Fitness on holiday (and a US parkrun)

Again, apologies: dragging out the holiday and also taking so long to recap the US parkrun!

In the blogging world of health and fitness I know I’m in good company, but in the real world going to the gym and/or running on holiday is absurd. Why go on holiday and tire yourself out with a workout? You’re there to relax and get away from it all, right?

To an extent I agree, but keeping fit and running is part of who I am and to not do that out of choice for two weeks actually isn’t something I’d want to do. Plus there’s nothing more satisfying than enjoying all that good food knowing you’ve got some good fitness going on too (though I can hardly imagine my workouts made a dent in what I ate in Orlando!)

IMG_9055I must admit, the friends we went to Orlando at first thought we were mental. They literally didn’t understand. Jamie even joked he’d stand by the gym window with a cheeseburger waving at us. I felt embarrassed going to the gym or admitting I went for a run, but Ben told me not to be so stupid. It’s just who I am and that’s that.

It was tough at times though as I had to get up very early to go to the gym because we wanted to have breakfast and then get to the parks when they opened (usually 9am). But it was something I was happy to do (and actually helped with the jet lag).


The Jack La Lanna Gym

The gym in the Orlando hotel, Cabana Beach Bay Resort, was incredible. It was huge and very well equipped. It was literally heaven! IMG_9327

It’s funny because even the walk to the gym was a bit of an effort itself as the hotel is huge – it definitely helped with my step count!

I went to the gym equipped with a routine of what I’d do so I wouldn’t waste precious holiday time floating around like a lost cloud.

The gym in Dallas was a lot smaller! Just six machines, free weights and a mat area. But it got the job done.IMG_9825 Plus it also helped that it was on the second floor and our room was the 12th floor. I would walk up the stairs after a workout and would be absolutely totalled by the end.

I ran four times in Orlando and once in Dallas.

IMG_9212 Post run selfie back in the Orlando hotel

Orlando was easier because the area around the hotel was very safe and there were long stretches of safe, lit pavements to run along. But it did mean very boringly straight out and back runs.


Obviously the best run was the Orlando parkrun (Clermont Waterfront parkrun).


Stood the wrong way for our “BenAnna” nickname to work…

It was about 30 minutes from our hotel and it started at 7.30am so we left at 6.30am. I assume it starts earlier because of the heat (in fact they start at 7am in summer). Though the temperature was similar to a British spring morning so very pleasant to Ben and me but not to the natives who were shivering in their long leggings 😉 Clermont Waterfront parkrun All tourists (in the real sense of the word) signed their names on a board: name, where they came from and their local parkrun location. There were only 55 runners, but the run director I spoke to said in the peak times of summer they can have up to 80, and a lot of international runners like ourselves on holiday. There were clearly lots of regulars as there was banter and a very strong community vibe. The course was explained clearly and we felt extremely welcome and comfortable (while also making friends with some Welsh runners – what a small word, eh?).

IMG_9764The run itself was a sort of out and back and pancake flat. How I wish I had been in good running shape to really blast it…I did give it my all though and it was probably the fastest I’d run in a good few months!


Clermont parkrun 2015My time was 22:30, third lady – though I definitely felt it (and easy to place well when there are less runners)! I got a horrendous stitch on the last mile though which made breathing difficult. I very rarely get this so it really annoyed me. Ben had a great comeback run too as one of his first parkruns in a while (24:38 – nicely done!). We were graciously invited to the coffee shop afterwards but unfortunately we had to dash back as this was on the Pig Fest day. This was a brilliant parkrun though!

Another great run was in Dallas. We drove out to a beautiful park called White Rock Lake. We decided to aim for an afternoon run as it was just easier, though this did mean I got a bit of a stitch (again) as we had eaten lunch only an hour or so beforehand.

White Rock Lake run We ran a route alongside the lake and back again (we couldn’t have run the whole way around as it was huge!) and we saw so many other runners, power walkers and dog walkers. It was lovely. The scenery was beautiful and it was just a lovely four mile run. We chatted away and didn’t care about pace.

So there you have it. We kept ourselves relatively fit on holiday but didn’t get stressed about it. I’ve written down some tips below that I found helpful if you were thinking of exercising on holiday, hope they help!

  • GYM: Check the hotel has the amenities you want before you book, and see if you can find photos of the gym or reviews from websites like Trip Advisor. I knew that the Dallas gym would be small so I came prepared with lots of workout ideas in case they didn’t have the equipment I needed. I also had a quick look at the gym the evening before I went. I was going to go early the next morning and didn’t want to be surprised by what I found.
  • GYM: Different countries use different weight metrics. I made sure before I went I knew what my current kilogram weights were in pounds ready for America.
  • GYM: Bring a water bottle. Luckily both gyms had a purified water cooler so I could top my bottle up when I got in there rather than continually buying lots of bottled water.
  • GYM: Consider doing some hand-washing in your hotel room. I bought some cheap detergent from a supermarket there and took my ‘smalls’ hanger with me and used the other hangers for bigger items. So I didn’t have to pack a different outfit for every run or gym sesh and I didn’t want sweaty stuff hanging about in my suitcase for days on end.

Smalls clothes hangerMy very handy smalls hanger (stereotypically pink…) 

  • RUNNING: Do some research of the area of your hotel. Can you safely run around it? Are there any parks? Orlando was fine (albeit SO boring – long straight roads) but Dallas was in the centre of the city and it would have been a nightmare with the number of traffic light crossings.
  • RUNNING: Alternatively, research for nice parks or trail areas to run (best way to see the sights!)
  • RUNNING: Bring a charger for your Garmin.
  • RUNNING: Know what time sunset/sunrise is so you’re not out in the dark unseen – or bring reflective gear with you.
  • And most important: don’t set things in stone. You are after all on holiday and big meals, late nights and upset tummies are likely to happen. If you want to work out and can then great, but if you can’t then don’t beat yourself up about it!

Do you work out on holiday or do you take a complete break?

Have you had any amazing runs in foreign countries?

Do you use hotel gyms?

All the good stuff – food on holiday

Firstly apologies for truly dragging out my holiday recap posts. I still have another one to come focusing on the running and fitness side of the holiday – and my US parkrun recap!)

But OK let’s be real here, this is the good post, right? Holiday recaps are all well and good but I know for me personally I want to see what people ate. A huge part of the holiday is to enjoy the food, try new things and just eat stuff you wouldn’t eat at home normally. (To catch up, HERE’s my Orlando recap and HERE’s my Dallas recap). Apologies this is a long post!


If I’m honest, breakfast didn’t rock my world. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then firstly thank you!, and secondly you’ll know I eat porridge for breakfast every single day and have done for the past 10 years. I still love it!

Also breakfast in America typically is a long way away from what I’d consider ‘normal’. Pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes…they’re all pudding in my eyes. Sweet things so early don’t float my boat so I tend to stick with eggs.

Orlando Breakfast 2015

In Orlando I ate a lot of omelettes, turkey bacon, English muffins and fruit.  I’m a huge fan of turkey bacon – which in my eyes was far superior to the thin crispy regular bacon.

Breakfast in Dallas was similar but I also went back to porridge (oatmeal).

Dallas breakfasts 2015Don’t get me wrong though, sometimes we’d get a plate of pancakes for Ben and me to share so I could have a bit rather than a whole portion. Of special mention, the Corner Bakery Cafe in Dallas had gorgeous apple pancakes (left picture) and Yolk (middle picture) had a superb ‘ironman’ omelette full of veggie goodness which I added turkey bacon to.

For Ben, however, breakfast was his favourite meal. He was ALL over the sweet stuff, crepes being his favourite. Ben's holiday breakfast 2015 The Original Pancake House in Dallas were amazing. They contacted me via Twitter and tempted us in with a free Dutch oven pancake (bottom right picture). Easily won over! It was MASSIVE and very very sweet (Ben loved it).


Lunch is always a tricky one on holiday. Especially when you’re hopping from rollercoaster to rollercoaster. In Orlando it was usually something snacky, like an INCREDIBLE bacon pretzel from Busch Gardens.26.01 lunch

Though one day I obviously had to visit the Whole Food’s salad bar because it is EPIC.

25.01 Wholefoods saladI can’t even tell you what’s in there. Everything pretty much

In Dallas again it was a light lunch (apart from the day we had cupcakes for lunch).

Dallas salad lunches The salad of the right was enormous (that plate is more of a serving plate): feta, chicken, nuts and cranberries

We tried out the Which Wich sandwich/salad shop which was really good. You took a paper bag and it had a long list of possible sandwich or salad ingredients and you just ticked which you wanted, gave it to the cashier, paid and then got your sandwich (or salad) back in the bag (or in a container for the salad).


Dinner was by far my favourite meal. Jamie did great research because dinner was always amazing and never the same. We had Mexican, Greek, BBQ, Japanese, Italian and seafood. I mean seriously good meals.

For the Italian, we went to a very small restaurant called Giovanni’s which was about 20 minutes out from the International Drive area of Orlando. Not being a huge pizza or pasta fan I had a gyro meat and feta salad with pitta bread (this was me taking one for the team).

25.01 Giovanni's

It was very tasty. However the piece de resistance were Ben’s garlic knots.

25. 01 Giovanni's Garlic KnotsAt first I was like “nope, not my thing at all”. But then I tried one. Honest to god, they were out of this world, party in your mouth, life-changingly good. I’m looking at the photo now and my mouth is watering. They literally oozed with garlicky goodness. I know that sounds gross and I am not a grease fan at all but they literally melted. Kate even said that this would be her last meal on death row (hypothetically speaking). For $4 that is pretty damn good.

One of the best restaurants we went to was a Japanese restaurant called Benihana. You sat around a large grill (hot plate?) and the chef cooked your meal in front of you. It was almost like a show. The chef chopped veg so quickly, he danced eggs on his knife, threw stuff into his chef’s hat…it was brilliant.

Benihana Orlando And it tasted amazing as well. I had salmon with a mango chutney served with chicken fried rice and it was gorgeous.

Benihana Orlando (2) Definitely one to earmark!

*Next meals vegans/veggies probably won’t enjoy – scroll down to the other red text*

A meal that required a very light lunch was a trip to Texas de Brazil – an all-you-can-eat Brazil/Texas restaurant. It is heavily meat-based as the waiters bring round skewers of different meats and carve it onto your plate…this happens non-stop.

IMG_9498 At first I piled my plate high with different bits and bobs from the salad bar (of which was HUGE) and then I started trying the meat and realised I needed to save my stomach for the that and not the vegetables. Filet mignon (and wrapped in bacon version), ribs, lamb chops, parmesan-crusted pork loin, pretty much every cut of steak, chicken, sausages…just amazing. I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E (but fairly expensive – totally worth it though).

Obviously there was Pig Fest as well which literally rocked my world.

Pig Fest Food 2015 Ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork…heaven

And of course I had my usual turkey leg (this time from Universal not Disney) and it was amazing. All that Nando’s time has been good training.


It was a lot less greasy than Disney’s and it was more smoked, which was just so good.

***OK for vegans/veggies to return!***

Other great meals were a delicious Greek feta salad, crab, a Mexican tortilla bowl salad, an incredibly HUGE salad from CowFish (great restaurant giving options of both sushi and burgers, yes I know I had a salad but I walked past a lady having one and it was massive and I was sold there and then – I couldn’t even finish it!).

Orlando Food Montage 2015Top  L-R: Crab from Joe’s Crab Shack, feta salad from Greek tavern, chicken salad from Cowfish, Chicken tortilla salad

Well, I can’t deny I am a salad muncher and love American salads as they’re always huge with lots of toppings. But it wasn’t always healthy food…

Froyo became an almost daily thing. Kate and Jamie fully got involved as well, originally not knowing much about it.

Froyo 2015We developed ways to get the best from those self-services – chosen sauce at the bottom, few sprinkles of ‘toppings’, then layer of froyo, then more sauce and more toppings, final layer of froyo and then more sauce and toppings. We nailed it.

We also went to Cold Stone Creamery a few times (introduced to us by Kate and Jamie), which was just incredible. Weirdly I had the best apple of my life there…

IMG_9329 Ben had some seriously good ice cream as well (they literally roll out the ice cream on a cold stone and mix in incredible things like an entire piece of brownie and stupid amounts of sauce and toppings). But I saw the rows of candy apples and I was sold. My apple was dipped in toffee, then icing and then rolled over a crushed Heath bar. ROCKED my world in a big way. They even sliced it for me. I had no problems finishing it.

Other tasty treats included a WEDGE of red velvet cake and churros at the cinema (Ben and me shared both these things and promptly fell into a sugar coma), frozen custard, a huge slice of cheesecake Ben and I shared one evening and the best ice cream of my life (top line).

Orlando treats 2015The ice cream was from a parlour called Sh-Booms & The Oldies. I had caramel pecan and peanut butter bomb. Just enough PB for me but it truly was the best thing ever. Better than Ben and Jerry’s! The place was very small but very cool (it looked like it was in the 1950s with the decor) and the manager was the nicest man in the world – really jokey and chatty and let us try so many flavours.

And finally, in Dallas one day we decided to have some cupcakes for lunch from a place called Trailer Cakes and they were FABULOUS.

IMG_9883 We had three mini cupcakes each

We definitely pigged out ate a lot more in Orlando than Dallas and this was mainly because we were with friends and these things happen. At the end of our time in Orlando we both felt bloated and a bit sick and tired of food so Dallas was a bit lighter on the big meals. I probably overdid the ribs in Orlando (having had them three times) so didn’t quite feel the urge to have them again 😉

Apologies for such a long post!

What’s your favourite meal on holiday?

What are your favourite holiday treats?

Are you a meat lover or a carb lover on holiday? For me it’s all about meat as I find things like brisket, ribs and pulled pork a nightmare to cook.

Dallas Holiday Recap

I started my holiday (‘vacation’) recap with Orlando (find it HERE), the second half (or at least the last five days) we spent in Dallas. OK so Dallas was a very random choice, we are aware don’t worry.

We didn’t want to spend the entire holiday in Orlando (far too intense and crazy) and wanted to see another part of America. The flights from Orlando were fairly limited. We did ‘um’ and ‘ar’ about going to New York again (good job we didn’t – those flights got cancelled!) or going to LA. But LA meant a five hour plane journey, giving us a whopping flight time back to the UK at the end and an even worse time difference.

We enjoy having our own little adventures; walking, exploring, shopping and just generally chilling and Dallas fitted that criteria. Yeeehaaa! (OK I promise that will be the only ‘yeeehaaa’ I do).

Our hotel (Hotel Indigo) was lovely but very different from the Orlando resort. Far smaller as it was a city hotel, but it was very comfortable, had a gym and was ideally located. The bed…omg was so comfy too.

For our first day we’d planned to do lots of walking from our hotel to explore the area. I’d done a lot of research on good restaurants nearby and things to do so we were set. We stepped outside and good lord it was cold. We knew it wouldn’t be warm so we had packed accordingly but this was an unseasonably cold day for Dallas and our light jackets weren’t cutting it. After walking around for a bit it quickly became apparent we needed to be indoors.

In the end we got in the car and did some exploring that way and decided to spend the morning doing some serious shopping. We went to the Dallas Galleria shopping centre and it was brilliant. The first thing I bought was a warm long winter coat from Hollister in the sale – half price!

IMG_9841The best photo I could find of me wearing the new coat 

Being warm is an essential Anna requirement so this instantly made me happy. As did shops with whole work out clothing sections!


Old Navy shop

You don’t really get this in the UK (that I’m aware). You just get sport focused shops instead. I had a field day I can tell you! Ben…not so much 😉

After shopping to our heart’s content we grabbed some lunch and then headed to the Dallas Aquarium.


Now normally this is not something I’d be a huge fan of doing at home. Sounds a bit dull to me…However we really enjoyed it!

Dallas Aquarium 2015 There weren’t just fish, but monkeys, alligators, penguins, birds, insects and a leopard. The leopard was quite scary as it was stalking up and down its enclosure staring at a young child. The young child walked around the enclosure and the leopard followed it, menacingly. It looked like it was hunting the child!

IMG_9741 Leopard selfie

Unfortunately the next day I woke up at 4am in the morning feeling incredibly sick. I had planned to go to the gym that morning but I wisely decided not to. I didn’t feel any better later and so Ben and I stayed in bed until 10am. Ben loved this as normally we never lie in, especially on holiday.

We ventured out for breakfast but I couldn’t eat anything but porridge. We’d planned a long walk in a beautiful scenic park outside the city but after 10 minutes of walking I told Ben I needed to go back to the hotel as I felt so ill. I wasn’t actually sick or anything thankfully though. On getting back I literally fell asleep straight away while Ben watched some TV. I felt so sorry for him, what a rubbish day! When it got to about 4pm and it was clear I wasn’t feeling better, Ben went to a local sports bar to enjoy some ‘man time’ with a few beers and sustenance. He said he really enjoyed it as he had wifi, sports on TV, beer and was just chilling (though obviously missing me and feeling worried…).

The next day I woke up and literally felt like another person. The sickness had fully gone. I was so relieved. The weather was beautiful as well – like a spring day in Britain. We decided to walk around Dallas that morning and see some sights.

IMG_9735I’d describe Dallas like a very small New York. It’s very cosmopolitan and has huge high rise buildings. But it’s a lot smaller and the accents are crazy. The funny thing is, people didn’t seem to understand us either. They also seemed genuinely shocked we were from the UK.

We saw the JFK memorial monument, the Texas School Book Depository (where Lee Harvey Oswald apparently shot the president – I say apparently as I know there are a lot of conspiracy theories out there!)Dallas sights 2015 Though JFK’s assassination isn’t an integral part of our British history, it’s still something we were interested in. I know how much he was loved as a president and how shocking his death was.

In the afternoon we went for a lovely run together in the park that we’d attempted to walk round before I got sick. IMG_9823

Post run selfie – looking fairly done in!

For once we actually ran together as well and it was a nice romantic way to spend the afternoon – sweating, panting and grimacing 😉

We did some other random bits and bobs in Dallas, like going to a butterfly house (they did this in the movie Boyhood that I saw on the plane and I was very pleased we could do it in Dallas!).Dallas Butterfly House It was very cool seeing all these butterflies flying around the place and, with butterfly chart, we tried to work out which were which (yes we’re geeks).

We also saw some more beautiful and interesting sights and went on lots of lovely walks. Ben and me are big fans of walking on holiday (especially if we have Vivofits… ;-)).

Dallas sights (2)

The cattle sculptures were amazing – it was literally a herd of life-size cattle running down a hill

I think it’s safe to assume we had a quieter and more chilled time (albeit with lots of walking) in Dallas. It complimented well with the craziness of Orlando! It was definitely a cultural change as well. It felt very small-town America but in a city, which I know sounds odd. We definitely got our fill of cowboy-ness as well!

Fort Worth 2015 We visited Forth Worth and the Fort Worth Stockyards (which is basically just cowboy central!). It was so much fun. I’m not sure I’d want to live in Texas though – it seemed very ‘out there’. I’m sure this is just my tourist superficial impression though.

And as a final note…we dropped by to both Hooters and Twin Peaks (Ben explains Hooters as a good spot for “butt men” and Twin Peaks for “boob men” – a fair assessment). We just don’t have this in the UK! As you can imagine Ben loved it but he was too embarrassed to get a selfie with a waitress haha.

IMG_9889Enjoy the scenery”

And dinner there rocked my world. It’s something I’d never normally eat – just a load of fried goodness and dips (chicken, mozzarella, pickles…).

IMG_9888 You can’t beat a good load of dirty fried food sometimes

Well, if you can’t splurge on holiday when can you!

Have you ever been to Texas?

Have you ever been ill on holiday?

Do you enjoy visiting aquariums or zoos?