By Leif Palmer
For some of you, the very notion of staying fit on vacation is almost an oxymoron. “Half the fun of being on vacation is eating poorly and being lazy!” we can hear you saying at this very moment. And to some extent, that's a valid argument. But for those of you who are generally health-conscious and don't feel comfortable taking a vacation from your workout regimen, here are a few creative suggestions for ways to work some calorie burning and fitness into your travel plans.
You didn't really need us for this one, did you? It's almost a no-brainer that when you're visiting the Great Smoky Mountains, you should head into the national park and hit up a hiking trail or two. There are hundreds of miles of trails from which to choose, and you can take on anything from a short, level nature stroll to a strenuous miles-long hike to the summit of Mt. LeConte or Chimney Tops. No matter which way you go, a hike in the mountains not only burns calories but also tones/strengthens specific muscle groups and can give you a good cardio workout.
Whether you bring your own or rent one from a local vendor, doing some pedaling can lead to most of the same health benefits as hiking. It's an especially fun thing to do in the fall, when the leaves are turning and the days are cooler. A couple of popular biking spots are the Cades Cove loop in the national park (a 10-mile, one-way loop) and the bike trail in Townsend, which takes you a total of 10 miles from end of the town to the other and back, all on a pedestrian- and bike-friendly path set off from the main road.
Throughout the year, you'll find a number of road races on the events calendars of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, including the Pigeon Forge Midnight 8k in the summer. One of the next big races coming up is the Santa Hustle Half Marathon in Sevierville.
The cities of Sevierville and Gatlinburg have community centers with facilities like Olympic swimming pools, basketball and racquetball courts, bowling lanes, fitness centers and locker rooms. At these sites, you can pay daily rates for most of these activities. Pigeon Forge has a community center as well, but it requires paying a one-year membership to participate, which may not make it a feasible option for folks visiting from out of town.
Believe us, if you visit an outlet mall or a place like Dollywood theme park, you're going to rack up a lot of steps just walking around in the course of a day. You may not get quite the workout you would if you were doing something more active like running or hiking, but at least you're getting in some steps. This might be a good alternative for those of you who are more exercise averse.
Come to the Smokies and get a good workout while having fun.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in east Tennessee. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.