All part of the exercise
Splashing about ... Cancun. Photo: Alamy
Being on the road doesn't have to play havoc with your fitness regime, writes Steve McKenna.
Exercise tends to sink down the list of priorities when you're sightseeing, sunbathing, sipping cocktails and savouring exotic food.
But I always pack my running shoes when I set off on a trip. You never know when you'll be inspired to get a sweat on - especially when you're surrounded by magical scenery. Here are my most memorable jogging spots around the world.
On the run ... jogging along Flamengo Beach, Rio. Photo: Alamy
Rio de Janeiro
Cariocas (Rio residents) love their caipirinhas and all-night street parties, but they don't slack off in the fitness department. The city's beaches are always peppered with volleyballers and footballers, while joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers, skateboarders and power walkers flock to the promenades. Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema lure the body-conscious but, for me, you can't beat running past the waterfront suburbs of Flamengo and Botafogo. Distractions include the flashy yachts gliding across gorgeous Guanabara Bay, lofty landmarks (Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain) and a blur of tanned, toned cariocas.
Chateau de Chillon, Montreux. Photo: Getty Images
The main drawback of visiting Thailand's second-largest island in the rainy season is ... well, let's just say I was stuck inside for 48 hours, sheltering from a downpour so thunderous that rain started to leak through the roof of my Chaweng Beach cabin - and onto my pillow. I was tempted to call it quits and fly back to Bangkok. But suddenly, at dawn on the third morning, the rain stopped. The gloomy clouds and darkness dispersed. The sun rose - and shone brightly. Chaweng looked majestic, not least because I was the only person on it. I jogged up and down the soft white sands and dived in the shallow, blue, empty sea.
Venice Beach boardwalk is fine for jogging - if you don't mind dodging hundreds of tourists, dope-smoking dudes and fellow exercise freaks. For a serene alternative, try Runyon Canyon Park. A beguiling speck of natural beauty in gaudy Hollywood, edging the Santa Monica mountains, this public park is popular with dog walkers, yoga lovers and celebrities such as Orlando Bloom, Jessica Biel and Sheryl Crow. Runners can tackle a moderately steep dusty trail up to Indian Rock, a 402-metre-high lump that offers stirring panoramic views over LA. As the park has little shade, it's best to come at dusk. Not only is it cooler, you'll get to see the bright lights of the city sparking to life.
Death Valley in the Atacama Desert. Photo: AFP
Like LA, the sunsets in Perth are special. Many West Australians enjoy watching the sun melt into the Indian Ocean, with a stubby in hand, especially during their legendary Sunday Sessions. However, the spectacular sky, smeared with blues, yellows, oranges, pinks and reds, offers the perfect backdrop for an evening run by Cottesloe, City or Scarborough beaches. The Fremantle Doctor (a cooling afternoon breeze) takes the sting out of Perth's often punishing heat.
Nudging the emerald waters of Lake Geneva, Montreux is the heartbeat of the Swiss Riviera - a postcard-perfect region that came to prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries through the words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Lord Byron. It's easy to pile on the calories here - the town has fancy restaurants and heaps of enticing chocolatiers - but you can shed weight by running beside the lake, which is lorded over by green mountains doused in mist and snow. Make a beeline for Chillon Castle, a mediaeval lakeside fortress that featured in Byron's poem The Prisoner of Chillon.
An island with a markedly different vibe, this pristine Queensland escape is home to Whitehaven, a contender for Australia's best beach. I doubted it could match the glossy holiday brochure images, but, if anything, it was even more dazzling in reality - especially when admiring it from the Hill Inlet vantage point. Afterwards, my friends and I headed down to this curving seven-kilometre strip. While they were content to sunbake or snorkel, I jogged, barefoot, along the white silica sand as my ankles were kissed by warm turquoise waves. Bliss.
You'll struggle to believe it when you're caught up in rush hour on the Tube, almost knocked off your feet by a big red bus or surrounded by shoppers on Oxford Street - but London is one of Europe's greenest cities. There are hundreds of parks in which to stretch your legs, from the famous royal ones such as Hyde, Green and Regent's, to unsung oases such as Victoria, Richmond and Greenwich. I have a soft spot for Brockwell Park, a bucolic green lung with a cluster of sights (among them a beautiful walled garden, duck ponds, and an open-air swimming pool), plus sweeping views of the city's ever-evolving skyline. The Shard is particularly enchanting.
The beautiful tropical beaches of this glamorous Mexican holiday resort are a dream on which to work out. But, in a different way, it's just as satisfying pounding the vermilion running track that snakes its way from the glossy Zona Hotelera to the gritty streets of Centro. Cancun's humidity makes running a particularly sweaty, energy-sapping pastime. However, passing such a diverse mass of humanity (from dolled-up models to tubby Mayan pensioners) makes it an uplifting, rewarding and constantly intriguing experience, too. Be sure to take water.
As a rule, I don't overexert myself at altitude. The rarefied air makes it hard on the lungs. But sometimes, you get an urge. I was in Chile's Atacama Desert, more specifically the Valley of Death, which nestles more than 2500 metres above sea level. Eerily other-worldly, some say it got its name because of its barren nature. Others claim it's due to the number of bones - both animal and human - found here in years gone by. I almost keeled over after a five-minute jog along the parched, rocky terrain, but I was glad I did it. It was, I felt, the closest I'd get to exercising on another planet.