With six mountain peaks and hundreds of kilometres of trails that meander through rainforest and past rushing waterfalls, Vancouver’s North Shore is heaven for urban hikers. While I’ve long lost track of the number of trips I’ve taken to Vancouver, until recently, I’d never crossed the Burrard Inlet to the city’s north side for the purpose of taking a hike.
The reason why is no mystery.
My Vancouver trips have been almost exclusively for business: I’ll dash into town on the SkyTrain and dart from appointment to appointment all day long, with just enough time to squeeze in a quick sweat session. If I’m staying on the waterfront, I might manage a run along the Stanley Park Seawall – but more likely, it’s 30 minutes on a treadmill in the hotel gym. Functional? Sure. Inspiring? Not one bit.
But on a recent stay at the Loden Hotel, I set my alarm early and laced up my shoes, bound for Capilano River Regional Park, a greenspace that offers 26 kilometres of hiking trails. The impetus for finally fitting in my favourite workout? The Loden Hotel’s WanderFIT program, in which a guide from Musette Tours picked me up at the hotel, drove us over the Lions Gate Bridge and to the park. Over the next two hours, we climbed the steep canyon, trekked among ancient Douglas firs and drank in plenty of fresh mountain air. Aimee, my guide, tailored the route to my energy level, provided snacks and water and had me back at the hotel with plenty of time to take a conference call and and make it to a 12:30 lunch. Rarely has working up a sweat on the road been such a no-sweat endeavour.
Across North America, it’s becoming easier than ever for time-crunched travellers to enjoy a workout and some sightseeing, even on short trips. From hiking and biking tours to concierge-led morning runs, hotels are rolling out new fitness programs (either included in the room rate or at an extra cost) that get guests’ hearts pumping as they enjoy their destination.
Fairmont and Westin are among the chains whose properties are offering guided running tours through urban greenspaces such as Edmonton’s River Valley and New York’s Central Park (partnerships with Reebok and New Balance, respectively, mean you don’t even need to bring your running gear – shoes and workout clothes are available to guests for a nominal fee). Guests at the Standard in Miami can pay to strengthen their core muscles and enjoy panoramic views of Biscayne Bay via stand-up paddleboard lessons that depart right from the hotel’s pool deck. At the Oceana in Santa Monica, daily yoga classes are held across the street in Palisades Park, which runs along the top of the bluffs high over the beach and is a popular outdoor workout space and running track for locals.
If you’re more of a solo sweater, new amenities also encourage guests to DIY their workouts off-property. Residence Inn by Marriott, for example, has partnered with Under Armour to produce self-guided running apps at all their locations that provide guests with customized sightseeing or fitness-oriented routes based on the guest’s desired distance and difficulty level.
“We know travellers increasingly want to maintain their health and wellness programs and exercise when they travel,” says Don Cleary, president of Marriott Hotels of Canada. “We also know people look to travel for the experience aspect and the discovery aspect of it. … The sweet spot is to marry those desires to discover the communities they’re in with maintaining their health and wellness.”
Cleary is on the road approximately 200 nights a year and uses hotel bikes whenever his schedule and the weather permit. “It’s a great way to explore a city,” he says, adding that working out can be a “struggle,” but offering programs that make exercise “easier and more appealing” can help.
With two-thirds of travellers reporting that they exercise less often on the road, according to data from Westin, Darren Katz of Toronto’s Body + Soul Fitness says such programs are enticing because they make being active part of the travelling experience and might even encourage guests who don’t ordinarily work out to try something new. It also gives hotels an edge in appealing to travellers who are committed to staying fit.
“We have clients who decide what hotel they’re going to stay at based on the availability of fitness programs and facilities,” Katz says. “People don’t want to go to a hotel where the gym is an afterthought. For many, fitness is increasingly central to the experience.”
Try it yourself
Looking to burn some extra calories while you see the sights? Here are three more city hotels that will pair your workout with fun and iconic local attractions:
The ART, Denver: Of course the fitness program at this gallery-meets-hotel would involve local art. From guided and DIY running tours of public art installations, to bikes designed in collaboration with students at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and onsite yoga with poses inspired by the hotel’s art collection, workouts here take on a creative twist. thearthotel.com
Gansevoort Meatpacking, New York: Let eight-time Ironman James Phillips push your cycling to the next level on a two-hour ride around Central Park. The Gansevoort’s Tour de Domestique includes your choice of two styles of pro bikes, helmets, a Garmin device and everything else you’ll need. gansevoorthotelgroup.com
The Westin Ottawa: Start your morning with a brisk skate along the Rideau Canal. The Westin Ottawa’s SkateWESTIN program offers three hour-long guided skate sessions a week throughout the skating season; skate rentals are available at the hotel for $5.95 a day. thewestinottawa.com