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).

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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.

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

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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!

Breakfast

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

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

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.

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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.

Orlando Holiday Recap

So here’s the first part of my holiday review. I’m going to recap Orlando and Dallas separately as they were so different and also do a post on food (because it was amazing).

For the Orlando part of our holiday we were spending it with one of my university friends, Kate, and her husband, Jamie. Ben and I get on really well with them but we’ve never been on holiday with them before (I have with Kate but not Jamie as well). There was apprehension I think between both parties beforehand as to how it would go but honestly there were no issues. Jamie is very much like me (hello all the foods) and Kate is like Ben (food is fuel). But we all love roller coasters and have quite crazy senses of humour. We really gelled well and there wasn’t anytime I felt either party had to compromise for the other. In fact sometimes it was Ben and Kate compromising for Jamie and my food choices, or vice versa!

We met up at the airport and all agreed Jamie’s Oliver’s (Jamie’s Italian) restaurant would be perfect for breakfast.

IMG_9038 We all had the mammoth full breakfast and it was deeeeelicious and oh so filling. I also made sure to buy myself some food from Prêt a Manger as well as I detest the microwave plane food so I was sorted.

We arrived in Orlando probably about 10-11pm British time but by the time we got out and got our cars it was very late. We grabbed some food from a brilliant little spot Jamie knew of (side note: Kate and Jamie are like the experts of Orlando having been there quite a few times and Jamie, like me, always does his research on good restaurants so we were set!) and then we crashed at the hotel.

Hotel Cabana Beach Bay Orlando

Our hotel was a Universal hotel called Cabana Beach Bay Resort and it was huge. There were four different buildings, a Starbucks, a bowling alley, arcade, two large pool areas (regular pools, lazy river, water slide and hot tub), a diner, bars, gift shop, an amazing gym and regular shuttle buses to City Walk where Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are located.

The first day started rather dismally it must be said. It was chilly and raining. We met up to go to IHOP for breakfast which was great but we realised that with the weather being pants it probably wasn’t a good idea to go to the parks. This made us all a bit grumpy.

In the end though Ben and I decided to be really exciting and go to the gym while Kate and Jamie went shopping. Judge away but we didn’t fancy shopping and had planned to go to the gym Sunday morning so just switched it up so we could sleep in the next day. It made sense to us!

IMG_9055Work out selfie – could we be having anymore fun??

I’ll post more on the fitness side of the holidays another day as we did do a lot of running and gym stuff on holiday. It might sound odd but to me it’s part of who I am and to not do it would be weird. Plus I hate coming back from holiday feeling unfit and struggling to get back into the swing of things.

Anyway while we were at the gym the sun came out! Jamie and Kate arrived back and we got ourselves showered and ready to FINALLY hit the parks.

Universal Studios 2015 That’s Jamie photo-bombing behind us – we didn’t even realise!

We went to Universal Studios and it was brilliant. The whole new Harry Potter area (Diagon Alley) was brilliant. It looked so realistic and the new ride was pretty good. The Harry Potter restaurants were hilarious with the American’s take on British food (jacket potato with broccoli and cheese anyone?).

IMG_9088 MIB ride – Kate taught me the tricks of the trade to high score

We went on quite a few different rides and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The best part about our hotel is the location as we could dip into either of the Universal parks so easily (within 15 minutes) so we never felt we had to stay and do everything all at once. We went back to the parks quite a few times over the course of our eight days there.

Sunday we decided to do Sea World. Before the holiday I didn’t want to go. I’ve seen Black Fish and I’m not a fan of watching animals that should be in the wild amuse humans for the sake of making money. It’s not right. That said, we decided to go because Kate and Jamie said the park was great with the rides and our tickets were a combo anyway so the money was going there regardless of whether we actually went or not. Feeble excuse I know. In my defence though I didn’t watch the shows with the others. It’s not something I enjoy so I left them to it while I went on a few rides and wandered around the park (the shows were only 30 minutes). It’s very strange walking round a theme park on your own!

IMG_9129 The rides were brilliant. There was one called Manta and it was basically like Air at Alton Towers but on steroids. So much fun! Because it was so close, like Universal Studios, we were able to pop back in to do the rides again another day.

Monday we went to Busch Gardens. This park is quite far away as it’s located in Tampa, which is about an hour and a half away. We decided to drive separately (most of the time we drove together) so if one couple fancied leaving early they could.

Busch Gardens 2015Busch Gardens is a fantastic park for adrenaline junkies. It’s literally all just big roller coasters, no messing around. And we loved it! It was very quiet and we went straight to the new ride, Falcon’s Fury, and got on it twice in quick succession.

IMG_9174 I honestly haven’t been that scared on a ride for a long time. It takes you up so high. As we got near the top the bravado I had when I was safely on the ground had disappeared and I said to Ben I wanted to get off. Not much he could do there! The seats then tilt you so you look straight down. If the restraints failed you’re dead, 100%. Then it drops you and you fall straight down. It was AMAZING.

The rest of the day we ran round the park like little kids going from one ride to the next. It was awesome. Kate and Jamie fancied looking around the animal enclosures (of which there were loads: giraffes, cheetahs, hippos, etc.) while we decided to make our way back and get some froyo and then chill in the hot tub.

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We also had a fun day of playing crazy golf and bowling which was just such good fun. The golf was brilliant; lots of banter and fighting talk. The good thing was that we could pay for two sessions discounted so we came back one evening for another round. I was appalling at bowling but it was still a good laugh (though I lost by stupid amounts every time).

Games Day 2015 The bowling was at the hotel and the crazy golf was on City Walk

One of the best evenings was seeing the ice hockey. At first I was like “pfft, I’m not that interested but it’ll be an experience”. But WOW it is intense.

IMG_9350 The Amway Center

And there was a fight! Like a proper gloves-down-helmets-off-fists-out FIGHT. While Kate and I were shocked and morally outraged the boys were loving it! OK I know this is a regular thing for ice hockey but to us naive and gentle ‘soccer’ watching Brits (“oh no there’s a ball, I will fall down now”) it was shocking.

IMG_9355 Obviously I tried to catch it on my phone

For me one of the best days by far was the last Saturday in Orlando. It started with Ben and me getting up stupidly early to drive to Clermont (30 minutes away) for the Orlando parkrun (insert stupidly excited dance here). I’ll talk more about this on another post but it was brilliant!

We then found breakfast in a rather dodgy IHOP afterwards (this is what happens when Ben and Anna venture off from their Orlando Experts and fend for themselves). After showering and meeting up with Kate and Jamie we then headed off to Pig Fest. What is Pig Fest I hear you ask? I apologise in advance now to any vegans or vegetarians, this will not be your thing at all.IMG_9559Pig Fest is basically a huge gathering of people who compete in BBQ cooking. BBQ’ing in the States is not as we Brits know it (sausages and burgers) but proper smoking ovens serving things like ribs, brisket, chicken wings and pulled pork. Literally heaven. Look how excited Jamie and me are?? This was an afternoon for Kate and Ben to take one for the team.

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Jamie and me with our Pig Bucks

You bought ‘Pig Bucks’ at the entrance (1 dollar = 1 Pig Buck) and then use those bucks to buy from different vendors to eat to your heart’s content. There were also non-selling vendors who were just competing as well. I would say it was 95% American. It wasn’t really a tourist hot spot in the sense that the parks are. And this made it so much more fun!

Pig Fest 2015 It felt very ‘real’ America, you know? The food was awesome…Jamie and I were like children in a sweets shop. Oh the ribs!! Ben isn’t a huge BBQ fan but he fully enjoyed the deep fried sweet treats. But more on that in another post…

We also spent an evening in Downtown Disney and saw the new Hunger Games film. This is something Ben and I would never have thought to have done and when Jamie and Kate suggested it it sounded like a good way to chill out.

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The film was pretty dull though…I fell asleep twice! But you have to see it to see the final one *grumble grumble*. I did enjoy the experience though (and naps in such comfy chairs are awesome).

Basically Orlando was a whirlwind of roller coasters, theme parks, all the food and just good fun. It was lovely to spend the time with Jamie and Kate and we just all got on so well and had a laugh together. I would say we definitely missed them in Dallas!

IMG_9597Just chilling with Decepticon (like I know who that is…)

Ben would kill me if I didn’t mention one final awesome thing about Orlando…the cars:

IMG_9663 Both couples got Mustang convertibles…*sighs*. Having the roof down was cool but it did mess my hair up (I know, such a girl comment).

Have you been to Orlando before?

Do you enjoy roller coasters?

Do you ever watch live sports on holiday? We’ve never done so before but Ben is now addicted. We only saw a very minor league team but he wants to see the big guns now (NHL? Is that right??)