Recently I flew to New York (the land of the bagel and tall coffees) and on my way there, after 14 hours of movie watching and carb-loading, I decided to stop in LA to visit the coastal town of Santa Barbara. I was planning the ultimate fitness mini-break, and busy Los Angeles just didn’t appeal. Luckily Santa Barbara was just what I was looking for. And what I learned is that the perfect fitstop (fitness stopover) needs the careful combination of a few things: the right activities, tasty food and reliable weather. So the next time you’re planning your stopover, why not make it a health break? As you board the next flight, your body will thank you. This is exactly how to do it:
1) Choose your stopover based on convenience: Obviously, your destination has to be close enough to the airport to not add too much time to your trip and far enough away to feel like a mini-break. And, preferably it needs to away from high-rise cities, and surrounded by lots of nature. Coastal Santa Barbara is only a few hours north by car or bus from LAX, so it was perfect for us for a health stop.
2) Cater activities for everyone: For my adventure junkie boyfriend we went kayaking and mountain biking, for me we went SUPing and hiking to hot springs. Mixing up the activities so that everyone in your travel group is happy is the only way to do it! Make a list of everyone’s fitness levels and skills so that you can plan the best activities in the right order, and book most activities in so that you don’t waste time deciding what to do next.
3) Make time for relaxing: Sure, it’s all about sweating and making those muscles move, but there’s no benefit to a fitstop that’s so packed full of activities you’re exhausted when you get back on the plane. Don’t forget to lounge by the pool, book in a yoga class or sleep through an oil massage – you need to rejuvenate before stepping back onto the travel treadmill.
4) Don’t undo your work at dinner: After a day of sea kayaking and horseback riding on the beach, it’s tempting to load up on fatty foods and dozens of warm dinner rolls. So plan your meals at healthy restaurants so you won’t be lured to the dark side. We ate at a raw food restaurant in Santa Barbara and a pumping vegetarian café for lunch. Don’t get me wrong, we ate a lot, but it was all packed with nutrients, which we burnt off the next day mountain biking.
5) Make better drink choices: Beers and cocktails are filled with sugars, as are soft drinks and fruit juices. But, hey, it is a holiday too, right? Best to alternate your drinks with water, and stick to clear spirits. Better drinks are vodka/ gin and soda water, but stick to one or two.
6) Prioritise sleep: After a day out in the sun or on the snow, you’ll want to do this anyway, but it’s important you choose your hotel so there are no issues. Is it opposite a freeway/ bar/ motorcycle club? Is your room next to the lift, gym or café – when you book, ask for a quiet room. On our fitstop we had a bed the size of my apartment, so we slept perfectly, but I have had these problems in the past and trust me, after a restless sleep, you won’t be particularly keen for sunrise yoga or anything else for that matter.
7) Prepare for your flight: Don’t forget that a fitstop is all about rejuvenating – and that’s not gong to happen if you are rushing to the airport as the gates are closing. Organise your transport so that you have enough time to check in, grab a green tea and go to the bathroom before your flight. If you can, take some healthy snacks on the plane, and remember that the best way to fight off jetlag is by being properly hydrated, and sleeping according your destination’s time zones. Even if that means you miss out on the odd meal.