Okay, so your summer vacation might be your opportunity to get away from it all, but that doesn’t mean you should use it as an excuse to escape your health and fitness goals. You will only sabotage the hard work you have put in if you do, and you will have to work even harder when you’re back on home ground to get yourself back up to your desired levels.
To help you keep to your goals then, here are some suggestions.
#1: Choose the right hotel
Most hotels have a swimming pool attached to them, so there will be some opportunities for exercise. And to ensure you don’t lose motivation for the gym, most hotels have some equipment for guests to use, whether that’s in the rooms they are staying in, or on another floor of the hotel. These things generally come as standard, so you shouldn’t have any excuses not to exercise during the day.
However, some hotels have set packages for fitness-focussed guests, so you might consider these when you’re looking for a place to stay. You can see a few examples by following the previous link; hotels with fitness classes, personal trainers, Olympic size swimming pools, and dedicated running tracks. If you’re serious about fitness, you might look for similar when you’re thinking about your vacay.
#2: Do more than sit on the beach
Especially when you’re on a beach vacation, you do deserve some time relaxing under the sun. However, if you want a beach-fit body, you should do more than sit under a shaded umbrella eating ice cream and drinking cocktails all day. After all, you want to look good in your summer outfits, and these wonderful summer accessories complete your beach look after getting your body ready, so let them act as incentives to stay fit.
So, why not play volleyball on the beach? Or go for a run? You could play games with your kids too, take a swim in the ocean, or join a beachfront Yoga class. You might even try surfing, or moving away from the beach, you could take a hike if there are any trails nearby. Make the effort to do something, and then take opportunities to unwind, perhaps opting for healthier summer drinks when you’re sat lounging on the beach with a good book.
#3: Forget the tour bus
If you’re heading away on a sightseeing trip, you might be tempted to hop on and off tour buses when you’re getting from A to B. Our advice? Don’t! Not only will you stay fit if you use your two legs when traversing the towns and cities of your holiday destination, but you might potentially see more too if you give yourself a better opportunity to explore. And if you get tired of walking, you might consider renting a bike to get around, be that from your hotel if they offer them, or from any bike hire service in the place you are visiting.
You can still keep to your fitness targets while you’re away, so don’t lose sight of them. Follow these suggestions, and you will maintain your beach-fit body all summer long.
I think Christmas is probably my favourite time of year. I don’t care that it’s usually cold, dark and miserable.
I just love the festive cheer, the music, the happiness and of course the food. As if I need anymore of an excuse to eat silly amounts of chocolate, cake and roast dinners. It’s all part and parcel of the good times.
I also love doing parkrun on Christmas day. It’s kind of a non-negotiable thing for me (unless I’m injured and feeling thoroughly bitter and sad about not being able to run). To me there is nothing better than starting the festive fun with going to parkrun, seeing my friends and having a 5k bimble. Who cares about paces or PB’s, it’s all about the fun and the people (arguably, this is all parkrun should ever be about really).
I got there early to help set the course up. I’ve recently been slacking in this department. I would say “unfortunately” but realistically life has gotten in the way – and in a very good way. Sometimes parkrun has to take a backseat! I love to wear a bit of a fancy dress for the Christmas parkrun and having used my elf outfit last year and my “sort of Santa” outfit a couple of years, I needed to spruce things up.Anyone who knows me knows I’m very bad at arts and crafts and I’m not that creative, so when I came up with my tinsel outfit and actually made it myself I was SO proud. I got so many compliments as well! It cost me NOTHING as well as we had the tinsel and safety pins already (I knew there was a reason I was saving all those pins from races!).As I’d only run the marathon a couple of days before, and my legs were really tired and achy (all that slipping and sliding and a faster pace than anticipated) I wasn’t expecting anything more than a proper slog.Happily my friend Mike offered to run with me which was nice. We could just plod around and chat. I also saw my super fast and amazing doctor friend, Jo, beforehand which was lovely. We seem to only catch each other very occasionally (she’s a doctor up North while her parents are down South) so it’s always lovely to see her, though we keep in touch through the wonders of social media.My legs felt like bricks. And actually I felt very unfit in general. My breathing was struggling and it was just felt very hardwork. I was grateful for Mike taking pity on me and staying with me. It’s amazing how one day you can be flying and the next you can feel like you can barely run.
It was very muddy and the finishing straight was somewhat precarious – no sprint finishing unless you wanted to go head over heels! My time was 24:39, which considering how I felt and the state of my legs I will happily take!Then it was a case of quickly clearing up the course and getting home to start the Christmas celebration with my family.
Christmas with my family is usually quite chaotic and, well, manic. I have a small family but it still manages to be very busy, loud and crazy. We’re not particularly organised so when Christmas dinner cooking happens it can be quite stressful. I usually help my dad and my mum sorts out table settings and things like that (it’s best for everyone she doesn’t get involved in the cooking ;-)).
Anyway, due to some good forward thinking the day before and writing a list of all the different things we needed to cook with their timings, we were fully on the ball. We’d vaguely said 1pm sounded like a good time to eat and I kid you not, two minutes to 1pm saw us all sitting down to eat! WHAT.For the starter, my dad made these delicious roasted cabbage, goat’s cheese and bacon things… so good!Then for main we had the turkey and full trimmings. One of my favourite meals of the year!Yes I realise broad beans are a weird addition but it’s a fun family tradition to include them (hilarious I know… *cough*). I’m not a potato fan, but there were roast potatoes on offer I assure you 😉 I’m very much a stuffing, parsnip and pigs in blankets fan though!
The rest of Christmas was spent playing games with my family, walking (I love a Christmas Day walk!) and then heading to Kyle’s to do much the same. I’m very pleased that I have the stomach capacity to do round two of ALL THE FOOD 😉Kyle’s mum did an AMAZING buffet spread (bless her, she’d done buffalo chicken wings especially for me). The above plate was plate one of many! I also had some cake pops made by Kyle’s lovely sister Lucy followed by silly amounts of chocolate lebkuchen.I got so many lovely presents from Kyle’s family, and of course Kyle. I was OVER THE MOON to have received a Nintendo Switch from Kyle, which I’m now fully addicted to (Crash Bandicoot, how I’ve missed you). We also played a Friends Trivia game which was ridiculously difficult – I mean, we thought we knew Friends but clearly not well enough (who even remembers what WENUS stands for??).
On Boxing Day we headed to Kyle’s dad for even more food.Gammon, beef, pork, turkey… I was in heaven.
Christmas is definitely my favourite time of year. Spending quality time with your family, playing games, watching films and eating silly amounts of food. It’s just the best time of year. Spending it with Kyle as well was really lovely. I’m very glad that we both get on so well with each other’s families – something that is very important to the both of us.
When I first decided to fully embrace the parkrun Alphabet Challenge I quickly realised it would not be an easy thing to accomplish. Well, easy in terms of it’s just a series of 5k runs you complete over a period of time, no closer together than a week. But logistically it’s a lot more tricky.
The only letter I had left was the infamous Z. I mean technically I still have X left, but so does everyone else. A parkrun beginning with the letter X does not exist… YET. So for the moment, I just had Z. And the easiest and most cost-effective location to achieve this was Poland (otherwise it’s New Zealand or South Africa). So hence why I found myself in Zary, Poland.Saturday morning Kyle and I woke up at the not too early time of 8am. Happily our hotel (ApartHotel) was located just ten minutes away from the parkrun. We decided to give ourselves a decent window though in case something happened (likely another Anna-related incident of some sort). But I’d Google Earthed the location, I knew exactly how to get there and I was feeling confident.So at 8.30am we headed out and 8.40am we had arrived in the correct car park staring at the parkrun flag. WE HAD MADE IT.It was quite chilly, though thankfully not raining, so we decided to stay in the warm car for a little longer as there weren’t that many people there yet.By absolute amazing chance we happened to be there the weekend Poland was celebrating their 100th anniversary of independence, and to celebrate (we had to translate their Facebook page to find this out) they had encouraged people to come dressed in white and red.As we only found this out the evening before we were a bit stuck with what we had packed and neither of us had anything white or red so sadly we could only observe the celebrations rather than fully join in. We saw people arrived, and pretty much all of them wearing something red and/or white and with hats and flags. It was fantastic!They had music going (basically a loop of the Star Wars bar scene) and a very festive and friendly atmosphere. It quickly became apparently though that we were the least dressed in our t-shirts and shorts. Everyone else was wearing leggings. A girl looked at me, sort of laughed (in a nice way), pointing to my legs and said something in Polish. I assume she said something like, “why on earth are you wearing shorts? Aren’t you cold, you weirdo!”.We had a big group photo which was nice to be involved in (photo above from their Facebook page). It felt a little bit awkward being there and not being able to speak Polish – a bit like outsiders coming in to a community! But we didn’t feel unwelcome, just a bit bewildered.
I was a bit chilly but it wasn’t nearly *that* bad. I was actually fine in my shorts! What was cool was on the map for the park area we were going to be running through the parkrun course was written up and (I assume) explained in more detail on a proper board that remained there all the time.After more people had arrived a woman led a warm-up. There were lots of squats, lunges and things like that. Everyone got involved – including us of course.I spotted a little Westie running around the place and I tried to make friends but it was too busy dashing around. It was very cute (he/she who knows!).And then we made our way to the start. I’d already got an idea of what the course would be like from my parkrun friend Paul Jeffrey’s blog so I knew it would be completely off-road, slightly undulating and tricky underfoot. No PB attempts today 😉We headed off to the start. There weren’t a huge number of people (80 in total) so I shuffled near the front. And then we were off!The course was beautiful. As you can see in the pictures it was very misty and eerie looking which made it even more pretty as it contrasted with the colours of the trees and the leaves on the ground.I found myself quite near the front as we spread out. I was about fourth and hanging on nicely to the chaps in front of me. The lead runner was miles ahead though never to be seen again (he did 17:24!). There were no marshals on the route but the route was marked clearly with the long tape and signs on the trees.I just followed the guys in front. I wanted to push myself that morning and try and go for a faster time but it was tough work on the uneven ground and the slightly undulating course. I was enjoying myself though. The course was basically all through the wooded area on a rough trail. It was lovely.I managed to overtake one guy just ahead before the finish and snag myself into 3rd place (never been so high in positioning before!). There was a final little hill and then a nice decline back the way we’d come (the whole course was one loop which is always a nice change) and then went past the timekeeper who handed me my token – no finish funnel as such. My time was 21:40 – not too shabby! Kyle came in in 9th in 23:16. He took it a bit more leisurely and stopped to take some photos (he’s still being very cautious about his previous shin injury – though it does seem to be fine now thankfully).At the end we were given a bag of those really yummy soft gingerbread biscuits, Polish flags and mugs. It was lovely! I tried to tell the Run Director that we’d come from England and we had really enjoyed it and while she didn’t seem to fully understand (likewise me to her Polish!) she smiled and nodded.The man I’d overtaken at the end came up to me and shook my hand. We managed to bumble through swapping names and ages (using our hands!). He was 65 and looked very happy that he was just behind a 30 year old, bless him.
Then we headed off back to the hotel. I was so chuffed to have done the parkrun. SO chuffed. Finally complete, woohoo! We showered, checked-out and then headed to a nearby little restaurant for breakfast (basically I Googled restaurants that would do Polish breakfast and handily there was a quaint one a short walk away). It was a lovely restaurant, buy very quiet.We ordered a set breakfast and then you could add on an item to it from a list. Kyle chose pancakes whereas I chose sausages.We got bread, jam, honey, butter, pate, cheese and salad bits. It was delicious. My sausages were so good as well (they had a bit of a smokey taste to them).Kyle said his pancakes, which were very much more European style pancakes than American ones, were overly sweet but nice. Just a bit too sweet for first thing!Then we headed outside to wander around Zary a bit more before we needed to drive back to Berlin to catch our flight.There wasn’t a great amount to see, as Zary was a small quiet town but there were flags everywhere celebrating the 100 years of independence.We had a lovely coffee in a little cafe and then headed back on the road. Zary was lovely and I am beyond pleased to have compelted the parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I had so much fun going to different parkruns all over the place, exploring new areas, seeing friends and just having a great time. I will definitely be continuing my tourism, but I need to think of a new challenge!
So the time had come to finally make my journey to collect my final letter for the parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I wanted to get this done before the end of the year for arbitrary reasons and because it’s getting cold.Kyle humoured me in joining me – he’s good like that 😉 And we flew to Berlin Tegel from Gatwick on a Thursday evening. Now I had only just got back from New York Tuesday morning so this was quite the turnaround for me!
It has been a while since any Anna-Related Incidents have occurred so it was only right for one to crop up. Everything had been going all fine and dandy until we reached the car hire place in the airport. I was down to drive the car (Kyle doesn’t have a car licence – he rides a motorbike instead). So when the man behind the counter says, “Can I see your driving licence?” I had a sudden feeling that someone had poured cold water over me. Driving licence… ah yes. That thing I did not pack.
I turned round to Kyle and said “I’ve forgotten my driving licence”. Kyle, bless his heart, has the patience of a saint and just sighed a little. When I asked the man what would happen if I didn’t have my licence he looked at Kyle and asked if he could drive instead. Kyle showed him his licence, technically not lying by saying nothing, and the man nodded and said “OK, he drives then. You just need to pay the extra fee for changing the driver”. Riiiight. Seems legit. I tentatively asked if I could still drive the car (remember, Kyle can’t actually drive) and the man said “Sure, but I didn’t say it”. OK then. We paid the added fee of being able to take the car out of Germany and £100 later we were out of there (I paid £61 for my mistake – ouch).
We arrived at our hotel, nicely located less than three miles from the Brandenburg Gate, and got very lucky with finding the last parking space where we wouldn’t have to pay. Thank god. The hotel was called, wait for it… Apple City. I mean, how perfect right? They did indeed have apples in the lobby.
So the next morning we woke up early and headed out for a gentle plod round the sights of Berlin. Genuinely I was so chuffed with where the hotel was located. It was a lovely run along the Spree River to get to the Tiergarten.The autumnal colours were beautiful and we stopped several times to take photos and enjoy our surroundings. I love runs like this.We ran to the Brandenburg Gate and then to the Reichstag building and it brought back all the memories of running the Berlin Marathon.It was nice to get some photos without hoards of people milling about.It was also nice to finally get to showcase my new New York Marathon vest that I got at the expo (love the colour!). Kyle and I took the run nice and gently and ran just over 5 miles in the end. A lovely start to the day – and a great way to tick off some “must-sees”.We then got showered and ready and headed out to walk the way we ran to get back to the centre. After numerous recommendations from people, we decided on the Steel Vintage Bikes cafe for brunch.It was such a unique and cool place. There were bikes hanging from the walls, the artwork was really cool and even in the bathroom the tiles had little bikes on them. The service was super friendly and the menu looked great. I went for a tea and it came out in this very cute little teapot and cup affair. For food I had scrambled egg and we shared some maple bacon pancakes (which also came with scrambled egg).Brunch was really tasty and helped fuel us on our Berlin wanderings. We went to Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Memorial and the big cinema area where they have all the premiers.
I was so chuffed as there was a small Christmas market around that area and I was able to grab myself a chocolate covered apple (something I adore – can you quite believe, eh?).We then walked to the Berlin Mall where I was amazed to see that there was a slide that you could take from the third floor to the ground floor!I mean, how cool is that? Of course I had to give it a whirl. After that we walked back to the hotel.We passed a small bakery and we couldn’t help but buy a delicious looking iced thing (I have no idea what it was but it looked amazing) and a pretzel.It was delicious! And so lovely to sit outside this very small German bakery and enjoy the chilly but lovely weather.
We then packed up and got going to Zary. Driving through Berlin was a little bit stressful (not to mention being on the “wrong” side of the road and using the wrong hand to change gear) but we made it onto the autobahn. The road to Zary from Berlin is basically all motorway and one long road. It was very dull driving but with good company and good music (and a pretzel) it flew by.
When we arrived in Zary (blink-and-you’ll-miss-it size of town) it was dark and very misty. I’m not going to lie, it was quite eerie. Almost like we’d wandered into a horror movie.Big pine trees towering over long dark roads, not many people about with oldie-worldie feels.That said, we checked in to our very lovely ApartHotel and everyone was met was very friendly (that we could tell, to be honest most people couldn’t speak English and we ca’t speak Polish).
We checked in and then headed out to walk to the local town (a 5 minute walk) to find some dinner. We happened upon a pizzeria. I mean, there wasn’t a huge choice of restaurants because Zary is a small town but this place was fantastic. The menu was great (they had an English version, hurrah!) and the pizzas we had were very tasty and not to mention ridiculously cheap.We both had large pizzas and a beer each and it came to £8, which is insanely good for a restaurant meal! It was very tasty as well (even if we weren’t hugely hungry due to all the snacks and food we’d had earlier…).
Then we headed back to the hotel ready for a good night’s sleep before Zary parkrun…
So I had just come off from the (dreaded) Queensboro Bridge and the mile slog that had entailed. Coming out of that silence and tough effort onto a nice decline and then straight into the busy streets of New York again was fantastic. It was almost nice to have had that respite of silence to fully appreciate the crowds again.
The sun was still shining, I was feeling a bit warm but nothing crazy. Now from 17 miles to 21 miles it was literally straight down First Avenue. It was also gently downhill. So with the crowds and the now wonderful feeling of no longer being on a bridge grinding upwards, I was flying along. I started to wonder what time I might get… sub 3:30? Could I do it?My pace was dangerous but I felt good. Now we were in Manhattan. I was still having the time of my life, waving at crowds, smiling and just being on top of the world. A woman in the crowd pointed at me and shouted “Anna you are STRONG” and in my happy little mind I thought “yes, yes I am!”.I find with marathons that it really helps to smile, even if you’re not feeling it. It tricks you into thinking it’s going OK and it boosts the crowds to cheer you. I definitely felt boosted!
I hadn’t paid enough attention to what Charlie and Anna had said before the race about where they were going to stand and clearly got confused because I thought they were going to be at mile 19… but they actually said they were going to be at mile 24. So at mile 19 I was looking for them but obviously didn’t see them. I’m annoyed that I didn’t listen properly because had I have known I would have looked at 24!
But around mile 19 we passed the area where our AirBnb was – and “our” Dunkin Donuts that we’d been going to. I suppose to anyone else it would have just been another Dunkin Donuts but to me it was like “ahhh! Familiar places!” and was a really nice moment. I knew where I was!At 20 miles I felt a new lease of life. Like I’m almost there. Less than hour I’ll be done! I put some high powered tunes on and focused on keeping going. I could barely hear my music though due to the crowds but it helped a little. Another bridge and we were into the Bronx, where I’d been told the support would thin out. I don’t feel like that was less support but I wondered just how more bridges to go and as we headed back to Manhattan I saw a sign that said “This is the last bridge!” and was SO grateful.
I remembered Charlie saying that mile 23 was the tough one. We’d run a bit of it the day before and it was literally all incline. It was a tough ask at this point. My legs still felt good, I was still buzzing but now my smile was occasionally a grimace as I knuckled down.
I started doing maths in my head for what time I thought I could get. Now I was wondering if a sub 3:25 would be on the cards. I was well over the mile markers possibly due to satellites or general drifting around the course so I made sure to try and work it out from an actual marker and not my watch. I was working out the eight times table in my head as I thought that was the easiest and most conservative.Charlie and Anna saw me (though I genuinely can’t remember seeing them) and they snapped two fantastic photos which were better than any of the official ones.I was clearly in the zone! We got properly into Central Park and a man shouted to me “Hey Anna! Welcome to the Park!” and it was a really lovely moment. So random, but really lovely.And now I was on the struggle bus. Every 0.1 was a grind. I was holding on for dear life, pushing up the inclines and trying to fly down any declines. I knew the final 5k was going to be tough and it was. But though physically it was hard, I was still happy. Yes, happy that the finish was soon but also because the crowds were just amazing and I was smashing it. The finis line was after a grueling final uphill and I (gratefully) crossed the line 3:21:29, 3713/52697 overall, 116/3544 in my age group, 205/1812 Brit. Pretty cool! I was over the moon and honestly quite shocked how I’d managed to do that – and how I’d found it a lot easier than the previous Goodwood Marathon which was around 5 minutes slower. It just shows what a fantastic course and cheering crowd can do!I shuffled through the finish area and the sunshine and felt wonderful. My dad rung me straight away – he must have got notified I’d finished. I chatted to him very briefly as I realised I only had under 20% battery left and still needed to navigate my way back. I wanted to speak to Kyle but kept it sensible by using WhatsApp rather than drain any more battery.
Charlie had given me the AirBnb key as it was likely I’d be the first to finish. I hadn’t really planned what i was going to do after the race… but I knew Steph was going to head and find an apparently very popular pie straight after.She had luckily managed to get into Wave 1 so had started ahead of me and though she was taking the race as a training run (I think she did 3:50ish) finished around the same time as me. Very handy! Especially as I really didn’t know how to get back. I was going to walk using my phone to navigate but at this point I don’t think it was going to last.So I headed to pick up my amazing poncho and goodie bag. The poncho…well I can’t even explain how decent it is!It’s huge, waterproof, with a fleecy lining and a hood. I won’t be throwing this away anytime soon. It was part of my package (I bought my place and flights for the marathon with 209 events – I fully recommend them) but believe you do have to pay extra to get it.
I met up with Steph (thank god!) and she took me to the amazing Milk Bar for some post marathon treats. Steph is very much into her food like I am so she a good person to be around at this point 😉
The Milk Bar was tricky to find and tiny. Once inside though, we had to wait in a quite a long queue – clearly a popular spot!Steph assured me the thing to order was the Crack Pie (real name), which I was totally game for.And I also bought some Birthday Cake Truffles.We then shuffled to the Subway to head home. Countless random people congratulated us – it was brilliant. In fact, we passed the Trump building where people were protesting outside and watched a very heated and sweary shouting match between a protester and a passerby. As we walked past the protester immediately softened his voice and said “Congratulations, girls!” it was quite amusing.
A this point neither of us had sat down since the Staten Island ferry – remember, we didn’t even sit on the bus! My legs were dunzo. I was exhausted. I almost cried when we got onto the metro and saw a rather shifty and possibly high/drunk guy sit sprawled out on the only two seats left on the train.
A wonderful woman noticed and promptly berated the man to stand up and let us sit down, “These girls have just run the MARATHON”. He quickly hopped up and we were able to sit down. I was so grateful to that lady!
We FINALLY got back to the AirBnb and the two of us happily sat and scoffed our pies and a numerous number of grapes (so refreshing). I had a glorious shower and then enjoyed seeing each of the other girls come in and swapping marathon stories with them. Everyone had had a good (albeit tough of course) race. Hurrah!
That evening we went out for Mexican food at Tolouche and celebrated happily together. I’ve never seen guacamole be demolished as quickly as it was though! The tortilla chips were hot and the guac was INSANELY good.For my main, I went for some sort of pulled short rib thing on a tortilla. It hit the spot.Of course we all wore our medals! Though I would have liked to have had a giant pudding of some sort I sensibly followed suite of the majority ruling (post marathon tummy is a delicate thing). We were all grateful to head to bed early that night – Anna and Charlie as well, they’d walked and cheered for silly lengths of time!Genuinely, the New York Marathon is my favourite marathon yet. I felt amazing both physically and mentally. I literally LOVED it. Yes there were tough moments but I remember distinctly thinking several times “I love this” as I was running. Having no time goals or pressures definitely helped. The crowds HUGELY helped. The sights and the sheer amazingness of New York helped. My only sadness is my family and Kyle were so far away, but I had some great new friends who helped make it very special.Next up… Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December!
Have you ever run the New York Marathon?
What’s your favourite race?
What food do you like post-race?
**Check out Charlie’s blog for details about future running-related trips she’s organising!**