Stair climbing and vertical running? For you, for me and everyone!

By Marina Aagaard, MFE. Photo: Henrik Elstrup

Stair climbing is an excellent workout. I knew that. Last week I found out that stair running, vertical running, is an extreme workout.

The event was a cool running event, Zoo Tower Challenge, in Copenhagen, Denmark. As the event organizers put it: A race you won’ forget right away!

Apart from unbelievable exertion, I got to see flamingoes, an elephant, a warthog (?) and a beautiful view over Copenhagen city, although there were no time to enjoy it.

During the event I had one sensation only: Borg-scale 19-20 (maximal exertion). And one thought: Why on earth am I participating?
Immediately after the event I thought: When is the next time?

Polar_Pulskurve_taarnloeb_Marina_Aagaard_fitness_blogThank you organizers for letting me establish my maximal heart rate (Polar M400). 

Expectations before the race
My motivation for signing up was to 1) try something different, to challenge myself a bit,
2) take part in a tower run and visit the Zoo-tower and 3) support a great ‘local’ initiative.


Race-wise my expectations were low, as my cardiovascular fitness at present is below par – the body weight momentarily too high – and preparation minimal: I would be very pleased to just complete the race; if possible in ~1 hour for a 6,5 km run plus stairs.

When I was almost at the finish line after the second (last) round, I looked up at the town hall clock and could not believe my own eyes: It was only 7:10 pm (my start was 6:30 pm). This gave me the power to speed up and I finished in 0:42:42.


I was met by officials “that’s a good running time”. Not what I had expected to hear at all. During the race I was too busy running to even look at my heart rate monitor.
So a ‘good race’ was a huge surprise to me. Two days after I saw the result lists and to my amazement; in my class I ended up 3. place and 1. place for women.
That’s quite cool for an infrequent, middle-aged (older than most of the other runners), novice race-runner. The will to survive is obviously a very powerful force!

When I accepted the invitation to race around 3rd of June, I had big hopes of proper preparation. Work life and life wanted things to be different, so time got scarce and amount of running stayed low; apart from the usual fitness workouts training came to only 1-2 5 km runs per week; far from impressive.

From around 3rd of July I added stair climbing once a week. I drove to a beach and forest area near Aarhus, Oernereden; 121 steps, walk/jog up, walk down.

From around 3rd of September until right before the race 3rd of October  I got the opportunity to work out in a local block of flats, 214 steps, walk/jog/run up, walk/jog down.


So running preparation was limited, stair climbing preparation was a bit better, so I was partly ready for the 182 Zoo Tower steps – it was still incredibly hard – and in the days after the race there were no soreness of the thighs or calves.

In the week up to the tower run I sadly only managed one 6 km run and two stair climbing workouts, the last one on the Thursday before the race. I took two days off (no workouts) to recover and get ready; no training at all Friday or Saturday before the race at 6:30 pm.

Thoughts on strategy
On the day before the race I thought a little about what would be the best strategy in this, my very first, tower run; a special combined event with running and vertical running.

Zoo_Tower_Challenge_start_foto_Henrik_Elstrup    Zoo_Tower_Challenge_start_foto_Henrik_Elstrup Frederiksberg Town hall Square with little groups of real runners, with the right gear, compression socks and real running headlamps. And me somewhere in the back.

My chosen distance, 6,5 km, meant 2 rounds around Frederiksberg Have (park) plus 3 tower runs. That is, the tower should be passed at least once to get your event medal (race bling) (!) and all three times, if you wanted to be rated and avoid ‘time adjustment’.

It was a tower run, so I thought to myself, that no matter how hard it would be and how long it would take, I would of course complete all three tower runs.

On the copenhagentowerrun website there is a suggestion for the 6,5 km route;
1 tower run in the first round and 2 tower runs for the next round. A sensible model: You complete one tower run at the start to play it safe, when you complete that you have done a tower run. And then you can use your stamina on running and take two tower runs next time around, if you have more energy.

My thought, however, was, that running exhaust me! So to complete the tower running part, I had to start out with them … maybe at the expense of the running part.
At the same time I thought it would be awkward to run in a pitch black tower, even if I had a headlamp. So my plan: Early Zoo-tower runs, preferably all three tower runs in a row.

Ergogenic aid: I normally run without music, but for once I thought that it would maybe be a good idea (research shows that music increases motivation and performance) and brought my iPhone with an up-tempo techno/electronica playlist. It helped!

Before and during the race
Right before the start of the race, I warmed up (very) lightly for 6-7 minutes, short dynamic calf and hamstring stretches, low-intensity jogging, knee lifts and leg curls on the spot, to get ready, but also save my limited energy reserves.

The first start was at 6:00 pm for the half marathon distance (photo below).


At 6.15 pm the 10 km runners started and at 6:30 pm the 6,5 km runners started:

I am not used to races at all (have only tried it once before, 5 km, locally). So I started in a very conservative tempo for the first 150-200 meters to conserve energy and run tactically, but then I thought “no, I will just run as fast as I can, and slow down, when it becomes necessary”. Real amateurish, but the result ended up being o.k. anyway.


As planned, I chose to complete all three tower runs in sequence. Except for the fact that I accidentally ran past the tower entrance and had to run back, all was fine:
I fought my way upwards and jogged down. There was a great atmosphere and people made room for each other in the narrow tower.

I was almost alone in the tower on the first two runs, but on the last run, there was a queue at the top and on the way down with no real chance of overtaking; probably a good thing, there were not much energy left. And a good thing that the heart rate went down a bit before I had to run the last 1½ round.

We had been warned that the Zoo hill could be tough and it was not exactly fun to run upwards (it must have been bad for those poor 21,2 km runners who had to run it six times), but my end of the country is quite ‘hilly’, so to me it was not as bad as expected.


At the top the Zoo-hill you run into the Zoo and (preferably) directly into the tower.

Copenhagen_Tower_Running_Zoo_foto_Henrik_ElstrupCopenhagen_Tower_Running_Zoo_taarn_foto_Henrik_ElstrupPhoto: Talk about surplus energy. A couple of the long-distance runners ran with baby-joggers AND took their child on their backs during the tower run.
There is to you less trained runners!

After ~ 6,5 km and 1092 steps (up/down) later I come gasping towards the finish line.

Copenhagen_Tower_Running_mod_maal_foto_Henrik_ElstrupDrenched in sweat, ugly and heart panting, but feeling good right after having passed the finish line 42:42 minutes after the race start AND after 1) a warm welcome, a medal around my neck and a 2) recovery snack; apple juice, banana, bun and muesli bar.

After the race: Reward and medal
The fine thing about race events is, that everyone wins just by participating. If you finish the race, you have accomplished something and oftentimes you get a ‘medal’, too. Then you have tried that, great feeling. And normally there is a very wide time frame, so everybody can finish – even in a very slow tempo. So I can only recommend participating in a run/event (this one though, was for serious extreme runners, too, I could tell).

I would have liked to take it easy and just jog along in my usual tempo, but I got bitten by a race bug, and then the race suddenly got disgustingly hard. But I survived.

My reward: A very different experience (and a markedly improved fitness level), a cool medal and my start number with three crosses for three completed tower runs.
I will save this for a while to remind me of a (to me) challenging and surprising (tower) run.


Read more:

DR LEV NU: Vanvid eller vanvittigt spændende nyt motionsløb

Holiday fitness: Get Fit, Keep Fit or Boost Your Fitness

By Marina Aagaard, MFE
Holiday fitness? A hot topic right now. So here are five fab methods for fitness and exercise on your holiday; for the super exerciser, the recreational exerciser or the (almost) physically inactive …

Tunesien vandaerobic w

Get fit on holiday

Not fit or healthy at all? Then this is for you:
You have to start somewhere / sometime and your holiday is as good as time as ever.
If you are used to doing nothing exercise-wise, then start with just a little bit every day:

1. Move a bit more; than you do during every day living, walk and stand more, take the stairs, not the elevator.

2. Add extra activity; use every excuse to move a bit further than normally (e.g. go to the ice cream store at the far end of the beach).

3. Go for walks: Take a lovely morning or evening walk and get some extra free sight-seeing at a time, when it is nice and quiet.

4. Try out exercise or sports activities: Use your holiday to try some brand new activities, not only for exercise, but for new experiences; e.g. aqua aerobics, hiking, badminton, zumbafitness, (water)bikes, canoeing, etc.

5. Eat healthier snacks. Holiday is holiday, but leave out or replace the most severe calorie-loaded temptations by other alternatives, so it is possible to keep your present weight on your holiday. Also it pays off to “neutralize” the side-effects of steaks, drinks and ice cream with exercise …

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Keep fit on your holiday

Are you used to being fairly healthy and doing some exercise, e.g. 3-4 times a week? Lucky you; you have many options for keeping your fitness level, while on holiday.

1. Maintain fitness with a single bout of high-intensity training: Have an all-out holiday – also from exercise – but with one workout in the middle of your holiday week, a workout with high intensity (heavy/fast) or maybe moderate intensity and long duration.

2. Train short and sweet (hard), time-efficient, with circuit training: Do 2-3 workouts on your holiday, with intense circuit training.

3. Train as usual, but with variation: Train as you are used to, 3-4 times, but with novel exercise variations in your usual program.

4. Train more, but in different ways: Be extra active all through your holiday, but with complete different activities; horseback (or camel) riding, water polo, beach volley, kayaking, hula hooping, rope jumping or lap swimming.

5. Eat strategically. Holiday is holiday, but should you choose to accept … a fattening snack, then combine with an intense workout on the same day (before or after) and be a little more healthy the next day.

Tunesien Ridning på stranden w

Boost you fitness on your holiday

You are used to working out, either very often og very intensely, and you want to improve your fitness? When away on holiday, locally or abroad, there are sometimes special opportunities, which you can take advantage of.

1. Increase difficulty (and/or intensity). If you are used to running, then run the same distances, but under more difficult conditions, in the sand on the beach or in rugged terrain (watch out for obstacles)

2. Increase intensity (or duration). If you are used to cycling, then cycle the same distance under more difficult conditions; harder terrain, e.g. in hills or mountains or go for extra long rides in new surroundings.

3. Train with other equipment, in different ways. If you are used to resistance training, then work out as hard as you can facilities allowing at your holiday hotel/resort; gyms with other equipment than you are used to, or old, worn facilities with only basic equipment, benches, bars and dumbbells etc. or outdoors with racks, bodyweight, logs or stones (e.g. try throwing exercises).

4. Give your body diverse challenges. Replace 1-2 regular workouts with parkour or obstacle course racing (on proper courses or at playgrounds): Overcome obstacles, do balancing and lift, push and pull yourself up and forward in different ways.

5. Give your body and your mind some variation. Push yourself with different activities involving other muscles than usual; open water swimming, sailing, SUP, inline skating, climbing, rappelling, table tennis, formal dance, soccer.

Tusien Sahara udsigt fra kamelen w

Bonus tip
Exercise should be followed by quality sleep and adequate recovery; speed up recovery by having a massage, hammam, thermal bath, jacuzzi, sauna or other wellness activities.
Try it on your holiday; your body will love it (check out: Global Wellness Travel Guide).

Happy holiday!

How to Get Fit? Take Your Pick: Top 20 Fitness Trends 2014

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Every year newspapers, magazines and blogs forecast the fitness trends for the coming year. Almost all quote ACSM, American College of Sports Medicine, who conduct an international survey and publish a Fitness Trend Top 20.
On the basis of their survey ACSM determines, what is trending right now, and also what are real trends – what has come to stay – og and what are fads and on their way out. This year Zumba went out and HIIT made it straight to number one!

Fitness trends top 20 list and photo of kettlebells Photo Henrik Elstrup

Here is the ACSM list. I have added the rank of last year and below are my comments along with select ACSM comments.

TOP 20 Fitness Trends 2014

  1. High-Intensity Interval Training (new on the list)
  2. Body Weight Training (3.)
  3. Educated, Certified and Experienced Fitness Professionals (1.)
  4. Strength Training (2.)
  5. Training and Weight Loss (5.)
  6. Personal training (7.)
  7. Fitness Programs for Older Adults (6.)
  8. Functional Fitness (8.)
  9. Group Personal Training (10.)
  10. Yoga (14.)
  11. Children and Exercise for the Treatment/Prevention of Obesity (4.)
  12. Worksite Health Promotion (11.)
  13. Core Training (9.)
  14. Outdoor Activities (13.)
  15. Circuit Training (18.)
  16. Outcome Measurements (17.)
  17. Wellness Coaching (20.)
  18. Sports-Specific Training (back on list, 17. in 2012)
  19. Worker Incentive Programs (15.)
  20. Boot Camp (16.)

1. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Intensive training with short bursts of high-intensity work periods followed by a short period of rest, typically with a total training time of less than 30 minutes. Not a new trend, on the contrary, HIIT has been part of classic sports training for many years and lately also part of many CrossFit workouts. HIIT has been suggested as a trend earlier on, but has only just entered the Top 20 list this year. Until now, though, it has most certainly been part of many boot camp programs, which have been on the list for some years.

According to ACSM HIIT is very popular, despite warnings from some fitness professionals: ”“Very, very popular. However, high injury rates. We need more highly trained professionals working this area.”

2. Body Weight Training (3.)

Working out with body weight entered the list last year as number 3 and is now number 2. Has body weight training not been popular previously? Yes, almost since the dawn of time and it has been one of the most popular group exercise formats since fitness started in the 70′s with Jane Fonda’s Workout a.o. This indicates, that is not the training as such, but the way it is named and marketed, that puts it on the hit list.

3. Educated, Certified and Experienced Fitness Professionals (1.)

This trend has occupied the number one spot for six years consecutively and for the first time it has been overtaken.
This does not mean, that it is not still a top priority. Rather the growing popularity of high-intensity training and (complex) body weight training means, that educated instructors are needed even more than before.

4. Strength Training (2.)

Strength training is no new phenomena. It has been popular since antiquity. What is new, is that today many do strength training for its own sake and not just as a means to an end, e.g. improving sports performance.

Strength training is also growing in popularity in all sectors, not just in the fitness sector, but also in the health sector and for all target groups including children, seniors and people with lifestyle diseases.

5. Training and Weight Loss (5.)

Training for weight loss has become more and more popular since these surveys started, maybe as a result of the growing need for this kind of workouts and as a result of still more research showing, that the combination of exercise and diet is essential for weight maintenance and can improve compliance with diet and weight loss programs.

6. Personal training (7.)

Personal training, one-on-one training with various fitness modalities, especially strength training, is ever increasing in popularity. Partly because of exercisers wanting better results faster, and partly because more and more personal trainers are being certified.
Also more marketing means, that more people are becoming aware of this option.

7. Fitness Programs for Older Adults (6.)

Training for older adults has been on the Top 20 list since its appearance in 2006. Only natural as the number of people over 60 has tripled for the past 50 years. And this number is estimated to triple in the next decades, so by 2050 close to 2 billion people will be over 60 (!

This trend is supported by a multitude of research on seniors and exercise with overwhelming evidence, that exercise for seniors is not only beneficial, but essential for function, health and wellness late in life. ACSM recommends, that fitness centers offers more programs for seniors, e.g. during the daytime.

8. Functional Fitness (8.)

Functional Fitness, which has been on the list since 2007, is defined by ACSM as ‘using strength training to improve balance, coordination, force, power, and endurance to improve someone’s ability to perform activities of daily living’.
It is mentioned, that functional fitness programs replicate actual activities you might do as a function of daily living, hence they are recommend for older adults.

Note, that the term functional fitness is often used to describe other types of fitness programs and modalities with a specific function or purpose related to either every day living or sports.

9. Group Personal Training (10.)

Personal training for small groups, on the list since 2007, continues to be a popular trend. The training is for 2-3 exercisers at the same time (up to 5) and is not only reasonably ‘personal’ and goal-oriented, but also economically sensible for both the trainer and clients.

10. Yoga (14.)

Yoga entered the Top 20 list in 2008, fell out in 2009, but made back and has been on the list since 2010. However, yoga has been popular for thousands of years and will continue to be so, whether on the Top 20 list or not. Not strange, since there are many types of yoga for different target groups and from easy to advanced level. Also there is a huge number of yoga teachers, books and films making yoga accessible to everyone. 

11. Children and Exercise for the Treatment/Prevention of Obesity (4.)

Children and obesity, as this trend was named, when it entered the list in 2007, has dropped a few spots, but is still increasingly important, as obesity among children and juniors is a major problem internationally. There is a continued need for both national and local initiatives and specific fitness exercise targeted at stopping and reversing this.

12. Worksite Health Promotion (13.)

An obvious place to implement fitness and health initiatives is on the worksite and luckily this is a trend, that continues to grow, both within companies and corporations or in collaboration with independent commercial or community-based programs.

13. Core Training (9.)

Core training are exercises, which focus on strength and stability for the core muscles, inner and outer unit muscles from the pelvic floor to the diaphragm: “Strength and conditioning of the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen, thorax, and back. It typically includes exercises of the hips, lower back, and abdomen, all of which provide support for the spine and thorax” (ACSM).

Core training is no new trend. This kind of training has been used by gymnasts for ages. What is new, is that it is a fairly new trend within fitness and in fitness settings you often use equipment such as exercise balls, BOSU balls, wobble boards, foam rollers, etc.

Even though core training has lost ground and has dropped from a steady top 5 position from 2007-2010, it is still popular. In the future maybe more so as an integral part of other programs such as Functional Fitness.

14. Outdoor Activities (13.)

Outdoor activities not only include running, walking and cycling, but according to the ACSM survey also hiking, canoeing, kayaking, games, sports – and even overnight camping trips.
Even if the weather in certain countries makes this a ‘seasonal’ activity, outdoor training in many forms is becoming increasingly popular, partly because more countries, states, and cities are starting to offer designated fitness facilities, e.g. outdoor training pavilions.
Fresh air and better overall health is a superior bonus of this fitness trend.

15. Circuit training) (18.)

Circuit training appeared on the list for the first time in 2013 and has increased in popularity since then. According to ACSM survey circuit training is “a group of 6 to 10 exercises that are completed one after another and in a predetermined sequence. Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a set period before having a quick rest and moving on to the next exercise”.

Circuit training, though, has been fairly popular since the 60′s and the classic definition is a series of 9-12 consecutive exercises with no rest-pause or only a short rest-pause between exercises.
As part of the increasing popularity of short duration high-intensity workouts, circuit training has been marketed and implemented vigorously and is now super popular, e.g. in HICT termed ‘the 7-minute workout (partly wrong) by many fitness blogs and magazines’.

16. Outcome Measurements (17.)

ACSM defines this, outcome measurements, as “a trend that addresses accountability, the efforts to define and track outcomes to prove a selected program actually works. (…).
New technology has aided in data collection to support these efforts”.
Tracking outcomes not only has to do with compliance, but can also include fitness testing, the physical results (leading to succesful change of negative lifestyle habits).
Outcome measurements was on the list previously, fell out, but returned last year.

17. Wellness Coaching (20.)

Wellness coaching, which came on the list in 2010, is similar to coaching, but integrates behavioural science into health promotion, disease prevention and rehabilitation programs.
According to ACSM “Wellness Coaching often uses a one-on-one approach, similar to a personal trainer, with the coach providing support, guidance, and encouragement. The wellness coach focuses on the client’s values, needs, vision, and goals”.
This is really what a competent personal trainer does, but perhaps with an increased focus on total lifestyle; diet, sleep and activities of daily living.

18. Sports-Specific Training (back on the list)

Sports-specific training was on the list from 2010, fell out in 2013, but is now back again. According to ACSM this trend includes sports-specific training for sports like baseball and tennis and is designed especially for young athletes.
With this definition it is no wonder, that the trend is not higher on the list. If the definition included sports-specific training for all age groups and all sports, e.g. skiing, golf, soccer, basketball, etc. and even running and cycling, which are sports, too, sports-specific training probably would be higher on the list and permanently, too.

19. Worker Incentive Programs (15.)

This trend came on the list in 2011 and has been on it since then. This trend is about incentive programs “to stimulate positive healthy behavior change as part of employer-based health promotion programming and health care benefits”.
“Worker Incentive Programs are associated with the trend to provide worksite health promotion programs in an attempt to reduce health care costs”
As worksite health promotions affect a huge number of the population, they are essential to public health.

20. Boot Camp (16.)

Boot camp training appeared on the list in 2010, after having been just outside the Top 20 for the previous two years. ACSM defines Boot Camp, as a ‘high-intensity structured activity patterned after military-style training. Boot Camp includes cardiovascular, strength, endurance, and flexibility drills and usually involves both indoor and outdoor exercises typically led by an enthusiastic instructor. Boot Camps also can combine sports-type drills and calisthenics’.

The name Boot Camp is also used to market various 8-10 week fitness programs in which the workouts often match the above description, they can, however, also come in other formats of lower intensity.

The Top 20 Fitness Trends Survey
The Top 20 list covers the results of a Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends based on a list of 38 possible trends. 25 from the previous year as well as 13 new trends proposed by the staff of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal. Survey participants must give a score of 1 to 10 and are invited to comment.

The survey was sent to 28.924 fitness professionals, 3.815 responded, a return rate of 13 %, which is an excellent return rate.

On this years list, Top 20 2014, Zumba is out, and Pilates, Spinning, Balance training and stability (exercise) ball training are out for the second time, which by ACSM standards indicate, that they are just fads. ACSM recognize though, that these activities still exist in the fitness industry.

It is not strange, that certain activities disappear from the list. This is bound to happen, not necessarily because they become unpopular, but to make room for new fitness modalities, either trends or fads.

As seen previously, also in ACSM surveys, certain fitness activities fall out and then enter again or enter again under a new name or as part of another trend.

This is the ACSM Top 20. Is something missing from the list? Some would say CrossFit a.o., however, this and some other popular fitness modalities are related to some of the above mentioned trends for instance HIIT, High-Intensity Interval Training, strength training or functional fitness and hence are covered for now.

The Top 20 list gives an exciting overview of the fitness trends of 2014. At the same time, take a peek at Google’s list of the most popular workout search terms, keywords:

Google Top 10 Most-Googled Workouts 2013

  1. Insanity Workout (US concept, intense cardio/strength workout)
  2. CrossFit Workout (international concept with high-intensity workouts)
  3. Ab Workouts (abdominal exercise in all forms is always a hit)
  4. Bicep Workouts (workouts for the arms are a male thing)
  5. 7-Minute Workout (a media name for circuit workouts with a 7 minute base)
  6. Kettlebell Workout (maybe this will be on the list soon)
  7. Shoulder Workouts (ever popular, ever overworked …)
  8. Back Workouts (back and lower back area; numerous exercises)
  9. Plank Exercises (planks, a core exercise stable, are still popular)
  10. TRX Workout (suspension training, e.g. TRX’s, is increasing in popularity)

You can read more about the different fitness modalities in books, at fitness sites and blogs, including this one. Furthermore there are millions of exercise videos and a growing number of apps for most of the above workouts.

Happy workout!


ACSM: Now Trending: Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends 2014 

ACSM: Worldwide survey reveals fitness trends for 2013.

High-Intensity Training, CrossFit Top Google’s List of Most Searched Exercises

Holiday Fitness Circuit Tips: I Know What I Did This Summer

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

You should live in the present; not in the past or in the future. However, I do like looking at photos, a.o. holiday photos, that brings out happy memories from days of the past, e.g. of the summer holiday with my family.
Right now autumn, read rain and storm, is starting to show its moody face here in Denmark, so it is nice with some sunshine, if only online.

Plitvice Lakes Croatia photo Marina AagaardPhoto above: Summertime in the National Park Plitvice Lakes, Croatia.
Beautiful landscape. Extraordinary colours. 
A must-see for waterfall-lovers.

A little about the holiday and a lot about circuit fitness (ideas and comments):

When my sister and I were younger, our family of four did not travel or go abroad during holidays. But for the past five years each year we, now a small group of eight, have spent a week at varying holiday destinations in south-eastern Europe; there is plenty of sun, beaches (beautiful nature) and reasonable prices.


My sister, a former-competitive-bodybuilder-turned-golfer-and marathoner, has two young teens, who are very active, so a resort catering for families, with seaside access, pools and all-inclusive sports, is required for summer holidays these years.
This year it was the Zaton Holiday Resort, Zadar, Croatia. The resort had two areas; for those with campers and mobile homes … and those without, a.o. us; brand new spacey holiday flats (photo above).


No holiday resort without an entertainment team. This team did some straaaange aerobics with isometric holds (photo above), but also some super aqua aerobics with jumping and dancing. Apart from lots of aerobics and dancing, there were numerous other team-led (or self-organized) land and water sports activities.

Fitness wise? The ‘fitness centre’ was a small room with a very limited array of older fitness apparatus. Just outside, however, you had the option of hiring a personal trainer and working out with suspension equpiment, kettlebells and weights.

I opted out on that and decided to go for fitness in the forrest …

The Fitness Circuit at Zaton Holiday Resort

A brilliant feature of the camp was the Trim Staza (fitness station) track in the forrest. The track was used for walking, power walking, jogging and running of campers of all ages, a really nice experience because of the medium-soft surface cushioning your every step and the shade of the trees; outdoor fitness at its best.

Fitness tip for holidays and travelling
A circuit program of approx. 20-30 min. 2-4 times a week is a great activity: You keep (get?) fit, maintain weight, stay healthy and well in minimal time.

The Zaton resort track was about 1,5-2 km (~ 1 mile) long (yes, forgot my Polar GPS!) and had 18 fitness stations evenly distributed for approximately every 100 metres (ensuring a manageable running-distance). 

Some stations were great, some were not so great, however, at every station you could do your own thing, if you wanted or needed an alternative.

Note: The stations, bright red, were easy to spot and had fairly clear illustrations. Only one had text on technique; at closer inspection it appeared, that all stations had at some stage had text, but it had come of. In most cases, though, you could figure out what to do. 

For fitness buffs, holiday fitness enthusiasts and exercisers in general here is a short rundown of the fitness stations for information, inspiration and motivation.

Outdoor Fitness Circuit Trim Staza Style

Ready, set, go (I did several times, because it was great fun):

Zaton outdoor bane

Station 1: Arm swings. A warm-up exercise. Upper-body limbering movement.

Performed with care, these are good for shoulder mobility. But avoid big ballistic arm swings. Too fast, too big … no good for people with shoulder problems.


Station 2: Bend and extend. Warm-up exercise. Whole body (lower back) preparation.

Performed slowly and with control a good exercise for the back side.
Performed too fast without control: A lumbar back killer, be careful out there.


Station 3: Arm circles. A warm-up exercise. Limbering movement for the shoulders.

Ahhh, what is this? Something for the shoulders; o.k. in small doses for mobility, but do not go overboard in this; also it will not tone the arms and shoulders …


Station 4: Upper body circles. Warm-up exercise. For the shoulders.

My interpretation of station as not 100 % clear from sign. Sidebends continuing in a circular motion and repeating the other way. Upper body (spine) mobilization.

If you have back problems, this is not recommended. Start with controlled small range of motion movements, e.g. easy sidebends with arms at sides.

IMG_6002 Station 5: Mill turns. Warm-up exercise. For the spine and shoulders.

A well-known gymnastics warm-up exercise, but it is very hard on the back. I avoid it myself and do not recommend it.
You lean forward, while carrying the weight of the head with a long lever (spine); then you twist, turn, in this bent-over position: There is considerable torque on your spinal discs/vertebrae.

Alternative: Stand upright and turn side to side with control, easy rotation for mobility.


Station 6: Pull-up (or chin-up shown here). Great back and arm strength exercise.

Grip bar and perform with a wide grip (pull-up) or a narrow grip (chin-up). Both will work the upper back muscle latissimus dorsi and the front of arm muscles biceps brachii. The width of the grip determines how (much) you involve the active muscles.

This is a hard bodyweight exercise, almost impossible for beginners, so a modified exercise could be 1) with partner assistance; have someone help you on the up-phase or 2) jump up/pull yourself as high as possible and lower yourself down or step up on something and step off and lower yourself down.
You could also just hang there for grip strength.


Station 7: Clean and press variation. A complex strength exercise for legs, lower back (back) and arms.

A great functional exercise. Picking up something from the ground and lifting it overhead. Many muscles at work. You bend down, use the legs, and extend legs and back lifting the (odd) object. The object lifted stays close to the body.
However on the sign it is difficult to see exact starting position; it look a bit like a straight leg movement, which requires extra attention and keeping the back straight. Not an exercise for people with lower back problems.


Station 8: Jump over Slide under. Agility (and cardio) exercise.

Sign is not 100 % clear on what the exercise is. However, you can create your own fun and challenging exercises. The beam is on an incline allowing for different options.
At the lower end jumping over from side to side is possible.
Stay on the spot or travel forward with different running, hopping, crawling moves.

IMG_6049 Station 9: Suspended core work. Upper body strength, endurance and mobility.

From the sign it looks as if you are supposed to hang from the hands with feet supported and make circular movements with the hips. Tried it, it seemed strange, even though diverse movements are a good thing … 

Option: inverse (reverse) pull-ups. Upper back, front of arm strength  (incline; easier).

Hang from hands feet support. Body at a slight (harder) og steep (easier) incline. Pull yourself up by bending the arms and pulling them back. Lower with control.


Station 10: Dynamic balance on beam (tree). Balancing exercise.

No illustration at all on this station, so it is up to your imagination. Walk, jog, hop, jump on the two different-sized wooden beams; hold, stick, keep the balance.

Agility type exercises are excellent for keeping functionally fit.


Station 11: Dynamic balance on tree stumps. Balancing exercise.

Illustration is somewhat hard to decipher, so it is up to your imagination. Walk or hop, maybe with a stick/hold, from stump to stump. Keep the balance.
For variety include moves to and from the ground.

Alternative: Step-up (buttock and leg exercise). Stay by one high stump: Step up and down with same leg (e.g. 8-16 times). Change leg and repeat.

Agility type exercises are excellent for keeping functionally fit.


Station 12: Side hopping/jumping. Agility exercise.

Jump or hop sideways over the low beam, on the spot or travelling forward.
If it feels too hard, you can just sidestep over the beam.
For variety include moves to and from the ground. Or use the hands.

Agility type exercises are excellent for keeping functionally fit.

IMG_6150Station 13: Upper body exercise (of your choice).

Station illustration looks like the exercise muscle-up (first pull-up, then straight into the press position shown), however, this is not possible, as the beam is far too thick.
You have to find your own variation. Here (after a clumsy climb) I just do shoulder depression; hold the position with shoulders neutral/lowered.
Note: Station 13 was an ‘unlucky’ station; it was starting to disintegrate.


Station 14: Arm circles. A warm-up exercise. Limbering movement for the shoulders.

A repeat of station 3. Circles with the arms (shoulders) again? This looks like a warm-up or mobility exercise (best performed at moderate pace). No real training effect or relevanse in circuit training like this.
I would perhaps do some circular push-ups instead.

If performing these shoulder circles, circle first one way, then the other way.


Station 15: Push-ups (upper-body strength (endurance) exercise. Super exercise.

Here incline push-up, which is easier, than the regular push-up. Hands on beam, bend and extend elbows (keeping body in a straight line).

Variation: Decline push-up with more shoulder focus. Feet on beam. Hands on ground. Bend and extend elbows (keeping body in a straight line).

IMG_6175Station 16: Squat jump (deep), forward and backward. Lower body power.

Illustration shows jump (arms pull back and forth for take-off, land with arms in front).
Variation: Instead of jumping forward and backward, you can just step backward and start again. Or do regular squat jumps up and down on the spot.


Station 17: Side hopping/jumping. Agility exercise.

A repeat of station 12? Jump or hop sideways over the low beam, on the spot or travelling forward. For variety include moves to and from the ground. Or use the hands.

Agility type exercises are excellent for keeping functionally fit.


Station 18: Pendulum swing. Aerobic exercise.

This station is cardiovascular training. Similar to when you run or walk from station to station. So is it necessary? Well, as running is a sagittal (forward/backward) plane movement, while this a frontal plane movement, it can be fine for variety.


Even if I was not too keen on all the stations in this circuit, I think that outdoor circuit fitness in general – and also this particular set-up – is brilliant.

Circuit fitness is great for variety every once in a while.
Have a go, too.

Express Fitness # 2: Circuit Training For Travel or Home

Marina Aagaard, MFE

Get fit and healthy in no time; work out smarter, not harder. Whether you are staying at home or travelling, you can get a super workout with bodyweight, beams, bars or furniture or fitness equipment. The most timeefficient way of getting an all-round resistance and cardio workout is:

  • Circuit training (complex or simple, but always fast and fun).

IMG_5656Circuit training (back exercise) at Elefant hotel, Riga, Latvia.

Circuit training can be either 1) pure cardio, 2) pure resistance or 3) a mix. The latter is the preferred method in fitness; after each cardio exercise, there is a resistance exercise.

Station/exercise time: Norm: 30 seconds or 1 minute (or 10-16 repetitions).
Total number of exercises: Typically 8-12 (range e.g. 4-20).
Total number of rounds: 1-5. After one round; repeat circuit 1-4 times. 

In circuit training, as opposed to interval training, you do not pause: Keep moving; this provides additional cardiovascular work. When you finish one exercise, you hurry to the next station/exercise. Perform 1-4 rounds. Do not plan to have 10-15 seconds for changing stations, change as fast as possible.

7 minute HICT bodyweight circuit 

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds and high intensity with good form (HICT article with exercise photos):

1. Jumping Jack
2. Wall sit (wall squat)
3. Push-up
4. Abdominal crunch
5. Step-up, e.g. onto chair
6. Squat
7. Triceps dips on chair
8. Plank
9. High kneelifts,
10. Lunge
11. Push-up with torso rotation
12. Side plank

5 minute basic strength machine circuit (ex warm-up)

Perform 10-12 repetitions of each exercise and immediately proceed to the next station/exercise. Perform 1-3 rounds. (fitness circuit clip)

  • Leg press or squat
  • Chest press or bench press
  • Rowing, horizontal
  • Shoulder press
  • Lat pulldown, vertical
  • Back extension
  • Ab curl

Have a go. It is nice for variation and intensity, isn’t it?

Express Fitness # 1: Interval Training For Travel or Home

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Stay fit and healthy without wasting time. Even if you are travelling, on holiday or have a busy life with little time for exercising, you need to take care of your health, the foundation of fitness, wellness and performance. The good news is, that you can have great results with minimal time investment. The number one option is:

  • Interval training (yes, it’s for you, no, it’s not just for athletes)

Interval running for travel fitness or home fitness

Interval running on the Zaton Holiday Resort, Croatia, (soft) running track. Nice .

Interval training
As the saying goes: With interval training you will double your results in half the time!
Or something to that effect …
The definition: A series of repetitions of a work period (higher intensity) followed by a rest period (low intensity).

The (active) rest periods are crucial to succes; you need to recover in order to put just as much energy into the next work period: So no push-ups etc. during rest periods, that is not interval training. 

More and more recent research points to interval training for just 3-4 minutes per time/week as enough for becoming healthy and fit and even loose weight.
In reality, though, this is too little, as you need 1) a warm-up and cool-down and 2) to train at higher intensities, than most will be able to, to get the mentioned results.

Interval training is, however, the number one way to get fit fast for everybody. Interval training is not just very high intensity training. It is interval work at intensities higher than during continuus exercise. This means, that exercising just a little harder than you normally do will work!
Of course, if you are in shape, you should work at high intensity to get even better results.

There are numerous ways to do interval training and it can be tailor-made to meet specific needs. You can have short intervals or long intervals or fartlek, various speeds and intensities. All intervals, though, will improve your cardiovascular fitness and body composition.

If you are new to interval training try these super-easy sample programs:

  • 5 repetitions: 1 : 1 min., e.g. jog for 1 minute, walk for 1 min.: 10 min. ex. warm-up.
  • 10 repetitions: 30 : 30 sec., e.g. jog for 30 sec., walk 30 sec.: 10 min. ex. warm-up.


  • From lamppost/tree to lamppost/tree: Run/jog/powerwalk as fast as you can.
    Then walk, focus on breathing, to the next lamppost/tree. Repeat 5-20 times.

Try it. What do you think?

Cruise Ship Curious? Ahoy! Fitness Wellness At Sea Is A Joy

By Marina Aagaard

Baltic Cruise Day 3: At Sea

On this particular Baltic cruise there are two days at sea. One at the beginning of the cruise and one at the end. This cruise was chosen because of this: It is a nice break to ‘just’ be at sea for a full day – especially when the sea is at its very best behaviour (almost completely still) – and do nothing but relax or maybe participate in some more on board activities. Being, and seeing, at sea is a joy.

Baltic cruise daily program seng

Bed made up and The DAILY program ready the evening before: For the days at sea the program of the morning, afternoon and evening is extensive.

Menu of Today: Morning walk, yoga, aerobics, zumba, exercise for legs abdominals and glutes, stretching, dance lessons with salsa, sirtaki, bachata paso doble, cha cha cha as well as ping pong tournament, bingo, video quiz, arts and craft napkin folding, massage demonstration, oriental cooking demonstration and more. Take your pick!

Cruise ship early morning fog

Morning on deck with lots of stair walking. Early-bird sunrise watching is great!

At sea fitness centre

A rare moment: The well-equipped cruise ship fitnesscentre almost empty; it is almost fully occupied 24-7 6-22-7! Managed to ‘fit’ in though and get a good workout.
A facility for beginners and experienced exercisers side-by-side; machines, free weights and space for bodyweight exercises.
For cruise fitness, getting healthy on board: Legpress:

In the afternoon: Walked past the Zebra Bar and the pina coladas and into the Pigalle bar to do some dancing instead, one of several dance lessons that day.

Baltic cruise ship zebra bar

Baltic cruise danse uv 2

Suggested dress tonight is: GALA. This is an option only. You can always dine at the buffet or one of the other restaurants, but when going to the main restaurant why not play along:
Ladies: Dressy outfit, formal gown or cocktail dress (subdued or to the max).
Gentlemen: Tuxedo, dinner jacket or dark suit and tie.

Before dinner there are cocktails (and a photo shoot with the captain if so desired).
Dinner is galaish, delicious Italian cuisine (pasta, meat a.o.) topped off with merengue ice cream surprise ‘on fire’. Buon appetito (lousy photo, but may convey mood).


At sea, at sea, all day at sea; what is there to see? The sea! Is it boring? No!
The sea and the sky; never the same, always overwhelming and dramatic, or sometimes almost overly beautiful, looking like scam art, forcing cruise guests to take toooooooooo many look-alike boring photos it is almost embarrassing. 

Cruise ship holiday at sea sunset

Poor hair day. Poor composition;
happens when handing camera
over to imposters ‘hi, let me’
(poor co-photographer day).

At sea wake sky

Wake viewed through the window of the bar. Mesmerizing.

At sea sun sets

Sunset: Signal for time to go to Ship bar or Sandman encounter.