I’m really excited about today’s guest post because it is written by my younger sister, Rebecca. Rebecca is currently working in Malawi. There are a lot of reasons I admire Rebecca but two of them are her dedication to fitness (she’s competed in multiple triathlons) and her willingness to embark on adventures. I love this post because she provides advice about both of these passions. If you’re like me, you may not be a “fellow triathlete” but these tips for getting in a workout relate to everyone.
Being an American woman in Malawi has a whole set of challenges. As a female triathlete I’ve come across a particular type of problem: exercising. I have become quite comfortable doing burpees in a modest skirt that covers my knees. I have managed to disregard the stares as I come running down the streets crowded with minibuses, bicycles, and more “normal” people who just walk. One of my favorite places to go is the Lilongwe Golf Club. The Club, though ostensibly a remnant of the colonial period, also makes an excellent place to run stare-free. I am not proud of the colonial exclusivity of the place but it does provide a peaceful escape whenever the urge to breathe dust-free air strikes.
Some tips from one triathlete to another on how to maintain sanity when resources are limited:
1. Always keep an eye out for stairs. When you see them, take them!
2. Know when the sun rises and when the sun sets. Try to capitalize on every second of sunlight to get in a workout before you lose your chance. In Malawi, everyone (and I mean everyone) tries to make it home before dark. This is typically because the roads are dark and not all cars have proper headlights so it becomes quite dangerous to be a pedestrian. I’ve found that running as the sun is setting is a beautiful way to feel like a rebel. It’s also a great way to improve my speed since I have to make it home no matter where I am as the “warm sun of Africa” dwindles.
3. Pack a jump rope and exercise bands in your carry on. What’s better than lightweight, portable gym equipment when you don’t have time to make it outside before dark? This is also a good indoor workout perfect for those moments when you want a little zen. The only one staring this time might be your dog (as is the case with my 3 guard dogs who like to run around and bark at the jump rope).
4. Don’t be afraid to jump in an unheated pool, even if its winter. Well, this one is cheating a little because the hardcore aspect of it completely depends on what winter feels like wherever you’re traveling. In Lilongwe, winter is a balmy April morning in New York. But still, jump in!
5. When all else fails, practice the art of meditation and yoga. Sit calm and breathe. Fitness is supposed to make you feel good, not add intense stress to your life. I LOVE to run around like a little kid but sometimes the situation just doesn’t allow. When that happens I try to remind myself that it’s ok if you don’t break a sweat everyday.
I hope these tips help my fellow athletes/travelers/crazy kids balance a healthy lifestyle with a passion for adventure. Adventures await!