“It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before…to test your limits…to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” - Anais Nin
Too often, we play small, we remain within the confines of our comforts, we doubt our ability to become anything other than what we already know. And yet, every single year around December, most of us dare to think about what could be, as we pen New Year’s resolutions in our minds and allow ourselves to consider, if only for a moment, “what if”? Well, what if I told you that those things deemed "impossible" are quite within reach, and that all it takes is a push- a push beyond the familiar, beyond the shelter of routine, beyond muscular inertia? Many of us have a standard bucket list- a list of places we want to see and activities we'd like to do before we die- but what about one designed to expand your physical and mental limitations? Part I of the BIG list details 20 Fitness Bucket List Adventures in Southeast Asia, designed to inspire both body and soul, and Part II marches northward to Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, India, Nepal and Mongolia. Let your imagination roam and then commit to playing BIG. Pick one, two, four or eight adventures to tackle and make 2014 the year when “what if” is replaced with “hell yeah!”
1. Run the Green Corridor 10.5k 18th May, 2014
The Green Corridor Run offers a rarely seen side of Singapore, where lush greenery and thick woodlands offer a brief reprieve from the high rises and bustle of city life. Due to the rustic terrain, remnants of track ballast and the occasional muddy puddle, this trail run is a bit more challenging than your average 10k.
2. Participate in the OCBC Singapore Cycle Race 28th-30th March, 2014
OCBC Cycle Race is a mass participation cycling event held at the F1 Pit Building for riders of all ages and levels of experience. Bring the kids, your friends or significant other, and cycle along Marina Bay- there are categories for all levels, including a 59km Super Challenge.
3. Hike from Bukit Timah to MacRitchie Reservoir
Trek through lively tropical rainforest while keeping an eye out for macaque monkeys, monitor lizards, and various splendid species of fish, birds, snakes and insects. The hike from Bukit Timah to MacRitchie is moderately difficult, spanning approximately 15k and taking anywhere from 3-7 hours, depending on how often you stop to enjoy the rare sights and sounds of nature. Hold on to your sports drinks and snacks! The monkeys like to steal them.
4. Run the Sundown Half Marathon 31st May, 2014
Get out your glow-in-the-dark baubles and don some neon running sneakers! The Sundown Half Marathon begins past most people’s bedtimes and will test not only your endurance, but also your ability to stay awake! Leg cramps and muscle fatigue are common, so train smart by adding in a few night runs during your training and staying hydrated.
5. Join a Dragon Boat Racing Team
Dragon Boat Racing has been soaring in popularity in recent years as awareness through local festivals and associations spreads among locals and expats alike. A quick Google search will reveal a slew of themed teams, many of them representing different countries and clubs, like the British Dragon Boat Team, American Dragons Gaelic Dragons Singapore, and Singapore National Team. Find a team that floats your boat and contact them directly.
6. Go on a Vipassana Meditation 10 Day Course
Seeking enlightenment? Aren’t we all? Perhaps unplugging to meditate in complete silence for 10 days is just what the doctor ordered for your mental fitness regimen. For those of you with monkey minds who can’t sit still for a minute, this may be the challenge of a lifetime. Days begin at 4am and simple vegetarian fare is served; talking is not allowed throughout the course until the 10th and final day. There is no charge for the course, as it is run on a voluntary donation model.
7. Run the SG Standard Chartered Marathon/Half Marathon Date TBD
You may be able to run the distance, but can you beat the morning heat? Running 26.2 miles in sweltering Singapore gives new meaning to “marathon,” particularly for those of us who aren’t quite acclimated to the weather. That said, completing the Standard Chartered Marathon is an incredible feat that you’ll remember for a lifetime, and no easy task at that. Lots of training and preparation is required, as well as mental toughness to get across the final stretch!
8. Climb to the Batu Caves in Malaysia
Just north of Kuala Lumpur’s city center, the Batu Caves consist of three large caverns atop a limestone hillside, and serve as a home to several cave-dwelling animals, including bats and spiders. Conquer both your fear of creepy-crawlies and 272 steep steps on this adventure! Touring around provides a nice afternoon workout that is suitable for the general population.
9. Ascend Mt. Kinabalu
It may be hot on flat land in Borneo, but once you get up to the top of Mt. Kinabalu, you may just think you’ve been transported to Alaska… if not for the glorious sunrise, that is. Mt. Kinabalu is well known as a somewhat treacherous trek despite what the official website tells you, and provides a good training ground for some of the world’s more famous peaks. If you plan well in advance, you can squeeze in the full climb and trip over a long weekend.
10. Run the Penang Bridge International Marathon Date TBD
Dash across one of Southeast Asia’s longest bridges, at 13.5km in length, and enjoy a slight breeze from the south channel of the Selatan Strait. Be sure to train in the heat and sun, as you’ll be fully exposed to the rays for long stretches of time. Palm trees are merely a mirage- it’s just you and a concrete cable-stayed bridge!
11. Cycle from Singapore to Thailand
I have to admit, I had no idea this route even existed until meeting a group of about six Singaporean cyclists who had made a pit stop in Malaysia en route to their final destination- Bangkok. This trip is now officially on my bucket list and covers an estimated 2,480 km from end to end. You’ll want to set aside a good 3-4 weeks if you’re interested in taking in the scenery and making several tourist pit stops; otherwise, it can be done in about fourteen days if you’re a wild maniac.
12. Participate in the Laguna Phuket Triathlon Date TBD
One of Asia’s most renowned triathlons for the past twenty years, the Laguna Phuket Tri features a 1.8k swim, 55k bike ride and 12k run through the tropics.
13. Climb Angkor Wat
The largest religious monument in the world and a UNESCO heritage site, Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap requires an ascent up many dozens of steps in order to reach the main temple, providing both physical exercise and spiritual reflection. Women who want to explore the whole of Angkor Wat will need to cover their bodies- no shorts and tank tops.
14. Run the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon Date TBD
Looking to enjoy the scenery of Angkor Wat with a different lens? Consider signing up for the International Half Marathon and zipping through the sacred ruins in dusty sneakers as the morning sun guides your way. A bonus- all funds from the race go to Cambodian landmine survivors.
15. Go on a Yoga Retreat in Ubud
Escape the grind, rejuvenate your senses, and travel into your deeper self at a blissfully quiet yoga retreat, where you’ll finally find the time to cycle through rice paddies and dine on healthy cuisine as you overlook a tropical forest… just be sure to squeeze in a few hours of yoga each day as well! Most retreats run from 1-2 weeks and have differing themes, from Yoga & Art to Movement & Meditation to Dancing with Your Shakti. I recommend One World Retreats and enjoyed class with Wayan Partawan, but all of the options look divine. Pick one that tickles your spirit and GO!
16. Climb Mt. Rinjani
Ready to step into the ring of fire? Mt. Rinjani is an active volcano and the second highest volcanic peak in Indonesia, overlooking the verdant and lesser visited island of Lombok. Ascend 3,700 meters to the crater rim over three or four days with a private guide or tour group, beginning at Senaru. The climb is steep and the last 1000 meters is said to be quite difficult. Be prepared to wake up in the earliest hours of the morning and trek for long stretches without a break!
17. Snorkel with the Whale Sharks in Cebu
I’m not so sure if snorkeling qualifies as “fitness,” but I can guarantee that if you’re at it for a good hour or two with proper fins, you’ll get a killer workout! Thankfully, whale sharks are 10 ton gentle giants- not killers- that feed on plankton and small fish. Oslob is the destination most recommended, and whale sharks are often visible when the weather is good.
18. Hike the 100 Waterfalls Trek in Laos
The “100 Waterfalls Trail” in Laos is still a relatively secret gem which only began being promoted for tourism in 2008. The entire hike can be completed in a day and is relatively accessible for most, although visitors warn that if you’re not experienced at scrambling up slippery boulders, you may want to just take a seat on a dry rock and enjoy nature instead.
19. Go trekking in Luang Prabang
This five day hike deep into the forest to visit indigenous ethnic groups begins in the village of Ban Huay Lo. Active trekking takes place for approximately 6 hours per day through mountains and bamboo forests until reaching the Nam Ou River. A good level of fitness is highly recommended, as hiking in the heat can be quite grueling, particularly when you have all of your necessities strapped to your back.
20. Cycle from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh
Slurp up a bowl of pho, hop on a trusty bicycle, and pedal 1,930 km from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh over the course of a few weeks. There are two major routes you can take- along Coastal Highway 1 or inland on Ho Chi Minh highway; the latter is known to have less traffic and noise pollution. Check out crazyguyonabike.com for lots of cycling tips throughout southeast asia, including highlights from this particular epic journey.
This list details a mere twenty adventures in Asia that will get your heart pumping, clear your mind, and motivate you to push yourself beyond your limits. There are hundreds of others, from surfing to skydiving to ultramarathoning, so go forth and explore! Check out Part II here, which covers China, Japan, North Korea (say what?!?!) and more. Do you have a favorite East Asia adventure? Add it in the comments section- I’d love to hear what you’re up to!
Looking to get in shape before tackling your fitness bucket list, or seeking training for a specific event? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org for tips and information on personal training packages. I take an integrative approach to help people reach their health and fitness goals, combining personal training, health coaching, and nutrition education.