From 'hotpod yoga' to running, hiking to rafting, these 10 great health and fitness holidays will help you keep that New Year's resolution to get in shape and feel great this year
Yoga in the Alps (Hotpod Yoga)
If you want to heal or fend off stiff and aching limbs after a day on the slopes, hotpod yoga might be a solution to consider.
The pods are dimly lit, scented and warm, and even though it’s not as hot as bikram yoga (40 degrees Celsius), the 37 degrees inside helps yoga practitioner get going quicker, with rapidly warmed muscles and a higher level of fresh oxygen around the body.
The ‘ski prep’ or ‘post ski’ yoga classes strengthen muscles, flexibility and calm their minds.
Runners in South Tyrol (South Tyrol tourist board)
Get a rush of feel-good endorphins and strengthen your joints as you run (and walk) uphill and down for six days in a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 18 peaks rising to 3,000 metre.
High-altitude running through the mountainous Italian Dolomites in South Tyrol is a new approach to exploring Austrian and Italian traditions, food and folklore in the area, as well as the iconic Three Peaks of Lavaredo (Tre Cime di Lavaredo), historic paths, tunnels and memorials from the Great War.
A guide will take you on climbs, descents and flats, passing an impressive colour palette of turquoise lakes, white glaciers, a limestone amphitheatre and grey-brownish rock spires on 13-to-28km runs. The runs can take a couple of hours to an entire day, but with many stops to recharge with Italian coffee and food along the way.
Swimmers in Maddalena archipelago (SwimTrek)
The Maddalena archipelago in Sardinia has crystal clear water calling out to be explored. Dolphins might even join swimmers, as they're often spotted on the route between Spargi, which is known for its rock formations and ancient shipwrecks on the seafloor, and Budelli.
Apart from discovering marine life, swimming is also a great way to exercise hearts and muscles. You might have 15 or so bathing caps around you, as you swim around seven small Mediterranean islands.
Over five days, groups are accompanied by swim guides and safety vessels on 5km dramatic coastal swims and challenging island-hopping swims around the Sardinian Emerald Coast’s islands, cliffs, caves and beaches.
Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe (Dreamstime)
Join a five-day combined yoga and hiking trip in the area to discover the dramatic landscape, as well as learning breathing, meditating and relaxation techniques. Starting each day with a morning walk in the countryside and following with one or two yoga classes during the day, it can be the best of two worlds.
Bikers in Oulanka National Park (VisitFinland)
Join a fat bike tour and explore the arctic region of Oulanka National Park for five days on rides of around 12 kilometres. Passing elk and reindeer that roam freely in the forest of fragrant spruces, pines and larches, then stopping for a lunch cooked over an open fire in the wilderness, this is an active adventure that could, if you're lucky, turn into a Northern Lights viewing.
The Finns are also passionate about their saunas, and getting a healthy deep sweat on after working out in the saddle all day, adds a bit of Scandinavian culture to this fitness break. Joining sauna enthusiasts and roll in the snow for the full effect.
Hiker walking along the Cares Gorge in Picos de Europa (Pura Aventura)
Take a self- guided walking tour in the northern coast of Spain. You can walk at your own pace with a map and walking notes given to you at the start of the trip, carrying only a day pack, as your luggage is transferred each day.
This is a chance to explore Spain's dramatic mountain range and fill your lungs with fresh air in a part of Europe it's difficult to reach with vehicles.
Walking up to 20 kilometres per day a day for six days, moving from one tiny village with red roofed stone houses to another, is a great way to switch off from the busy everyday life, explore a new culture and get fit at the same time. You'll travel on narrow cobbled streets, over bridges, on paths high up in the Picos de Europa mountains and through meadows, woodlands and a limestone amphitheatre with griffon vultures circling in the sky.
Rafting on the Lugenda River (Mike Scott)
There might not be much time to practice your wildlife photography skills in a two-man raft/kayak along the Lugenda River in northern Mozambique, but you’ll have the satisfaction of witnessing elephants, buffalo and hippos at the riverside as you paddle by.
If you're up for an adventure, join a guided expedition and follow the river for 250 kilometres through the remote Niassa National Reserve, paddling on flowing flat water, with white water sections where you might need to get out and portage around, negotiating rapids and wildlife along the way.
Niassa is said to be one of Africa’s wildest places, and camping each night by the river is a great way to get closer to nature. Paddling on the river for 11 days, you’ll definitely work on your upper body and get out of the river at the other end feeling fitter and stronger.
Cycling in Sligo (Wilderness Ireland)
There’s no shortage of sights and hidden gems along the cycling route from the coastal village of Strandhill to the U-shaped valley of Glenade in northwest Ireland. Travelling on two wheels is a great way to explore the region's green mountains, valleys, old pubs and fishing villages, while strengthening muscles and having a cardiovascular workout.
To get the body and mind in the mood for a cruise on the winding backroads, you might want to try a gentle yoga session before taking of, as Wilderness Ireland do on their 7-day cycling trip in Sligo and Donegal.
Before taking off on gentle climbs, descents and flat riding for up to 51 kilometres each day, cyclists begin with 45 minutes of Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Beginners can ease comfortably into the relaxing and strengthening practice, whilst yoga enthusiasts can add more challenging poses to their sessions.
The best workouts are often the simplest ones. There's no need for fancy or expensive equipment when it comes to parkour, the art of navigating urban environments using your quick wits and all your physical abilities.
You'll get a full body and mind workout with a parkour course, where you move under, over, across and around vivid Berlin's buildings in running and jumping movements.
Wildfitness run three-day urban retreats where you can try two to three sessions a day of parkou, alongside other activities, including contemporary dance, as well as offering a chance to explore the best healthy foodie places in town. There’s no shortage of restaurants and cafés in Berlin, but you might need a guide to find the hidden gems.
Catching waves on Surf and Yoga trip (www.soulandsurf.com)
Riding a wave for two kilometres is something most surfers can only dream of. If you want to give it a go, Chicama in northwest Peru is a good place to start, with some of the longest waves in the world. Waves can run for 4 kilometres, although nobody is known to have ridden their entire length.
In Spring, this surfing mecca also becomes a temporary yoga mecca. Soul and Surf's ‘pop up’ surf and yoga retreats have previously taken place in Britain, Portugal and the Bay of Bengal, and will make a stop in South America in March.
With morning and afternoon surfing, and Vinyasa Flow Yoga in the middle of the day, it’s great for those who want to combine the two for five days, and should leave you feeling pretty Zen.
The yoga's not only a good way to unwind and meditate, but also to physically work on the areas of the body that you use in the water, so riding on the waves should go even smoother.
Main image: Runner in the mountains (Dreamstime)
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