I know what I’m about to say will probably make your eyes stretch open, force you to suck in a sharp lungful of air, go into a mini-meltdown and shout “blasphemy” at the high heavens, but lounging around on a white, wind-stroked Cabana bed as Phuket’s tropical sun rays dance along your horizontal body – a sugary cocktail in one hand and that best-selling novel you almost started last summer in the other – isn’t everyone’s idea of an amazing holiday. Believe it or not, some people are looking for a fitness holiday.
Don’t get me wrong: we all need a healthy dollop of rest, recuperation and relaxation every now and again. But sometimes there is no better way of recharging your batteries than jumping up and getting a move on, especially as there is a 98.7% chance you spend most of your days shackled to a plywood desk and a far-from-ergonomic chair.
Think about it for a second. You go from sitting down for ten hours a day in an air-conditioned office to sitting down for a fourteen-hour flight in a partially air-conditioned plane, to the sort of kick-back, relax and indulgent vacation that does nothing to help you stay fit. Instead, you spend a fortnight chomping your way through the all you can eat buffet three times a day, slurping your way down the cocktail menus at each Beach Bar you stumble across and lying down each and every moment in between.
The point I’m trying to make is: all fun and no fitness makes Jack feel a little less than refreshed when he finally returns home.
But there is good news. Thanks to the recent rise in fitness holidays, feeling healthy during and post-vacay is totally possible. In fact, the hardest part of the process is knowing what’s important in a fitness holiday.
So, without further ado, here is Your Essential Guide To Choosing An Active, Energised And Fit-Filled Fitness Vacation. Trust me: there’s no such thing as post-holiday blues when you look and feel this good.
- Know Your Workout Personality
Studies have started showing that people are more likely to enjoy, be successful at and keep up an exercise activity when that activity is more suited to their personality traits, which makes a decent dollop of sense if you ask me. That’s why you need to figure out what sort of workout personality you have, make a note of which exercises you are most suited to in the notes section of your phone, and then apply these to your fitness holiday search.
For example, if you are the sort of go-get-em type of human, forever living your life at a gazillion miles per hour and utterly desperate to keep challenging yourself, then you probably thrive on a bit of competition. You’re probably one of those enviably intense individuals that loves being externally motivated, lapping up training plans as you try to reach personal goals or else you might become impatient and bored. If that pretty much sums you up, you’ll probably want to head somewhere hot where you can compete in a triathlon, or enjoy some private Muay Thai training – somewhere you can train at a high intensity and indulge in a competitive sport.
If, however, you’re more of a control-freak that loves knowing what they’re getting into, what can be expected, and just a bit of a routine, then you’re probably more of an introverted exerciser. You probably enjoy those physical activities that place a lot of emphasis on the mind-body connection. You want to avoid risk and look for something where you have to be inherently focused and disciplined. You want to be comfortable in your exercise and tackle new challenges and techniques in your own headspace. If that’s making you pull the sort of weird face that says, “that’s me, alright,” you should look at the sort of healthy holidays where you can practise yoga or indulge in pilates – somewhere routine is merged with independence.
1. Eating Well Is Everything
OMG! Holidays and food go together like apple crumble and custard, sausage and mash, or all you can eat food carts and your inability to resist temptation (something that isn’t made any easier by the voice rattling around at the back of your head that constantly screams, “Go on, you’re on holiday.”)
Think about it. You get your pre-flight meal from one of the fast food courts at the airport, you find it impossible not to snack when you arrive at the other end thanks to the jetlag, you pop into a world-famous drive-thru on your way to wherever because it’s convenient, you fall prey to the hotel buffet, eat at odd times in the day, and say yes to another ten sugary cocktails. Holidays are a minefield of unhealthy eating and drinking.
So, when you’re trying to choose a fitness holiday, make sure you highlight, embolden and underscore the need to enjoy a healthy diet in some form or another. That might mean choosing somewhere that has an onsite restaurant complete with a custom menu that’s been meticulously designed in-house to ensure everyone training there gets a well-balanced and nutritious diet, or it might mean you book into a self-catered suite knowing there is local food market just along the beach, which is a great way to soak up the culture while chewing on delicious and nutritious foods you’ve picked from the baskets and cooked yourself. It could also mean you look at fitness resorts that have plenty of restaurant options so that you’re not forced to eat from the same semi-warm dinner buffet each night.
The point I’m trying to make is: your diet is such an important part of your health and fitness routine, so opt for a destination that can help you maximise this side of your performance and leave you glowing like a pink radish.
2. Roll Out Of Bed & Get Fit
When the hospitality world caught wind of travellers wanting there to be more wellness-focused amenities available in their hotels and resorts, it was like an industry-wide movement was suddenly put into place and a newfound mission was set into motion: to make hard-bodies happy. That’s why (almost) every hotel now boasts some sort of gym. Of course, not all hotel gyms are born equal. In fact, most have just chucked a treadmill into an unused cleaning cupboard just so they can claim they have an “onsite fitness and wellness centre”.
So, when it comes to putting a nice green tick next to your shortlist of fitness holidays, you want to do some due diligence and look for those resorts that offer real fitness packages, onsite training, unrivalled facilities, air-conditioning, swimming pools, a range of activities and classes and places that have great trainer-to-student ratios. You want to head somewhere with sweat-inducing classes, high-intensity excursions, and wellbeing centres. Of course, exactly what sort of on-site offerings you want will depend on your workout personality (see Section 1), not to mention what sort of skills and training you are hoping to pick up during your stay, so always keep that in mind when choosing.
If you are looking for a high-intensity getaway where you can go full Thai-style, beast-mode, then you will want to check out the Sumalee Boxing Gym packages, where prices range from super-affordable to still-pretty-damn-affordable no matter what level of practitioner you are. Accommodation, ringside restaurant, swimming pool, yoga studio and all the training facilities you could hope for, meaning you can focus on the more important stuff, like learning from your Kru. If, however, you’re looking to boost your fitness while improving your surf skills, you might want to check out Unleash, which is geared up to help you work remotely while living and surfing like a local, coupling your surf training with yoga lessons as you walk from your private apartment to the local surf spots. It all depends on what you want to get out of your fitness holiday.
3. Beach, Please
Every holiday deserves to have an easy-to-reach beach, but fitness vacays even more so. This isn’t just so you can finish your high-intensity training and immediately curl your toes in the surf or drag your feet through the sand in the search of more pretty sea glass; it’s because sand is pretty damn amazing when you’re trying to maximize the benefits of exercise.
That’s right. A bunch of white-coat-wearing and highly-educated scientists have found “training on a constantly shifting and unstable surface, such as sand, can dramatically boost your aerobic capacity, improve your explosive power, see you jump higher and help you sprint faster.” That means the soft, dry sands of somewhere like Phuket, Thailand aren’t just amazing for those who want lighter hair and darker bodies – they are great for anyone wanting to get away to get fitter and stronger.
No dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, rowing machines, pull up bars or anything like that because all you need to get into the shape of your life is a bunch of creativity and the finely crushed rock and mineral particles washed ashore by Mother Nature. And that is exactly why you want to make sure there is a beautiful beach nearby before you book any fitness holiday. It’s your chance to workout every one of your muscles while every other beachgoer spends their time applying Factor 50 and splatters holiday hotdog photos across their ‘gram.
4. Experienced Instructors Only
When you take that big statement in your fitness journey (and going on a fitness holiday is quite the statement), you want to work with professional trainers that know just how to squeeze every last drop of sweat, tears, self-worth and satisfaction out of you. You want to be pushed by people that can help you reach your health, fitness and wellness goals; someone that is going to keep your motivation levels cranked up to the maximum, hold you accountable when your eyes clock a happy hour deal and someone that will teach you how to maximise your efforts to become a fitter and better person.
That’s why you want to do a little digging before you press whatever “book now” button is flashing on your screen and make sure you pick somewhere that’s packed to rafters with top-notch trainers. To do this, there are five criteria you want to check for, or else you might be throwing your money at a fitness resort who have employed a bunch of easy-on-the-eye hardbodies just to stand there and look pretty.
Anyway, the five things you want to look for when selecting a fitness resort are:
Credentials: There are no ifs or buts here. A fitness resort should be hiring trainers that have the right expertise. It’s the only way to ensure they’ve met the required standards of professionalism and competence.
Experience: Remember what you dear old dad used to tell you in the garden, “Practice makes (near) perfect”. And he was right. That’s why you should only head somewhere that has a stable of trainers who have been around the block a few times; those who have tested and perfected their processes; those that can provide the best cues and help so that you get the most out of every single rep, high kick, technique and pose. After all, no one wants to be a guinea pig.
Philosophy: This one may be more subtle than a gnat farting in a hurricane, but it’s as critical as any because it holds the power to make or break your fitness holiday. It’s about heading somewhere knowing all you can about how they develop their programs, what their beliefs are based on, why they chose to do things the way they do, and how they can tailor their programs to meet your style of learning. That’s why you should always study a health, fitness or training resorts About Us page, read all the reviews you can and contact them with questions about their philosophy when you aren’t sure.
Specialities: When you head on a fitness holiday, there is a 96.8% chance you’re doing so with a specific goal in mind. That’s why you’ll want to have a trainer who specialises in your chosen area (and not a Jack of all trades, master of none). If your aim is improving your yoga abilities, you will want work with an accomplished instructor, in the same way someone hoping to boost their Muay Thai performances would want to train under well-known and hugely-respected Thai fighters. The reasons for this are simpler than licking a yoghurt lid clean of the good stuff: not only will they have more expertise in your desired area, but they will also possess a contagious passion if they know the nuances of the sport and have a vested interest in it.
Reputation: Once upon a time, the best compliment a fitness resort (and its trainers) could receive was referrals. But that’s now a close second to social media followers. That’s not because they are shallow, narcissistic or needy, but because it’s a great way for them to measure their successes, share in their students’ success stories, yell the words of their amazing testimonials from the proverbial mountaintop and keep giving back to all those that have learned from them. So, when you come to book somewhere, make sure you look at their reputation and check them out on social media as well as TripAdvisor.
5. Rest, Recoup, Relax, Repeat.
The bottom line is: you’re going on a fitness holiday. You’re shooting off to some far-flung pocket of the planet to hone a skill, get that beach body and/or come back feeling fitter and fresher. But that doesn’t mean you are heading to a boot camp where you’ll be woken up by a Drill Sergeant that’s well-rehearsed in screaming at the top of his lungs. No way. That’s why you need to ensure the place you are heading is up for a bit of recuperation celebration.
I’m talking about somewhere surrounded by endless vistas of stunning landscapes and the calming beauty of Mother Nature. I’m talking about somewhere with a swimming pool and sun terrace full of loungers for the full relaxation experience, communal areas where you can hang out with the other fitness-hungry wanderlusters, running routes that take you through unspoilt stretches of countryside, alongside rivers, up mountain paths and down to the soft sands of hidden beaches. I’m talking about beautiful quiet spaces where you can meditate for a few minutes each day so that you can help relieve any anxieties and stresses you might be feeling. I’m talking about enjoying nearby beach bars where loud music fills the night sky, white barbecue smoke fills the air and let-yourself-go unwinding can happen. After all, too much of one thing can be bad for you, even fitness and wellbeing. Trust me: we all need some downtime to enjoy the little things in life.
6. The More (Activities) The Merrier
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a gazillion times: yes, the main focus of a fitness holiday is in the title. I’ve also dropped some not-so-subtle hints about how most people will choose a fitness retreat based on that something-specific they want to work on and get better at. However, if there is one thing that makes life more amazing, it’s having an abundance of choice in front of you. Think about the last time you went out for a meal at some semi-fancy restaurant – the moment your eyes glanced at that long list of melt-in-your-mouth foods made your heart start to flutter and your taste buds fizz. Well, the same principle stands here. Choice will make your fitness holiday experience more fulfilling.
If you’re heading into the beating heart of Phuket to enhance your Muay Thai skills, look for somewhere that also has a yoga studio knowing that yoga is the secret to Muay Thai success. If you’re heading to the mountains of Dominica on a hiking holiday, make sure there are plenty of cultural activities added to the schedule as well. If you’re heading to Peru on a surfing vacay, look for a camp that also does snorkeling and ocean kayaking. Not only will these other skills and activities help enhance your fitness levels, they will improve your mental wellbeing too and that plays one heck of a huge role in health and fitness.
7. Must Be A Personal Paradise
Let’s get real for a moment: fitness holidays are all about self-improvement, but your destination will undoubtedly play a mahoosive role in your journey as well. It has to. That’s why you need to think long and hard about where in the world you want to head off to get fit.
To get the ball rolling, you need to consider your dream climate. If you’re a sun worshipper that turns a beautiful shade of bronze in a matter of minutes you’ll probably want to consider fitness retreats in Thailand or the Caribbean knowing the weather here is almost always hot, hot, hot. If, however, you workout better in colder climes, you might want to consider Langlaufen in the Swiss Alps or triathlon training in the Arctic Circle (I know these both loiter about on extreme ends of the scale, but nothing gets a point across more than a bit of melodramatics).
The other thing you will want to consider when choosing a destination is your surroundings. You might know you’re easily distracted and need to work on your self-discipline, in which case you should look at escaping to a secluded retreat lost amongst two-acres of wilderness and grassland. Of course, you might want to combine your fitness holiday with some cultural excursions, in which case you should do some research to see what lies beyond the walls of your shortlisted options.
No matter which pockets of the planet you are weighing up, there will be this part of you that’s desperate to experience those natural wonders across the world, whilst you enhance your fitness and skills. With an endless list of wow-factor moments right on your doorstep, it’s no wonder fitness retreats in the Thalang Area of Phuket are becoming ever more popular. But it could just as easily be that you want to explore the natural thermal springs of Iceland while training there or engage in some biking trails while at a wellness retreat in the Tuscan hills. It’s up to you.
The other thing that is worth a moment of contemplation is your chance to reconnect with nature, and not just that but try your hand at the sort of activities you don’t find every day back home. That might be scuba diving in the transparent waters off the coast of the Similan Islands, paddleboard yoga during an Ibizan sunset, or improving your boxing skills at a boot camp set in a Kenyan coconut grove. It’s all about knowing what is out there and what you want to tick off your unwritten bucket list (this time around).
8. Timing Is Everything
One of the most overlooked factors that you really, really need to be considering is the time of year you head off on a fitness holiday because when you choose to go has the power to change everything. Costs, seasonal climate, capacity – it can all be affected.
But let’s start off with the seasonal differences. Each different season brings about a different climate across the world all year round. Period. That’s why it’s so important you’re aware of what each possible location is typically like on a month-by-month basis. You don’t want to snap up a last-minute deal only to realise you’ve booked onto a HIIT program during a heatwave or you’re heading to a yoga retreat during the rainy season. It will put a rather dark splodge on your experience.
The other thing that can be drastically affected by the time of year you decide to go is the cost of your fitness holiday. Yes, picking the perfect season can be important, but you may decide it’s worth weathering the off-season climate to bag yourself an incredible bargain, in which case a little planning ahead can go a very long way.
The other thing that can be affected by the time of year you go is the availability of a program or how crowded a certain fitness resort is. It might be that you’re a social butterfly that welcomes the chance to meet people from other walks of life, in which case heading off to practise Muay Thai in Phuket during the months of January to April (the busiest months) would be right up your street. However, you might be someone that’s looking for a more peaceful and private experience, in which case you should definitely look into those times when a retreat isn’t usually as crowded.
It can all play a role in the experience you get, which is why it’s worth stepping into your bathroom, having a chat with the person in the mirror and finding out what’s most important to you.
And there we have it.
Absolutely all of it. It’s a complete list of everything you need to consider when it comes to choosing a fitness holiday. Seriously. Follow these tips and you’ll never go wrong again. Instead, you’ll live a life of totally rewarding, sweat-producing and fitness-enhancing holidays where you come back feeling more refreshed, energised and raring to go than you ever knew possible.