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Le Jogging

BPRA friend recently sent me a blog post about running in Paris, or “Le Jogging” (thanks Kim), which was a great commentary on how different cultures think about exercise.  Here’s an excerpt I loved:

“While I get the sense that Parisians are becoming more and more intrigued by fitness, there is still something funny about watching a Parisian jog with intent….I’m referring to the ones who run as if they’re making a pact to themselves that they can still smoke and drink to their heart’s content as long as they squeeze in a half-hour circuit; their stride is wobbly and their cheeks are betterave (beet) red. I’m convinced they would much rather be in bed, sweating à deux.”   

Like food, the ways people around the world think about exercise (what it is, why it matters, when and how to do it) vary dramatically.  I saw this firsthand during the summer of 2007 when I joined a team of 20 runners to run around the world (literally) for safe drinking water.  We ran relay-style, 24 hours a day from NYC to NYC via Boston, Dublin, Paris, Minsk, Moscow, Ulan Bator, Beijing, Hiroshima, San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto (you can see the full route in a very beautiful book called Blue Planet Run, available on Amazon).  It took us 95 days to circumnavigate the globe — with each of us running 10 miles per day.

Along the way we learned a ton about the way that people live, and as a byproduct of being on the road at all hours of the day and night, how people think about exercise.  To start, I learned that “formal” exercise is flat out foreign in some places (“no, I’m not being chased”)…clear skies and fresh air shouldn’t be taken for granted (think insane horseflies in Belarus and oppressive smog in China)….workout fuel doesn’t need to come wrapped in plastic (beer, yak cheese, and horse meat do just fine for many)…and exercise doesn’t to be an “activity,” it can be a way of life.  More on all of this to come…

The world is a big place, and travel is the best reminder that what we think is “normal” might not look that way somewhere else.  What has travel taught you about exercise and overall well-being?  Has travel changed the way you live your everyday life?

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