Ten feel-good fitness holidays that you'll actually enjoy

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Anna Melville-James
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Let’s face it, you’re never really going to make it to that hotel gym on a normal holiday. So if staying – or getting – fit is part of your agenda then it pays to book something specially geared toward building up a sweat.

Bootcamp? Bo-ring. There are many more interesting ways to keep the pulse up while you’re away - and many even include a bit of sightseeing and the odd cocktail at sunset. 

So pack up your lycra and get set to boost your body strength. We’ve picked ten great ways to enjoy a healthy holiday with a real feel-good factor.

1) Three’s the magic number on Fuerteventura

If you’re going to get fit on holiday then why not step it up a bit with some triathlon training? Coaches at Europe’s largest sports resort Playitas, on the Canary Island of Fuerteventura, can turn you from Ms Ten-Minute-Treadmill to a budding ironwoman with their triathlon weeks. All ages and abilities can challenge themselves; cycling on quiet island roads, swimming in the open waters of a nearby sheltered beach and running on trails through sun-dappled scenery. If you’ve got any energy left you can always hit the other myriad fitness activities available after, from Zumba to Nordic walking. Hardcore.

2) Get into your stride on Mallorca

You’re no mere weekend jogger, you’re an athlete in the opening credits of Chariots of Fire on a running holiday through Mallorca’s epic Tramuntana mountain range. Pounding the same trails followed by the island’s marathon heroes Tofol Castanyer and Miguel Capo, you’ll follow daily routes tailored in length and gradient to your fitness, all accompanied by an experienced guide. The best bit? When you’ve put the miles in you get to chill out at the ancient stone farmhouse Finca Es Castell at the base of the mountains, amid olive and carob trees, enjoying private yoga lessons, massages and dips in the sparkling pool waters. Running’s never seemed so appealing.

3) Stand up and be counted in Portugal

SUP, people? Hot fitness trend, stand-up paddle boarding, not only offers a cardiovascular workout but killer core strength training too. Balance on a board… and paddle. Easy enough to say, tougher to pull off – learn the basics or improve your technique on a five-night SUP Fitness holiday at Epic Sana. Paddle training is held on white sand beaches and in the warm(ish) waters along Portugal’s dramatic Algarve coastline. Enough to get you riding the swell in giddy excitement, feeling the good vibes of salt, water and sunshine. You rule those waves.

4) Hit the trapeze in the Caribbean

Caribbean sunshine and trapeze flying? It’s the biggest no-brainer ever as far as a fitness holiday goes. At Club Med’s all-inclusive Punta Cana resort on Dominican Republic, you can hone your abs and quads at the Cirque du Soleil School, learning to walk the tightrope, swing on the trapeze and twirl round on the aerial silk tissues. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to trade spinning class for a session on a unicycle. You’ll work muscles you didn’t know you had – and get fit without noticing. Definitely time to run away and join the circus.

5) Take the plunge in Pembrokeshire

More inspiring than a lat pulldown – getting your fitness on in the great outdoors is a great choice for the jaded desk warrior. Jump off a cliff into the frothing Pembrokeshire seas on a weekend coastal break with Preseli Venture five-star eco-friendly activity centre. Not only does coasteering give you more of an endorphin rush than circuit training, it also adds a certain rugged wild woman element to the whole fitness business. Add in sea swimming, surfing and beach runs, all while breathing in lungfuls of Atlantic air, and you’re not only sorting out mind and body, but your spirit too.

6) Tick the Box in the Canaries

Can’t bear to be without your WoD and your Box? No clue what that means? Whether you’re a seasoned CrossFit fanatic or an innocent newbie you can join a CrossFit break in Gran Canaria, and “maximise training opportunities while relaxing and enjoying the sunshine during recovery time” as the blurb promises. Translation: “your muscles will hurt like never before with this unforgiving mix of cross training and you’ll probably end up flat out on the beach afterward, your mouth frozen in a silent ‘O’”. On the upside you will at least take home both a suntan and a body chiseled from granite at the end of the week.

7) Take to the sea in Greece

Island hop under your own steam with a sea swimming holiday in the Greek islands of the Sporades. Cutting through the Aegean waves as the sun beats down is life-affirming stuff – and this spectacular 24-island archipelago, which includes Skiathos and Skyros, is waaay better than your local pool for background. Swimtrek takes you by private boat to all the best swim spots, travelling alongside as support as you cut through the water, and giving technique analysis. You’ll need it – these are serious swims, and you’ll have to do better than rusty breaststroke to keep up. Just keep thinking of the calamari and ouzo at the end.

8) Saddle up in Ireland

Anyone who thinks that riding isn’t going to get you fit has never spent a week on the back of a horse. And if you want to put that to the test then head out into the emerald hills of Co.Galway, Co.Clare and the Burren National Park in Ireland on a guided trail ride with Far and Ride. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert horsewoman. Novices get tuition so they’re able to confidently trot past castles, mountains and rivers cutting through the green baize countryside, before returning to the farmhouse base at night. You’ll ride for an average of four-six hours a day - and if that doesn’t give you thighs of steel then nothing will.

9) Get back to nature in Zanzibar

If you’re going to go on a fitness holiday you might as well do it in paradise. Wildfitness aims to reconnect you to nature, and its newest location, Zanzibar, has all the white sand and turquoise water you need to offset the deep squats you’ll do on its fitness breaks. Coaches will assess you on arrival and talk through your goals for the course – which you’ll achieve through activities such as reef swimming and barefoot beach running, massages and eating as freshly and organically as you can on an island where seafood, fruit and salads tumble from the natural larder. Oof sounds hard.

10) Get on your bike in Italy

Make tracks on the Tuscan landscape with a mountain biking holiday, arguably the most athletic way to see the rolling gradients of this stunning Italian area. Saddle Skedaddle has a guided week-long tour of the “Sacred Routes” of the region, following the ancient Via Francigena pilgrimage trails that once connected Canterbury to Rome and Eroica gravel roads linking hilltop towns such as San Gimignano, Siena and Pienza. Bounce off road through vineyards and dense forests, and roller coaster up and down river valleys by day, staying at rustic agriturismo farms in the evening. Ciao ciao, couch potato.

Images: iStock


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Anna Melville-James

Travel writer Anna Melville-James has been trotting the globe for 15 years in search of great stories. She sifts the sands for, tracking down travel news, trends and destinations for the site to inspire holidays and daydreams. When she’s at home in London, Anna enjoys watching David Attenborough documentaries and counting her extensive collection of free sewing kits and miniature toiletries.