in or on the water.
Harbour Island has an “ocean side” and a “harbor side”. The harbor side is protected by what the what locals call the “mainland” which is really just another, bigger island. The harbor kind of feels like an over-sized lake, so on particularly calm days, we’ll pull out the paddleboards.
As soon as my dog sees the paddleboard, she starts madly spinning in circles, knowing full-well that she will be joining us for an outing. When I drop the board into the water, she eagerly leaps onto the deck and settles herself, perfectly balanced, on the bow. We’ll get sweaty and hot, but reward ourselves with a cooling dip as needed. And there’s no end to the turtles, starfish, rays, dolphins and colorful fish we spot through the crystal clear water along the way.
When the calm summertime weather hits, I’ll go snorkeling every chance I can get. The underwater aquarium of coral reefs surrounding my little island goes on for miles. The water maintains a lovely 80 degrees in summer which feels refreshing compared to the 95 degree air temperature, but it isn’t so cold that it will throw me into a fit of hypothermia.
But my most favorite water sport has become kiteboarding. I grew up skiing and spending my winter weekends in the mountains. It was my life; it defined who I was and gave me a sense of purpose. So when I moved to lower latitudes, I knew I needed a sport that would fill in the void. My very patient husband taught me to kiteboard about 5 years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since.
In the winter when the nor’easters blow, there’s a local crew of us that head to the kite spots. There’s a few picturesque places to kite around the island but Pink Sands Beach receives a fairly constant easterly breeze so that’s usually where you will usually find us. And since that’s where most of the tourists hang out, it’s fun to get our egos fired up and to put on a show for what seems to be an all-eyes-on-us audience.
To sum it up, it’s not entirely impossible to stay in reasonably decent bikini shape in the tropics, and at the same time… have fun! People often complain that there’s “nothing to do” on an island. But there are some fantastic outdoor activities to participate in year round, so as long as you stay close to the water (which isn’t hard to do on my skinny island where you can easily walk to the water from anywhere), going for regular cool down dips will easily keep the sweat subdued!