• katiebradders

How to get active on holiday

Sometimes it's great to jet off on holiday knowing you don't have to do anything for two weeks except lay on a sunbed and catch some rays. Even a city break doesn’t necessarily mean much physical exertion if you’re just moving from coffee shop to coffee shop. However, if you’re generally an active person back home, it can seem a bit contrasting to switch to such a sedentary lifestyle from the moment you step off the plane. There are lots of ways to get active on holiday that do not mean a habitual morning gym session. Here’s a quick round up of my suggestions.

View of Dubrovnik from Mount Srd
We walked down Mount Srd in Dubrovnik rather than taking the cable car

Give public transport a miss

This may seem obvious but once you've slipped into holiday mode it's easy to opt for the seemingly simple option of public transport to get around the town or city you’re staying in. Instead, download Google Maps with your hotel Wi-Fi, so that you can use them offline when out and about. Alternatively, borrow a paper map from the lobby to navigate your way around - now you’ll be glad that you undertook the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at school. Using your legs is a much more fun way to explore a new area and it gives you a much better insight into how local people go about their daily lives. Also if you visit a country like Japan, you’ll have kind people left, right and centre offering their help if you take a wrong turn.

Snowy Brussels street
Our snowy walking tour of Brussels - €10 well spent

Walking tours

If you really want to maximise your step count on holiday, Lonely Planet guides normally provide recommended day or night self-guided walking tours, which stop off at key sites. I'd recommend starting with one of these to get your bearings and kick off your trip. If you're in London, check out my top five self-guided London walking routes post. Loads of major cities around the world have 'free' walking tours that operate; you'll get taken around the city by a tour guide who provides a wealth of cool local information, from the history of the area to the best food and drink outlets. A walking tour certainly means you can justify the latter. You then tip the tour guide at the end with your amount of choice based on how you rated the quality of the tour. I've participated in these in Europe (Brussels), as well as further afield (Melbourne, Sydney and Singapore). The one thing they had in common is that they were all great! Walking tours are a fantastic way to get active on holiday without even realising it.

Mount Fuji mountain hut
Quick break at a mountain hut at 3,200m up Mount Fuji

Climb a mountain

Ok, so this one may seem extreme. But, as I recently climbed Mount Fuji, it did make me appreciate the different forms of exercise you can undertake on holiday (even if I could barely walk for the proceeding five days). Ask at reception in your hotel or enquire with your Airbnb host for recommended local hikes and climbs – there will be loads of reviews online too. Often the route is as easy as following the other tourists up the hill. This worked well for me in Banff last year in the Rocky Mountains... It's a great way to get magnificent skyline views without taking the elevator to the top of the tallest building (although this can also be fun). For anything trickier, find a reputable tour company with some help from TripAdvisor. Be warned though, if you’re looking to accomplish something a bit more challenging and a bit bigger, book before you travel so that you’ve packed the right gear and aren’t left disappointed that there’s no spaces available in the busier seasons.

The Pyrenees
My running route in the Pyrenees after the storm


Notice that I write jogging not running because you're on holiday and not required to go and achieve your 10km PB. However, a jog can be a great way to expend some energy on a lazy holiday. The most I have ever run on holiday was 5km through the mountains in the Pyrenees in the pouring rain; it was fantastic. I also enjoyed my jog and star jumps in Queenstown on the waterfront, and my very very hot jog along a beach in Byron Bay (fun is not the word I would use; running on sand is the biggest glute workout one could hope for). It can also be a fun activity to do with your holiday companion as a jogger’s pace means you can also hold a conversation at the same time. Ideal if you’re like me and like a chat.

Paddleboarding in Canada
Paddleboarding on Canada's Skaha Lake in Penticton

Swimming and water sports

If you're on a beach holiday with an abundance of local cuisine and cocktails at your disposal, enjoy it. That's why you're there. Equally, instead of glimpsing at the water from the comfort of your sun lounger and book, take the opportunity to get in the pool to swim some lengths or paddle about in the sea. There are also loads of water sport options, such as surfing and sailing, which use up a LOT of energy and make a nice alternative from reading a book. I’m pretty sure that attempting, with all your might, to cling onto a banana boat works your arm muscles and activates your core muscles all at once! If that's not quite your thing, most holiday entertainment packages include water aerobics or water polo in the pool. This is a much more exciting way to get active on holiday, making a welcome change from the treadmill or cross-trainer in the gym.

However, if you want an entirely relaxing holiday, go for it. It's whatever works for you. Generally, the most I achieve is walking and every now and then (i.e. three times in my life) I do a singular jog in said holiday location. And, sometimes, I terrify myself with a challenge (did I mention Mt Fuji?)!

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