My Top 5 Favorite Places in the World to Run

A friend asked me what my favorite places are to run when I travel. I realized there are so many great locations. Some I had a chance to visit many times ( I made a promise that every time I’m in Hong Kong, I run up to Victoria Peak), others I visited only once but made an impression for a lifetime. This is my top 5, but more likely to follow in a later post.

5. San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

The run from San Francisco over the Golden Gate bridge to Battery Spencer viewpoint on the hill is my favorite in the US. It is a 7-mile loop with a steep incline to the top of the hill above the bridge and the view is simply unparalleled. There are sidewalks and running paths throughout the course.

4. Budapest Danube River Bank

This is the best riverbank run in the world. (Paris is a close second). In Budapest the sidewalks stretch on both banks of the river for dozens of miles and you can criss-cross from one side to the other on the city’s bridges. From most spots you see either the Parliament on one side of the Buda Castle and hills on the other. You can even run up and down the Castle Hill for an even more breathtaking view. Day or night, unparalleled.

3. Hong Kong Victoria Peak

As I said, I always make a point to run Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. It is a very hard uphill run and a fun, steep downhill. On top of the peak you can run further as Hong Kong has many connected hills and well marked paths. Lion Rock is a favorite. It is my absolute favorite city panorama, a great reward for the effort. I love mountain running and the city has fantastic runs on its many outer islands as well, a short ferry ride away.

2. Zhang Jia Jie (Avatar Mountains)

I have run on many mountains in China because the paths are well build out and the many signs prevent you from getting lost. Zhang Jia Jie is my clear favorite and not just because it inspired the Avatar movie. You can pick your adventure by running an easy jog on connecting paths on top of the mountain or take a long, arduous (20+ miles) run up and down the peaks (I didn’t do that). There is only one place on the planet with this view. Crowds can get very big to stop your run, so take the first gondola to the top.

1. Temple Ruins in Siam Reap

Cambodia’s Siam Reap is magical. With hundreds of temples dating back 900 years and a town that feels ageless, you are transported to a whole different place in time. While many go to Angkor Wat, there dozens of many smaller temples around town within running distance (it gets very humid so distances vary). Many temples are open and no fences around. If you watch your footing and are armed with a GPS you are guaranteed to be lost in the ages.

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Adventure Travel as Crossfit Lifestyle

For years I’ve posted to this blog when I was traveling and exploring Crossfit gyms during my trips. In the beginning (2011) CrossFit was still new and what I learned had new insights. By now Crossfit is a way of life for most of us. Something you do every day, like brushing your teeth.

While there are still things I learn about modalities and WOD formats that surprise me, for most of Crossfit gyms it is all about the same AMRAP, EMOM and RFT formats created for two dozen movements or so. So writing about them becomes less interesting to me.

Maybe a forgotten part of the original Crossfit 100-word prescription to world-class fitness is to Learn and Play New Sports. As I traveled, I always encountered new ways to work out, from the stone-and-steel outside gyms in Ipanema to the long and steep hill climbs on Huashan in China.

Going forward I plan to write more about what happens outside the gyms in places I go and what I may call “new sports”. At least, new to me…

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The Magic of Programming Consistency at CrossFit Trec

As it’s clear from this blog, in the last 6 years my travels took me to some great Crossfit boxes with a great variety of approaches to programming. I found the background of the head coach determined the philosophy applied to training. Some followed the mainsite years after every box adopted their own training, some brought in gymnastics,  endurance training, boxing, climbing and even swimming in the mix. After every trip something stuck with me that shaped my own WOD preferences.

Many times however I was stuck in a town with no CF options and had a hard time finding travel WODs that had the structure and flexibility I liked. WOD should be done in under an hour, have the variety needed, not require a lot of equipment and be fun. More importantly have the structure I liked (AMRAPs, EMOMs) and less of what I don’t (open ended task priority programming).

I tried following many box’s online WODs and even tried Fleeletics. In the end I kept coming back to the programming from a small gym in Hungary, CrossFit Trec. The founders had background in wrestling and in Crossfit Games and they had the structure I wanted. In general the template is something like this:

  • EMOM for 10-12 mins of heavy lifts
  • EMOM for 8-15 mins of 2-3 alternating movements
  • AMRAP 15-25 mins of any and all movements from running, gymnastics to lifts

Every Saturday they would have a 30-40 minute EMOM or AMRAP of 4-6 movements.

The variety, the time structure and the weekly overload kept me coming back to their WODs for 18 months now. Both when traveling and when not.

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Finding Preferred Modality

Some of us tend to have a bias towards task priority (“for time”) and time priority (EMOM, AMRAP) workouts. Over the last 5 years I noticed my tendency to prefer certain programming styles. During my crazy travel schedule I experimented following programming from various boxes and settled for Invictus most of the time. The extensive use of EMOMs during weightlifting sessions and Metcons keep cadence and focus outside the gym.

I noticed that I prefer time priority workouts outside of Benchmark WODs. AMRAPS and EMOMs allow for various athletic abilities to complete the task at the same time while allowing for more and less intensity during the workout. EMOMs in particular I found much higher intensity than the second half of a long WOD.

Being in Europe in the summer I found several gyms that program mostly for time priority and still have immense workload and intensity. It reminds me of visiting a gym 5 years ago that had a week of Tabatas and argued that nothing beats 4-6 tabatas in a row under 20 minutes.

Closeup of athlete holding kettlebell weight

Closeup of athlete holding kettlebell weight

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Putting the Long Run Back in CrossFit

Back in the good old days of the first CrossFit Games, circa 2007, there was a lot of  WOD programming of long runs (and the requisite debate about them). Almost a decade later even bumper stickers proudly announce the 0.25 distance so common in our sport.

As we are getting ready for the next CF Open (I’m looking at you overhead lunges), I decided to plan out my long runs for the summer. Spartan Trifectas, 10 milers, city obstacle runs and even great mountain hikes could add a great variety to life in the box. Most importantly I get to finally dust off my 2012 CF Endurance training manual…

With that, I’m heading next week to my favorite run on Montara mountain in Half Moon Bay. Already registered for the Broad Street Run, a Spartan and just maybe a hike in Tibet.

But for now, time to tackle 16.1


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