Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Running Update, Featuring Rome's Borghese Gardens

If you've been reading here for any time at all, you probably know that I run regularly, but in the light of my recent post contemplating whether I could benefit from doing 20% less, I thought it might be time to post about the current state of my fitness program. For those who are less interested in heart rates and kilometres run and yin yoga, I'll compensate with photos of Rome's beautiful Borghese Gardens where I was fortunate enough to run recently.

And look, I'll even include a What I Wore shot:
Not very exciting, is it? I must admit that once I've outfitted myself with good, technical running gear suited to the season, generally in black, I don't spend many extra dollars on this part of my wardrobe. Appearance is not the point. Indeed, I rather think that I get a "Pass," a "Bye," a "Get out of Jail Free" card on Appearance when I'm running, as you might tell by the cap (non-black! a friend brought it back for me from the New York Marathon that a certain hurricane prevented her from running) jammed over my bedhead of hair. I'd have thought that "no-makeup" went without saying, but I'm constantly surprised by the coiffure and maquillage of some of the other female runners I pass. . .

Not that I'm passing many. I'm not particularly speedy, but I have decent endurance. I've been trying to find a balance between running days and stretching (yoga) days, over the last year, but I'm building up my weekly distance again, trying to keep a 20-kilometre run as a relatively accessible distance. Up until about six months ago, I ran this at least monthly, but last fall's travel nudged me out of my training pattern. I ran my favourite 18-kilometre route again at the beginning of the New Year, but since then, I've stuck to 8 or 9-kilometre runs. This past weekend, though, I ran 11.5K, and the plan is to add to that each weekend, a kilometre or two at a time, until I'm comfortably back where I would like to be. Meanwhile, I'm trying to keep the mid-week runs at two, occasionally 3, 8 or 9K runs.

In Rome, for the first time ever I laced up and ran through new terrain on my own. Or, at least, new terrain in a new city. I've run new routes on my home turf where I have no trepidation at all in getting lost, except that I might add unplanned distance. And I charted new routes last spring when I guided my sister through the streets of Paris, a city I know fairly well. I've run solo in Bordeaux, but generally on routes Pater and I have already run together. So there was extra pleasure in running solo up to the Borghese Gardens from my daughter's place last month, heading through the gates after passing Harry's Bar, where the tables hadn't yet been set out.

Inside the gardens, not having a companion meant I was free to gaze at my surroundings as I ran, slowing down for photos whenever it pleased me. And it pleased me often -- indeed, this is a trick I've adopted lately for taking it easy when doing longer runs, and it's a trick that works toward that 20% less. I make sure that I intersperse these stop-for-a-camera-break runs with running-without-a-break runs, even running-with-a-faster-partner runs, but I know that extending a long run with photo opportunities that give me a chance to slow my heart rate is a reasonable way to keep running in my 60s.

So I have photos of fountains with horses. . .
 and photos of lemon and orange trees in walled gardens. . .

 and photos of empty benches wondering if I'd like to sit a spell. . .
 and photos of ornate buildings with their own scultpural bestiary. . .
 and photos of those wonderful umbrella pines of Rome that so inspired Respighi, filtering romantic early-morning sunlight. . .
 My favourite bench photo -- I may actually get this one enlarged, printed, and framed -- made it tough to keep running, as I just wanted to stop and gaze...
 And, okay, let me admit that perhaps I did for a while. Wouldn't you?
 I also stopped every time I came across an enclosed garden featuring citrus trees...
 And who wouldn't stop for horses!

What a grand way to start the day -- once I'd moved to my hotel (which I will post on very soon), I managed to get out for a run and back before breakfast was brought to my room. And while it's true that one does copious walking while visiting a new city, and so really doesn't need more exercise, I find that walking tightens everything up by the end of a day and running loosens somewhat. I also admit that part of my motivation was keeping any weight gain at bay -- all that gelato and wine and carciofi alla giudea and exquisite pizza and . . .  I logged my caloric intake and exercise output each day with My Fitness Pal, and it was worth the occasional morning run to have an extra 500 calories in the bank just waiting to be spent on the next plate of Cacio e Pepe...

I know there are some runners among my readers -- do you like to run when visiting new cities? Or do you give yourself a running vacation? (I often do, thinking it's good for the body to get a rest occasionally.) If you run on holiday, have you ever run solo? I use my iPhone and Google maps as a back-up, roughly plotting a route before I leave my accommodataion -- any other efficient and relatively safe ways of navigating? If you're a walker, the same questions apply, really? I'm sure you walk ample distances with your travel companions, but do you ever want to strike out at your own pace?

And if you're not much of a traveler, I'm still curious about you . . . do you have a program of some sort, formal or informal, relaxed or very organised, to maintain or to build fitness? Do you enjoy it? Do you try to vary it or to challenge yourself within it or do you prefer a routine you don't have to think about too much? For runners and walkers and yoginis and swimmers and paddlers -- all of you movers and shakers -- how much does your workout wardrobe matter? Do you have fun with fitness gear or is your approach strictly practical, like my own?

That's already enough questions to constitute a workout! Better stop there and wait for your answers. Let's have a conversation, shall we?

40 comments:

  1. That tightness you feel after city-walking might be a condition known in my family as Museum Shuffle-itis...caused by stopping and starting and dodging and general accommodation to someone else's pace. I'm not a runner but I treat this condition with fast, striding walks, preferably on a fairly flat and straight path.

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  2. So true, Georgia -- there's something about the standing in a crowded gallery that makes my legs seize up. Sometimes I even try to find a little corner where I can surreptitiously do a sneaky stretch or two. . . Striding walks would do that same kind of loosening that I get from running -- glad to know I'm not the only one and that you're family even has a great name for it! ;-)

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  3. I googled Paris maps in my iPhone in my hotel with WIFI and took screen shots of them so I would not get lost walking around Paris....I did lots of walking and lots of eating and did not gain any weight. My walks help me fight the battle of the bulge. Can never see myself as a runner but admire those of you who are dedicated to the sport. I have black Capri yoga pants and several tops that I wear for my long walks. I insist on supportive walking shoes or cross trainers.
    I am having massage for my shoulder and I love the looser effect of the muscles after treatment...think I might have found a new regime!

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    1. I did the same thing, L. -- took a screenshot of the Google maps I'd find when I had Free Wifi, although I also upped my phone plan so that I had enough data to use the GPS if I needed it. And like you, I was able to balance caloric intake with exercise output. So much nicer to come home without extra pounds.
      I'm a big fan of massage for healing injuries -- especially since my daughter is an RMT -- glad yours is working for you.

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  4. I am a swimmer, so typically for me a vacation also means a vacation from working out. Occasionally if my husband and I go away for a night or two to a hotel with a pool I'll take my (resolutely utilitarian) swimming kit, I'm an early riser so I can get my workout and shower in while my husband is still snoozing and as a bonus it occupies me for a while while I wait for him to wake up!

    Those of you who are runners might be interested in a free app called Walkonomics (walkonomics.org), which is basically a navigational app for pedestrians. It's designed to find not just the quickest but the most pleasant route in a city so it might help you plan a route that is sure to include some beautiful scenes to stop and take pictures of. :-) Doesn't include Rome yet, but 7 cities including London, Paris, and New York are covered, with plans for many more cities to come. (I am not in any way affiliated with the project though I've spoken with the founder and thought he was delightful.)

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    1. Swimming's less easy to do wherever you are, I can see, but I know that good feeling of getting a workout in while a partner sleeps. We have at least an hour's difference in our waking times, and that can be tough in the confines of a hotel room.
      Thank you so much for the information about Walkonomics -- I had a very unpleasant, very long walk one day in Rome, no possible escape from a dangerous highway shoulder which Google Maps had blithely included as part of the Walking route to a destination I'd requested. I look forward to testing this app for myself.

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  5. Wow Mater, the light in some of those photos! Marvellous!

    As you know, I am a baby runner. This winter I've been running on the treadmill at the gym, but I'm taking a break for a while because of some niggling hip discomfort. I need to build up my glutes a bit more with squats etc. As for clothing - I love to go to Winners and see what they have on offer, plus I use the t-shirts we get with the running clinic. But, like you, I'm pretty practical, and there's no way I'd be out there in make up!

    When we went to Nova Scotia last summer my husband and I kept up with my running maintenance in St. Andrews, NB, in Halifax and in Cape Breton. I don't think I'd want to do that on my own though, so good for you!

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    1. Isn't it splendid, Patricia?! I hadn't anticipated such beautiful light, such a dreamy running route. Just felt good about getting myself out the door on my own.
      You might be a baby runner, but you're clearly hooked! I'm really impressed by the way you've committed and by your really smart approach, laying down a solid foundation and carefully adjusting training whenever you bump into those helpful little warnings.
      I do most of my running solo, so that doesn't bother me, although in new terrain it's good to have a buddy -- I have to say that I'm not very likely to do trail runs on my own, as some of my (male and female) running friends do, nor would I run on my own at night (I only rarely run in the dark anyway). But cities, in daytime, with some awareness of neighbourhood, I'm generally okay...

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  6. I really admire your running very much.
    Before, I liked to walk a lot,went to a gym,during the summer lived on and under the sea (I still enjoy swimming ,in the way I can, and it is a wonderful exercise for me). Now, I am out of your(all of you!)league- I have exercise with my physical therapist and alone. I like nice T-shirt and leggings or yoga pants.
    What can I say about Rome pictures? Superb!
    Dottoressa

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    1. I'm sure you miss your former activity levels, and I hope I'm not unduly flaunting my own enjoyment of my current health and fitness. I hope that I would be able to follow your good example in finding ways to stay active even with a health setback -- This seems key to me -- we can't all exercise in the same way, nor should we, but we will probably all benefit from finding some form of exercise that is sustainable. Sometimes that will mean getting professional advice in the form of a physiotherapist or a personal trainer or what have you. . .
      Glad you like the pictures -- Rome is so photogenic!

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    2. Frances,sincerely,from the bottom of my heart,I enjoy every word about your, and other ladies as well, activities. I find happiness in it,not a sadness,and I am proud of you. So,please write more!
      And you are really very kind,thank you
      D.

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  7. Running must be s great way of seeing a city with the added bonus of looking and being very much like a local, although I can imagine that having to memorise the route could add a level of tension. I admire those like you who run so much. One day, one day.

    As to running gear, while an all black ensemble would be my pick too, I do love the look of all the brightly coloured athleisure stuff that the young lovelies are wearing.

    I have a question - the other day I saw a woman of about our age out running in the city. She was clearly incredibly fit and looked in the most toned shape. It was a cold late afternoon yet she was wearing just leggings and a bra top. Lots of bare flesh on show. I cannot decide what I feel about her attire. I want to cheer her for being in such good condition and for wearing what she darn well pleased but I do wonder how appropriate - and how safe - it was for her to be out alone in little more than her undies. What do you think?

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    1. I have to say that I get a bit embarrassed at being admired for running when I am so very far from athletic in any other way and when any ability I have is due to the luck of good health and a certain amount of discipline. Running is a good way to see a city, especially when you only have a limited time but still want feet on ground rather than simply bus tours or whatever.

      Like you, as a feminist, as woman supporting woman, I try not to be judgey when it comes to gear that seems, well, show-off'y, body-con, designed to attract attention -- especially because I think there's a tendency to be harder on older women who do this than on younger ones. And if anyone has an excuse to peel off layers, it's women of a certain age (or certain temperature!). Honestly, I don't think there's a safety issue -- she's a (pretty speedy) moving target, and anyway, that whole question of dress and sexual assault is fraught. I mean, generally rape is a crime of anger rather than sexual desire, at some level, and if he's going to be pissed off enough to want to put her in her place, she might be a target simply for running!
      But on a cold day, honestly? I just think it looks silly and I always suspect a desire to show off the body a woman's worked hard for. I work hard to temper that judgement, though, because I do know many women, especially younger ones, who love that feeling of air on skin as they run. And when I'm tempted to Tsk Tsk Tsk, I think of all the guys who run shirtless no matter their age, and no one says a thing (I'm always tempted to carry a few shirts to hand out to the most egregious offenders!)

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    2. Thank you - you have so eloquently clarified and expressed what I was feeling about her. She did look pretty fierce (in both the original and the current meaning) so I am sure she was perfectly safe.

      And you run. So you are an athlete. And therefore inspiring.

      (As are your other running commenters.)

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  8. I do like to run when in London and have not done so for a while. I know the city well but it is always different when you are running because you are consciously looking for good places to run. Through the City at lunchtime is not easy...but the parks and river walks are perfect and always busy with other runners. On holiday on Cape Cod I took off one morning along a country road to a lovely bay and had it all to myself. Running alone abroad - or even in another British location when away - is something I am going to return to. I have been doing a lot of long dog walks recently but am going to pick up the running again now I am back home from my last jaunt. The weather is cold but sunny, the best of running weather. And there is that 6 mile run in the distance...Like you, I am not fussed about what I look like when running but I am not one for revealing much at all. It isn't a beauty treatment.

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    1. I can't imagine running London at lunchtime -- I'm an early-morning runner anyway, so I'm generally out before it gets too crowded. My husband hates dodging other pedestrians on the sidewalk and gets impatient with traffic lights, but I think of it more as you might a cross-country run with a different set of challenges. You're bolder than I am running down long deserted roads on your own, although I did that a few years ago between villages in France. Given where you live, though, and the distances you've had to rack up for marathon training in the past, you'll be quite comfortable with road running. So far, that's rarely even an option for me.
      I have to disagree about running not being a beauty treatment, though neither of us fuss about our looks when running -- I suspect it's one of the best things I can do for my skin or for my overall appearance. Even more justification for not wearing makeup to do it, right?!

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  9. I run and/or walk weekday mornings in my neighborhood. I have a route that covers about 3 miles, or 7000 steps. I am almost 64 and have replaced some of my running with walks. I can go further walking but it doesn't keep my heart rate up like running does. I wear a Virgin Pulse and a Fitbit to keep track of my progress. I start at 5:30am and end about 6:30. I don't vary this time/distance during the week. The key for me is making it a habit. No snooze button, just get out of bed, put in my contacts, take a sip of coffee and out the door. Recently I've started listening to audible books on my Iphone(currently Anna Karenina). I like the meditative aspect of exercising alone. As the weather improves, I add additional activities - walking to the store when I only need a few things, yard work, with a goal of 15,000 steps a day. On vacations, my husband and I don't run because our paces are different. Instead we walk everywhere and only take public transportation when absolutely necessary. We were in London, Paris and Rome last fall and found all three cities extremely walk-friendly. Our travel plan was to walk to the perimeter of the city and visit as many parks as possible. We did a fantastic walk in Rome that included the Borghese and non-touristy parts of the city. Your post is bringing back wonderful memories. At home, I definitely cover up and wear black clothing most of the time. We have LED street lights which make pedestrians and runners quite visible. Still, one must be careful.

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    1. I like your balance between running and walking, the latter being easier on the body and probably more sustainable. And I'm absolutely with you on making the walk or run a habit -- I don't have to fight to get myself out the door as I did once upon a time. It's simply become a regular habit. 15,000 steps a day is a very healthy habit!
      Yes, if you're running in any kind of limited visibility (rain, fog, dark) it's so important to take care -- I'm pleased that these days, even the black gear tends to have reflective or coloured strips.
      In complete agreement as well on the meditative aspect of exercising alone. Others love the motivation of making it a social activity, but I crave finding my own rhythm, in mind and body.
      Happy to find someone else who enjoyed walking in Rome.

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    2. You might enjoy this blog:
      http://romethesecondtime.blogspot.com/
      The writing is excellent and their books are a good investment. We have followed several of their itineraries. Highly recommended. For return visitors to Rome, this takes you to another level.

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  10. I walk 3 times a week for an hour with a girlfriend. We keep each other honest. It is not possible to "roll over" and forget about going on a cold Buffalo morning because I know my friend Susan is waiting for me. The only concession we make to the weather is to "mall walk" on mornings when there is too much snow or the temperature drops into the low teens. I also take Pilates three times a week. For my retirement present, I splurged an bought myself a reformer.I have been following this routine for three years and it works for me!

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    1. You're so lucky to have a regular walking partner to ensure you get those three weekly walks in. Between that and the 3x Pilates, you've got a great fitness foundation. I did Pilates in a small, really fabulous Reformer class for ten years and I loved it, but logistically it stopped working for me and I switched to yoga. A reformer at home would be great!

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  11. I don't run, so I can't accomplish much mileage while traveling, but I do always take at least a day to walk everywhere I can, and I have become proficient in estimating how long it will take to get from A to B (and back) via C, D, and maybe even E! On one of my walks, you can imagine how delighted I was to stumble upon sculpture that I had once seen on your blog, and squeal with joyous recognition. So I am always appreciative of your photographic documentation of your wanderings, not only for their intrinsic beauty, but because I too might find myself wherever someday . . .

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    1. I've been to E once or twice as well. That's when you tend to stop for a coffee at D or C on the way back, and desperately need a foot massage when you pass A and make it back to your room. ;-) Which sculpture was it that you saw? Did you already tell me about that in an earlier comment? (I think I would have remembered -- the connection is so cool!)

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    2. As you described them: "Vancouver artist Babak Golkar's 'participatory' work -- the terracotta vessels apparently are 'designed to contain sound' and the interpretive plaque exhorts the observer to 'Step up and release your emotions.'" I didn't do any emotional releasing, either, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. As I enjoyed sorting through your Vancouver blog entries to find this one again!

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    3. So glad you got to see these -- they were great, right? If you're ever back in the neighbourhood, check this space because the installations change regularly. In fact, I should see what's up over there now. Thanks for the kind attention. . .

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  12. Stunning photographs Frances... I would definitely enlarge and frame the one of the bench. Good to see it everyday ...
    Due to back problems I don't run anymore. Not that I was much of a runner:) even at the gym I would prefer to set the treadmill to steep inclines and walk briskly. However I do love to walk at every opportunity. I walk most days at home ..rarely using the car except for long journeys. When we re travelling we also prefer to base ourselves where we can explore places on foot. Rome was perfect for this as is Paris and London. With some help from the Underground to get to outlying areas such as Richmond etc. Personally I find walking makes and keeps me happy! It can be the perfect antidote to dull days and difficult stressful times. Walking on cool, crisp sunny days is just the best! :)
    Rosie

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    1. I often let go of the running for walking when we're travelling -- there's no question that if you do enough of it (and it's easier, perhaps to do enough of, than running) it will keep you very fit -- and happy, as you say! I'm the same way. Nothing nudges me back into a decent mood as quickly, really, once I commit.

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  13. Very interesting post for me as a trying-to-be-a-beginning-runner. I started recently in my phase of getting fit for retirement, through my workplace Jog Scotland group (a great organisation), and had to stop after 3 weeks because of sore knees. I have never had sore knees in my life! Problem diagnosed by our fantastic sports injuries clinic at my uni as overly strong thigh muscles but weak glutes and adductors. Cutting a very long story short, one of the jog leaders whose enviable, low impact running style I commented on lent me a copy of 'Chi Running'. This made so much (as yet theoretical) sense to me in terms of listening to your own body and the need to recapture natural running that I have signed up for a chi running plus yoga workshop - and enrolled my husband too. Do you know about chi running? It sounds as if you might.
    Through accident I've ended up with a very coordinated set of running gear which actually makes me self conscious because it looks as if I've set out to achieve it. Very matchy-matchy.
    I have never run in a city apart from Paris when I was a student researching at the Bibliotheque Nationale - and that was a while ago. I've also never been alone visiting a city since I was a student - always with family, husband or work colleagues. Hmmm, you're making me realise what a bubble I'm in. We did a house exchange with a family from LA - the husband ran all over Edinburgh in the early mornings, including some places I would avoid, but he came to no harm. How do you research as opposed to plan/plot your running routes abroad or in unfamiliar cities?

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    1. Yes! I've heard of and been very intrigued by Chi Running, got a passionate account of it when buying running shoes a couple of years ago. In the end, I decided not to mess with what is currently working for me -- I've always felt non-athletic, worried about not being able to do activities properly, and the idea of learning how to run "properly" ended up making me feel uptight, although I do realise that's missing the point entirely. It's a gut thing!
      I'm really keen to hear what your experience with it is -- perhaps a guest post someday (you know, in your spare time?@!)
      I didn't do solo travel, except for conferences, during my busy years either, and my trip to Rome was actually to see my daughter. . . Why not enjoy the bubble while we're in it, but I am also conscious of those friends whose lives became, involuntarily, independent ones, and I do like to know I might adapt...As for researching routes, perhaps I should save that for a separate post. Good question!

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  14. I so envy you your running, Frances. I had to abandon it years ago...knees, then corrective orthotoics, which then had weird effects on my hips... and Stu and I concluded that if I wanted to be active for years to come I'd better try something else. Bad joints run in the family...two sisters and a mum with various levels of arthritis makes me cautious. Still...there's nothing like the freedom of running, especially on one's own. I could never run with anyone, even Stu. I hate talking and being distracted from the moment. Although I love to power walk with two friends once a week in the summer... I much prefer my solitary walks. Just PD James (or whatever book I'm listening to) on the i-pod and me and the great outdoors. Love those shots of early morning in Rome. Lovely to see the world before everyone wakes up, isn't it? Not that I see that very often:)

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    1. Well, I envy you your cross-country skiing and snowshoeing!
      I do like to see (and hear! it's a different soundscape at dawn) the world before it awakes...
      Curious to know what you might make of one of the links in my latest post, about exercise and silence. . .

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  15. Gorgeous place to run! I don't remember it being free when I was last in Rome. Did you have to pay to get into it for you run? One of my favorite travel runs in recent years was a run in Florence on our honeymoon. It felt so much more capacious after trying to run in Siena. I'm hoping to get in a few good runs in Costa Rica here in a few weeks even though it will likely feel super hot and humid.

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    1. You have to pay to get into the Borghese Gallery (which houses some important Bernini sculptures) -- and you have to reserve tickets for that ahead of time, and there's also a charge for the Zoo, but I can't imagine them ever having charged for the park itself (which is quite big).
      We were going to have a day trip to Florence this last visit, but my granddaughter was ill and plans were scuttled. Probably just as well, as it sounds like a place to linger a bit -- must have been a wonderful spot to honeymoon.
      Costa Rica?! Wow! that will be a huge change from running in Alaska!!

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  16. Haven't even finished this post but I have to comment on that photo of the trees and mist. You MUST enlarge it. It's spectacular. And I'm continually impressed by your running (which has never been my thing, as you know). There aren't many 60-something runners, in the scheme of things, I imagine. The fact that your body permits this is a sign that you're working with it well - and that kind of synergy is one of life's greatest miracles!

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    1. Thanks re the photo. I really have to do this -- there is def. a danger that I'll commit to doing so and then procrastinate until I accidentally delete.... Also thanks re the running -- I think you might be right about my body working with the program I've settled into. It's a treat, for sure!

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  17. On the topic of your question about fitness and travelling, I don't travel enough for it to be an issue :-) But I do bring a yoga kit with me (couple of props and mat). I also walk constantly - upwards of 8 hours a day. I feel that those things (sort of) compensate for the amount of eating and drinking I do while I vacation.

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    1. I've thought about this because I'd like to keep up some yoga while travelling, but it truly won't work with carry-on! The mat is really important, though, and it can be tough to improvise. Also really miss my block (my hips are so tight) and books? just aren't the same!

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  18. I adore the Borghese Gardens. Now I want to return. Standing, shuffling, slow walking, makes my back and legs sieze up, and it is harder to stretch my calves when I am travelling somehow. I'll never be a runner; my back will not take it, but I must walk, steadily walk, not amble along, in comfortable supportive cushioned sneakers at some point or I will pay. Style be damned.

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    1. Yes, there's something about the steady, even brisk walk, that helps correct that standing and slow walking that seems so lethal to back, hips, legs...you should plan to get back to Rome. Take in an opera, walk through the Borghese Gardens, eat carciofi alla judia....oh, I'd better stop. I'm surprised how smitten I am with Rome.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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