Going on holiday is synonymous with three of life’s purest pleasures: eating, drinking and relaxing.
So if, like me, you’re someone who enjoys the sadistic ritual of regular exercise, then you are a prime candidate for succumbing to ‘Travel Bulge Syndrome’ – TBS – where you feel you’ve earned the right to relax your diet and exercise routine a little, so you go ahead and eat your bodyweight in patatas bravas and chorizo all day every day. And follow it up with gelato. And a beer. Because, you know, you earned it, right?
When you get back to the real world, you then not only have to deal with the standard post-holiday blues, you also have to try to negotiate your office space more carefully as you keep banging your increased butt against the backs of chairs (“I’m sure I used to be able to squeeze through there”…)
First things first: consider your fitness
So this year, instead of subsiding into my standard TBS, I’m looking for a travel experience that will help me maintain my exquisite *cough* physique by keeping my heart rate high, at the same time as exploring somewhere new (and eating my bodyweight in patatas bravas/pizza/[insert local indulgent delicacy of your choice here]).
But where do you begin when it comes to choosing a destination and a trip that will provide you with just the right balance of exercise and exploration?
Obviously, your own level of fitness should be the first thing you consider. If you’ve never been for a jog around the block, don’t commit to a marathon trail run around the Annapurna Circuit. But if you’re fairly fit and agile, there’s no reason you can’t sign up to a small group adventure to Everest Base Camp.
Here’s my pick of fitness travel and holiday ideas to help you plan a trip that will prevent your health regime going out the window as soon as you hit the road:
If you’re into walking and trekking
A trekking holiday is one of the greatest ways to explore a new country and experience the culture up-close. Walking holidays allow you to connect with a destination at the same time as achieving a physical challenge. Depending on the trek that you choose, you will have a good goal to work towards before your trip. And of course, when you’re on your feet all day walking, you get to enjoy the local cuisine guilt-free in the evening (because let’s be honest, the only reason we exercise is to work off the red wine, right?).
When it comes to choosing a walking or trekking adventure to suit your fitness levels, remember that anything that takes in mountain ranges will be tough due to the gradients, so make sure you get in some consistent training during the 8-12 weeks before your trip. Anything at altitude will also make it tougher, so this is another thing to consider before picking the challenge for your holiday.
The Inca Trail
Perhaps the most famous trek in the world, the Inca Trail is a bucket-list item for many travellers and is an adventure that will take you to your limits. The physical demands of trekking this route are significant and you’ll need to be in good shape (or be prepared to train for the months running up to your trip). Otherwise, you’ll find the experience grueling to say the least. But as with any other challenge that takes you out of your comfort zone, the reward is immense; after several days of solid walking at extreme altitude, you’ll be met by the epic ruins at Machu Picchu, and as most people agree – it’s well worth the effort.
Hot, humid, narrow, muddy, steep – the Kokoda Track is not for the faint-hearted. For anyone unfamiliar with the story of Kokoda: this was the site of one of the most brutal missions in WWII, where Australian soldiers fought a bloody battle against the Japanese. Nowadays, the journey along the track from Kokoda to Port Moresby still requires a high level of fitness and dedication, but trekkers are rewarded with the chance to retrace the steps of some of history’s bravest soldiers.
Camino Di Santiago
If you’re less about the altitude and more into the distance, then the Camino Di Santiago could be just the right adventure to keep you moving on your travels. At 790km in length, this historical pilgrimage runs along the north of Spain, and deserves a significant level of training before you undertake such a huge distance. However, if you like the sound of the Camino, but you aren’t up to the full distance, why not sign up to a guided tour along a shorter section? Many people fundraise in conjunction with their trip, to echo the original intent of the Camino pilgrimages, so why not take up a Camino challenge that benefits others at the same time as challenging yourself?
If you’re an endurance sport freak
Maybe you’re up before sunrise to get a couple of hours’ training in before work, or you cycle further at the weekends than your friends would contemplate driving, or you perhaps you like to run marathons for fun. Either way, you like your sport with a side-serve of sufferance.
If this sounds like you, then you’ll need an adventure holiday that can match your thirst for endurance. Start by choosing an environment that’s likely to provide just the right challenging conditions – something with the right amount of gradient and the least amount of oxygen to push you to your limits… How does a mountain range sound?
Classic Cols of the Tour de France
If two wheels is your preferred method of torture, then you can’t get better than the Tour de France. And since it takes a lifetime to train for the race itself, this trip is the perfect alternative for those of us who didn’t quite make the cut professionally.
Mustang Trail Race
If you’re a serious endurance runner, you might consider tackling the punishing multistage Mustang Trail Race, that takes you through the rugged Upper Mustang landscapes of Nepal. Not for the lighthearted, this is adventure racing at its most hardcore, and participants will need to run approximately 200km over ten days at altitudes up to 4,300m (14,100ft) with 8200m (27,00ft) of elevation gain. And at the end of the adventure you can kick back and explore Nepal – one of the world’s most iconic backpacking destinations.
Now, I’m not sure what you’re thinking, but I’m tossing up whether or not I should commit to the ten day trail race through Nepal. But if you’re not looking for anything that extreme, why not check out some of the walking holidays and cycling trips run by Intrepid all over the world at intrepidtravel.com.
Feature image c/o Amelia Tabullo, Flickr