The summer holiday equation: excellent weather, fabulous location, good food, possibly plenty of grape and good company, together adds up to a wonderful time!
However, the magic all too soon fades away and you find yourself back at home, woken by the habitual sound of your alarm, heralding your return to work and what passes for the normal daily routine. But something is amiss. Feeling unusually heavy? The formal attire a little too snug, perhaps, after that brief respite from routine and the slight over-indulgence of the vacation. Sounds familiar?
As a fitness-orientated person, you probably train most days of the week, with an abundance of energy radiating out like solar power; so why this current feeling of being unfit and tired? Surely, having just returned from holiday, you’d expect to feel content, happy and recharged?
Perhaps the answer is simply that, while you enjoyed all the wonders of the trip, your body missed the exercise. So why not learn from that and plan your next vacation under the motto “happy and fit”.
My recent visit to London was a seven-day trip to catch up with friends and staff. However, I decided to make an additional plan to run in seven parks — a great way to start your day and include a little sightseeing on the way. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the life of the city before breakfast.
My first four days were mainly focused on endurance and running my favourite four parks – Kensington, Hyde, St James’ and Green Parks – which adjoin each other.
By the Round Pond, I encountered a myriad of sleeping swans, their heads gracefully resting down their bodies; cheerful dogs accompanied by their caring owners; cyclists, walkers, runners and just ‘early birds’ ensure the park is wide awake at just after 6am. Being a triathlete, I would cycle along the park courtesy of a ‘Boris bike’. These bikes, available courtesy of an initiative by London’s former mayor, Boris Johnson, are free of charge for the first half hour and only £2 per hour thereafter.
It’s a great atmosphere going to the park by bike along with the daily commuters travelling to work. I would park by Princess Gate and start my run of the four parks from there, making my way down the curving Serpentine river, with its sinuous, mysterious charm, through the arch to St James’s and onward toward Buckingham Palace — calm and serene in its regal glory as the daily life of the city starts to naturally evolve around its solemn presence.
My heart is always with Green Park, its lush gardens and lakes, the diversity of birds and flowers and the happy morning smiles of the passers-by. Running round the park takes only 10 minutes and, if you time it right, you can witness the changing of the guard. There is a lovely waterside café, should you decide to take your breakfast there and enjoy the solitude of the lakes and the birds at play.
There are also several points to take the Boris Bikes back to, but, I finished my training with a swim in the Serpentine so dropped it there. The swimming area is open to the general public during the summer months and, if you join the local club, you are free to swim all year round.
On my fifth day I ventured further to Holland Park. I had heard of it a long time ago from a dear friend but, until this trip, had been unable to discover it for myself. It was certainly worth the effort — glorious gardens with a host of sporting activities for all. Looking busy and vibrant, this green oasis, in the heart of the city, seems to live a life of its own. The Japanese garden is not to be missed! Large koi carp and water features take you away to the distant land of the Geisha.
After my run I headed to Portobello road, famous for its exclusive shopping, to enjoy a well-earned morning cappuccino.
Hampstead Heath was my treat for the sixth day, with vast spreading meadows of gold interspersed with the occasional ancient tree and long paths; its dramatic landscapes are inspirational to myself and many artists – the most famous being John Constable, the poet John Keats and the author CS Lewis, who created the fictional world of Narnia following a winter walk on the Heath. This site has more than 55 historical features within its bounds and an abundance of indigenous wildlife and plants. There are a several lovely swimming ponds to try, if you’re brave enough to face the bracing cold water.
There’s a great atmosphere here by the ponds when the occasional rays of the sun reflect upon the tranquil waters; the cosy beach gets packed with people coming for a dip. Many bring a picnic and enjoy relaxing in the tall grass on a long summer’s day or frequent one of the traditional taverns, Jack Straw’s Castle, Mother Huff’s, Spaniard’s Inn or the Bull and Bush, as the hustle and bustle of the city continues around them.
My last day was a typical drizzly London morning. I cycled my Boris Bike to Battersea Park just like one of those ladies who shocked locals by riding in Battersea Park in the 1890s. They had been banned from Hyde Park, ha-ha! Cycle parking is conveniently located just next to the entrance and, having started my run near, perhaps, the park’s most famous element, the Peace Pagoda. I was fortunate enough to encounter the single Buddhist monk who’s cared for it, with the help of volunteers and donations, daily since 1985. He walks there every morning at sunrise, gently beating a drum as he goes. The pagoda is in the Old English Garden which flows into a festive row of fountains that resemble the victory parks in Russia – it feels just like home! To my great amusement and surprise I later run into, what appears to be, a tropical garden, which reminds me of my second home – the Middle East! Indeed, this is a sub-tropical garden, as I later read from the information board.
Plantings include spices from the Mediterranean, Asia and the Americas, including bamboo, giant reeds, banana and maidenhair trees and dwarf palms – certainly an international park indeed with such a variety of nature to run through; it felt like I had run half the globe!
If you’re travelling with children, I suggest a detour to the Go Ape adventure, also featured in the park. It will make for two to three fun-packed hours crawling through the forest canopy with suspended obstacles, Tarzan swings and breathtaking zip lines.
So next time, why not consider your holiday from a different perspective and stay fit and happy throughout the trip with tri-holiday wellness fun.
For more details contact Anastasia on firstname.lastname@example.org and look out for the first of her new regular monthly columns dealing with travel, wellbeing and life coaching, in our November edition.