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Did you "train" for the walking on an RS tour?

How did you non-athletes build up to the walking required on an RS Tour? Specifically, I'm asking about Venice/Florence/Rome, where several days are marked as strenuous. I work a pretty sedentary office job, so I use a pedometer to make sure I am moving enough (often, the answer is no). If I'm doing 4-5 miles most days, would I be OK, or should I be looking at a real walking program, say, building up to 8 miles a day?

I'm probably overthinking this, but I'd rather be too ready than not fit enough!

Posted by
1780 posts

It's good that you are thinking about this beforehand. You don't want to be "the one" holding up the group or gasping for breath on the hotel stairs. Even though I'm in pretty good shape, I always start walking every night in preparation for a vacation, once I realized that basically a European or urban vacation is non-stop walking. Or I shift from the elliptical to the treadmill at the gym.

You also want to start breaking in your travel shoes if they are new.

Posted by
1173 posts

Yes, I try to "train" for the RS tours. You need to walk more and take stairs when you can. As said the elliptical and treadmill ( I use both) are very helpful. You do walk a lot, but you also stand a lot on the tours. Just keep doing as much walking and exercise as you can. If you have hand weights that would be great to start using them too. You do need to lift your luggage and being strong helps. Using hand weights help. Just plain exercise aside from walking will be a great benefit. Plus you do want to get fit as the food is wonderful and you will have plenty in Italy. Have a great time.

Posted by
1583 posts

Don't let that " strenous" cause anxiety. The guides make sure there are breaks and most people can find places to sit or lean during the walks. Yes, you want to get in the best shape possible because it will help with endurance over the course of the tour, but the guides are quite expert at gauging the pace to set. Distance is important, but stair climbing and elevation gain are crucial as well.

You will have a wonderful time!

Posted by
21202 posts

Never taken a RS tour but we train all of our European trips. We bicycle a fair amount so we already have some conditioning. However, we make sure we are using the same shoes AND socks that we plan to use in Europe. Then lay out 5 miles walking loops that have some up and downs - vertical curves (hills to non-civil engineers). We try to walk that aggressively (about an hour and half) every other day for about a month prior to leaving. The other thing we do a lot of stretching of the lower calf. A good exercise is to stand barefoot on the last step, use you toes to grip the front of the step, and drop your heels slowly several times. I do that exercise three or four times a day.

Posted by
672 posts

TMJ,

It probably depends somewhat on how young and healthy you are. When we've taken our kids on RS tours, I'm sure they did nothing to prepare, but they're all very active normally and they were in their 20s. We, however, at 70 and 80, prepare seriously! Right now, we're averaging 6 - 8 miles a day. It's not only about keeping up with the tour members, but also enjoying yourself and you're not going to do that when you're exhausted.

Posted by
8248 posts

Yes, I do train. I was worried last year when I signed up for the BOE as some of the reviews indicated some days were 10-12 miles. The reviews were right! We did at least 10 miles in both Amsterdam and Rome.

I have a base walk of 4 miles, then I did what I did years ago when I was jogging and bumped up my distance. You keep your base mileage, then one day a week you bump up by 10% or so while continuing to do your base miles the other days. I walked by time so it was easy to bump up by 10 minutes or so that one day each week. So, week 1 is your base mileage + 10 minutes, second week base + 10 + 10, third week base +10+10+10, 4th week back to mileage/time for week 2, then week 5 do our 3rd week mileage plus 10 more minutes. I worked up to 10 miles 1 day a week, with 4 miles 2 or 3 times a week. This is really more than 10% each week, but I walk on a trail and it was easy to just walk 5 minutes further which would give me 10 more minutes out and back. I do find that walking outdoors for me is much different than just getting in 4 or 5 miles (or 8,000-10,000steps) a day with daily activity.

I was so glad I did this! Not only was I sure that my shoes did well with my 10-milers but I was prepared too. I do not think you are overthinking this...but well, laughing, I tend to overthink things! By the way, I am overweight and 65 and by no means an athlete!

I am sure whatever you do you will have a wonderful time! I would guess that you will walk the furthest in Rome.

Posted by
1829 posts

Yes, I train. I wander around the yard behind the lawn mower and take a nap. I'm now seventy-five.

Posted by
31293 posts

TMJ,

I also "train" to a certain extent before every trip, whether I'll be taking a tour or not. I walk a lot more when travelling than I normally do at home, so getting used to walking longer distances is a good idea. I also get to the gym several times a week, but that's not the same type of exercise as when I'm travelling.

One other thing to prepare for on "strenuous" days is standing for long periods of time during local walking tours. I find that to be more of an issue than the walking.

Posted by
796 posts

We have never taken a RS tour but we travel constantly and so so quite a bit of walking and hiking year around. Since you are a very sedentary worker, you will not make it on the tour if you just measure your steps per day. A strenuous walking day means you will spend hours doing strenuous walking all at once and hiking, climbing up stairs, and climbing hills. You need to prepare because you can't just walk some on flat ground a bit then sit back down no matter how many miles you do a day. This is going to be sustained physical exertion for hours and probably with a backpack. You will go up steep hills and maybe hundreds of steep stairs. I would suggest a daily regimen of sustained outdoor walking with a backpack and including many stairs and steep hills. Start slow and work up. You are wise to want to be ready and I applaud you for that.

Posted by
527 posts

If you're going to start a walking program, one thing you might consider is to have a "destination" for your route. I will walk TO something, say, the library or the store, and then have somebody (spouse?) pick me up. Or I will have somebody drop me off 2, 3, 4 or 5 miles from home, and then walk home. That changes up the "out and back" pattern. It can be more interesting. Or just combining your walk with an errand, and bringing some groceries home in your backpack. And you could also make youself a chart to record your progress....sure, on your computer would work, but how about a colorful one right there on your refrigerator, with stars and stickers? :)

Posted by
1881 posts

We've been on a couple of Rick Steves' tours, and no, we did not train ahead of time. But, we are very active, and really long walks, hill climbing, etc. does not phase us.

But, as Ken posted, the long periods of standing (relatively still) is something I noticed, and sometimes walking more slowly than I am used to (such as in a museum or going at a slower 'group pace' walking with a tour group) is something that will bother my back a tiny bit. When my husband and I travel on our own, we can go at a bit faster pace, and it is not as tiring.

But (seriously) since you are asking the question, if you have any concern whatsoever, do 'train' a bit. Do an extra mile or two of 'intense' walking each evening when you leave the office (or at lunchtime), and do some 'group strolling' with friends just to practice having to pace yourself with others.

.....and extra exercise you get in the process is likely good for you anyway. And, not knowing if your BMI is good/bad, etc., it is hard to advise.

A few times when we have taken cruises, we've seen one or two (usually over-weight) people on shore excursions who huffed and puffed after taking 3-4 steps to enter a bus. If someone is in that kind of physical shape, likely they would need A LOT of training for a RS tour. But, if you could participate in a local fundraiser 10-mile walk-a-thon and keep a reasonable walking pace (and mentally factor in some breaks every two miles or so....since the tours do not go 10 miles without stopping), then you would likely be fine.......just remember, the next day you would have to do at least half of a walk-a-thon, and ditto for several days after that.

But, generally the Rick Steves' tours are designed for the mass market, not athletes. But, I've never seen a person on a RS tour that was totally unfit. I think the disclaimers he gives causes people to 'self select' if they would fit in (or personally enjoy the activities).

Just the fact you are aware, you would likely do okay.....but, yes, maybe step up the walking a bit and include hills and rough surfaces. And, as other posters said, don't go on a tour with new shoes......wear comfortable, well-broken in shoes AND SOCKS!! And, put a different pair of shoes on for the evening or afternoon. Just changing shoes sometimes relaxes the feet.

Posted by
1068 posts

I've been on 5 RS tours and several other tours as well. As a rule, I exercise 5 days per week...... 3-4 days walking about 5-6 miles and 1-2 days doing light weights. Also, I take steps whenever possible and get little "extra" walks in (like the .5 mile walk to get my hair cut.) There were only 2 parts on RS tours which I found tough, the ascent from the Škocjan Caves and some optional hikes on the Greece tour. I was able to do them ok, without slowing people down, but they were "hard" for me. I would guess you would be okay if you can do 4-5 miles at a stretch (not throughout the course of a day.) As stated by another poster, there are breaks, stop offs, pacing etc. and generally it is easy to find a spot to rest. As an aside: a) before a tour I get pretty obsessive about getting my walks in, b) I will increase the length a bit, c) I time myself to make sure I am pushing and not just ambling along.

Posted by
21 posts

Thank you all for this great response! In terms of my age and weight, I am 50 and am not overweight. I'm going to fit in walking wherever I can--thanks for that recommendation. Fortunately, I have an adjustable standing desk at work, so I can definitely train for the standing part! I'm also going to concentrate on stairs, both at home and work. As others have said, there's obviously a huge benefit to all this exercise beyond just the tour.

Posted by
500 posts

Appears you'll be okay for the walking portion. For most people it's not the cardio but the strength and endurance that tires them out. You really need to be able to stand in one place whether in a musuem or lsitening to a guide outdoors, going up and down stairs throughout the day, keeping your balance on cobblestone streets, and being able to carry your bag up and down stairs.
Any body resistance/light weight training exercises you can add to your walking routine will reward you later. Think: Squats, Wall sits, Balancing on 1 leg, Pushups (do them from wall or your knees), Bridges, Arm exercises with exercise bands or light weights. It's good for our bodies/bones anyways.

Posted by
333 posts

I think people get overly worried about the word "strenuous". Granted, I've not been on a RS tour (yet), but consider that even a 10 mile day is probably taking place over a 10+ hour period. You're stopping and starting and pausing to look at things and hear about them. It's not like you're power walking for miles at a time without a break- who'd want to go on that tour? When I toured Russia 3 years ago I was warned about the hectic pace touring the major cities. We'd walk about 8 miles. It was never a problem and I didn't do any training for that (and was pretty sedentary). My feet would tire in the museums after a while and I certainly slept well, but keeping up was a non issue. Folks are right when they mention being prepared for steps and uneven surfaces and such. If you're typically sedentary then "training" might a great idea, especially if you're dreaming of hiking the trails in the alps or taking the steps to the top of.... (insert tall building of choice here). Because I'm hoping to drop a few pounds and build stamina I've been walking 2 miles a day on a treadmill at various inclines, doing some biking and swimming between a half mile and a mile a day. I plan to add an evening outdoor walk of 1-2 miles next week. But I'm training more for my own health benefits than for fear of being able to keep up. I'll lag behind, but only because I'm an avid picture taker!

Have fun on your trip TMJ!
Lisa

Posted by
21 posts

Lisa--It sounds like your plan is very doable. I've been thinking of my last international travel experience, too: China in 1996, at a time when I was a runner, 20 years younger, and still not quite ready for the level of exertion--particularly on the Great Wall! However, this trip sounds very different on all counts.

Yesterday after work I went to our local nature center and hiked the trails for awhile. It was gorgeous and so exhilarating, and something I probably would not have done if I didn't have a goal to reach. Who knows--this trip could be my re-introduction to an active lifestyle, which would be just what I need at this point in my life.

Posted by
350 posts

I start running marathons a few months before any RS tour. Usually, that is enough to keep up with most of the tour guides. But, some of the very young fit ones, well... are just beyond my old bones' ability to keep up with. So, if the walk is strenuous, I just find a caffè and hang out drinking coffee or wine for a few hours. On occasion that is a great way to spend some vacation time.

Seriously, the idea that you have to be an athlete to do a 'strenuous' day's walking is ridiculous. Sometimes, the optional hikes and walks offered by the guides are a bit of trial. (And the optional stuff is one of the great things about the RS tours.) I remember the Sicilian 'Death March' we did along a coastal beach trail on a hot July day. Shouts of 'Troppo! Troppo!' could be heard, but everybody made it to the air conditioned bus waiting for us at the end of the trail.

Posted by
5979 posts

Agree with Diane on strength training. I find that my back tires out before legs, so I work on that. I think the best exercise for walking is walking. Running is great but different muscles are in play. I used to get shin splints from sudden strenuous walking even if I've been running diligently.

Posted by
333 posts

TMJ~ I just had a very nice post on one of my threads from a RS tour guide. Some of what she said would apply to your thread as well, so I'll share:

"With the walking - don't underestimate yourself! I have been an assistant guide on the BOE and know what it is about. You are doing all the right things - walking, taking stairs etc. My advice is to build on what you are doing but also on your walk go up and down some hills or 2-3 miles a day if you have the time. On tour, we do not walk 8 miles straight. It can add up to 8 miles during the day but I call them "fun miles" because it usually involves a local guided tour for 2 hours or so (lots of walking, stopping, standing) and maybe a museum tour on top of that - then you are set free and you find yourself visiting other sights, walking around, checking things out and all of a sudden - 8 miles without even realizing it."

Posted by
210 posts

Honestly, you really need to increase your activity level with at least extended walking and taking stairs when available. I have never been expected to run or jog on a Tour….lol. You want to enjoy your trip and do more than the daily walking tour and then "sleeping it off" at the hotel in the afternoons. You want to experience as much as you can. PLUS……you will just feel better!!!

Tour or no Tour, I regularly go to a gym 3 times a week. Stationary bike (25 minutes typically) and light weight training. Being a teacher I am on my feet a lot during the day. I mow my own yard. I have never had any issues with the "strenuous" tour days. I have always added a lot of extra "mileage" during "free time".

FWIW……I have been on 7 tours since having bilateral hip replacements. You can do this!!!!!!!!

Posted by
210 posts

FWIW…..Alumni of the Sicilian/Zingaro "Death March"……lol

Posted by
8248 posts

Laughing, because I am a graduate of the Dimitri Rome Death March, lol!

Rankster's post reminded me of something Dimitri said on our BOE tour when someone said he was walking too fast. He said, "walk right with me and you will find my pace is good. The further back in the pack you are the more you will have to scramble to keep up." He was SO right! So if you find you are having to work to keep up, then get up closer to your guide.

Posted by
23 posts

Our first RS tour was Venice/Florence/Rome. I am a nurse and on my feet for about 10 hours straight, but since we live in a very flat locale in Florida, and no steps at home, I did train on steps at work, after work - 3 times per week for about 6 weeks. I started at 15 minutes and added 5 minutes every day until I was doing an hour each time. I think Rome was the most strenuous as far as hills are concerned. For our Berlin, Prague, Venice tour, I didn't train at all, but still on my feet 10 hours per day at work. In 6 weeks we will be going to Paris and Heart of France - I will start "training" soon, since it looks like there are more hills to climb there.

Posted by
266 posts

I'd like to say I train like Monte, LOL! I am a regular exerciser anyway, so "training" is not what I call it. Having said that, I am scheduled on the Athens and the Heat of Greece tour in June, and recently began adding the stair-master into my routine approx. once a week. Boy, it's tough! I'm a fit and healthy late 40ish woman, but who knew that 5 minutes on some stairs could knock me flat. I do NOT want to be the one that has to stop every other minute to catch their breath. Of course, previous tours have always been more walk and stand a bit, then walk and look a bit. I think I'll be okay. Since we carry our backpacks (instead of rolling luggage), core workouts are important. Really, regular exercise is important for all of us so "training" can only benefit us (there's my soapbox!) in the end. Have fun on your trip!!!

Posted by
21 posts

Replying to my own post here, now that my tour is done (sadly)....

First, thank you so much for all of the great replies. It was very helpful and reassuring to hear from people who had experienced RS tours in the past.

RE the walking, I did fine. With the tour plus all the additional walking I did on my own (in other words, every waking minute), my FitBit told me I was averaging 10-12 miles a day. I never did get blisters until the last day, when I broke my usual strolling stride to run for a taxi--kind of interesting. Also crucially important were my shoes, Brooks Addiction walkers--definitely not the prettiest shoes in town, but I would not have been able to put on the mileage I did without them. Your brand may vary. Just make sure you break them in well. I also used SmartWool socks. I had first tried a synthetic blend at home and found them too sweaty, and that's with far less walking than I did in Italy.

The stairs were another matter. I was never in a situation where others had to wait for me, thankfully, but being winded after a few flights every day wasn't fun. (Of course, I eventually got in shape, just in time to go home to my relatively stairless life!) Our hotel room in Florence required seven flights of stairs, if I remember correctly. So, my advice is: train for stairs! You'll be a lot more comfortable and quick on the road, and obviously, it's great for your health in general.

Thanks again for all the good advice.

Posted by
8248 posts

TMJ, thanks for coming back with the update. I am not ever sure if I actually want the info on my FitBit, lol. It sounds like you did well and how very interesting you had blister problems the last day. Probably got some shear from the sprint. Anyway, it sounds like you had fun!

Posted by
1881 posts

Congratulations!! Sounds like you did great.

And, now you'll be able to provide a valuable perspective when you see others (who have not been on the tours) ask questions about walking/stairs, etc.

Hope you enjoyed Italy!!! It's a lovely, special country :)

Posted by
14326 posts

Yes, TMJ, stairs are key. I feel like I do anywhere from 150-400 stairs a day in Italy. And for others looking at this thread, I always have some moleskin, a couple of bandaids and blister pads in my day pack. It's so much easier to stick something on your foot when you start to feel uncomfortable than to be limping by the end of the day and maybe for a lot longer.