Health and fitness are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. Whilst it always has been to some extent, most of us have noticed the increase in runners on the street and our local gym gets increasingly packed to the brim.
This presents a challenge though. When going on holiday, it’s easy to lose our routine, indulge in the local food and drink, and get a bit out of shape. If you’re looking for some respite that’s fine, but a lot of people neglect the idea that they can keep up their health and fitness whilst on holiday.
The number one way to keep fit when on holiday is to go hiking. As simple as it is, walking is an exceptionally useful activity on vacation. You get to see more places because you’re on the move, yet you don’t miss anything because you’re not in a car. And, of course, you’re staying active – it doesn’t feel like exercise. It also goes hand-in-hand with other activities, like birding and photography.
If we take the example Santiago Ways, which is a collection of walking routes that all head back to Santiago (Spain), you can literally see Portugal, Spain, Italy, and/or France depending on which routes to take. A 1-day or 7-day walk, it’s up to you, but you’ll see the pilgrim paths that have rich historical roots and weave in and out of stunning landscapes, old villages, and modern towns. The Sarria to Santiago is a popular route that takes 7 days and is a chance to meet many other like-minded folks.
The reality is, though, you can hike around freely without an organised tour at almost any holiday destination – just be sure to check the local weather, crime, and amenities before heading off. Also, don’t neglect the possibility of renting a bike too!
Now, if you want health and fitness to be the sole focus of your holiday, more power to you. There’s a whole new world of retreats that many people do not know about, from yoga and meditation retreats in the Himalayan mountains to spa & wellness centres in LA.
Pretty much every country will offer their own retreats, but many will be focused on local culture. So, if you’re looking for a meditation retreat, it may be a leveraged experience by going to a Buddhist country like Thailand. Not necessary, particularly if you’re not spiritual, but nevertheless offers a certain unique authenticity.
Two retreats you may not have considered are Muay Thai and silent ones. The latter is a matter of going to an isolated place with a small group and the goal is to do basically nothing. Perhaps some minor activities, but really it’s about sending days, or possibly weeks, in silence – something that can result in profound mindfulness and enlightenment. And, Muay Thai retreats are certainly overlooked, yet can offer similar isolation (eat, sleep, train in the gym) – an intensive course of a martial art can be very healing.
Finally, a third way to stay healthy on holiday is to check out the amenities before leaving. There’s nothing more convenient than a hotel gym, for example, as it’s usually free and right on top of you. But, do not rely on the pictures, because just one machine being out-of-use can ruin your workout routine (some hotel gyms leave a lot to be desired). So, it may be worth getting in contact with the hotel prior to booking.
Some other amenities to look out for local park gyms (i.e. pull-up bars), running trails, and shops that will rent you out a bicycle.
So, now you have no excuses. Whether you’re walking Camino de Santiago routes or waking up an hour before everyone else to get a gym session in, there are always ways to keep us feeling energetic and alive during our time of rest. Active rest, if you will.