Take Flight and Get Fit

Fitness holidays are taking off in a big way this year. Three avid travellers share with TAN MIN YAN what they love about their active vacations.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Fitness holidays are taking off in a big way this year. Three avid travellers share with TAN MIN YAN what they love about their active vacations.

My Reading Room

Cheryl Tay, fitness influencer

How it started

“My first cycling adventure was a half-day tour in Bath, England, in 2013. I enjoyed how I could cover much more ground than on foot, but I never considered a hardcore cycling holiday until end-2015, when I covered part of the 312km Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail in New Zealand. After that, I bought my own road bike for long-distance cycling.

I also started triathlon training last year, so I’d go to Bintan every couple of months just to cycle, covering up to 100km a day. In July last year, I signed up for the Ironman 70.3 competition (a half-Ironman), and went on two more training holidays in the Gold Coast, Australia and Phuket, Thailand, where I’d cycle for three to four hours a day, on alternate days, for about a week.”

I can’t get enough of the feeling of freedom while cycling

“You get to exercise while seeing a city in a completely different way. You understand the local culture better from how people react to cyclists. Locals tend to chat with you when they see you on a bike. You often explore more hidden corners and alleys, and uncover Insta-worthy spots. I always get great photos out of these cycling holidays.”

What you need to know

• Leave the long dresses, sun hat and sandals at home: Long dresses can get caught in the bicycle chain, while sandals might get stuck in the pedals.

• Keep it basic: Wear your regular exercise gear and sneakers, and add a windbreaker if it’s cold. Also, neck warmers are better than scarves since they won’t unravel.

• Fuel up: Carry a small backpack with simple food like bananas and dry sandwiches.

My Reading Room

Lynda Williams, public relations agency owner

How it started

“In 2013, I quit my job and set up my own PR agency. I really needed to recharge and signed up for the food-, yoga- and nutrition-focused Ayurvedic detox retreat at Como Shambhala Estate in Bali. I chose it because of its world-class reputation for wellness retreats.

While I was there, a consultant analysed my lifestyle and sleep patterns, and diagnosed that I needed to sleep more, learn to switch off from e-mails before bedtime, and limit my phone usage.

Post-stay, I had increased energy levels and slept much better. Since then, I’ve been on five more of such holidays, ranging from a yoga retreat in Alila Diwa Goa in India to a fitness boot camp in Iceland incorporating Crossfit, yoga, horse riding and glacier hiking.”

My most memorable retreat so far…

“… was the Chosen Experience in Bali in February 2016. Chosen Experiences are curated by ex-Olympians, life coaches and chefs to include adrenalin-pumping adventure activities balanced with meditation, yin yoga and massages. Besides the great-tasting organic food – lots of quality meats, fish and vegetables – to keep us well nourished, a highlight was learning to surf, something I never thought I’d be good at. I shared the week with people who had a mindset, fitness level and sense of humour that were similar to mine, and they made the holiday extra special.”

Now, I can’t get enough of learning about health and wellness

“I’ve continued to explore new nutrition, health and fitness initiatives. I try to be as well balanced as possible, exercising four to six times a week, eating nutritious food, getting to bed early and learning to be kinder to myself, but also having delicious drinks and dinner with great friends. I try to follow the 80/20 rule – 80 percent being good, 20 percent letting your hair down – it’s great for the soul.”

What you need to know

• Less is more: A week before your wellness retreat, cut back on alcohol, processed foods and caffeine, so your body is prepared for the change – you’ll get quicker results this way.

• Do your legwork: If you haven’t exercised before and are going for a serious fitness boot camp, start with something gentle at home, like a 30-minute power walk three times a week followed by some gentle stretching.

• Be kind to yourself: “Don’t put yourself down or compare yourself to anyone else there. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy,” says Lynda.

My Reading Room

Annette Tan, freelance journalist

How it started

“About 14 years ago, my then-boyfriend and I were in Cairo, Egypt, and decided to walk to the Citadel, which we could see in the distance from our hotel room. As we walked, it soon became apparent that it was a lot farther away than it looked. At one point along the way, we found ourselves in a cemetery, which was also a slum. It was pretty frightening when people followed us around, but one guy started talking to us. Next thing we knew, he was showing us a famous tomb – and his bullet wounds – before sending us back on our way. 

We saw so much of Cairo and met some unexpectedly friendly people that day, and it dawned on me that we’d never have had this experience had we chosen to take a cab or a bus. So now, wherever I go, I try as much as possible to do a walking tour or a hike.

So far, I’ve hiked Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, Australia, Bear Mountain and the Poconos in upstate New York in the US, Dragon’s Back and The Peak in Hong Kong, done a glacier hike in Iceland and even a five-day walk/hike through Chianti in Tuscany, Italy, that took us through various terrains and towns.”

Experience the beauty of the vast outdoors we don’t have in Singapore

“I love discovering new places and being outdoors. In autumn and spring, you can walk for hours. When you’re out hiking, you see so much of nature that you miss in everyday urban life – artichokes growing in the ground, figs you can pick and eat straight from a tree, landscapes, flora and fauna that I’ve never imagined. In Patagonia in South America, the clouds looked as though someone had painted a straight white line in the sky with a thick brush, and there were flocks of golden-hued birds. These sights are all fascinating to me. Plus, hiking helps burn calories from all the food I eat when I travel!”

What you need to know

• Choose an easy, picturesque route, and make sure it’s close to civilisation, says Annette. “Australia has many trails that are good for beginners – pretty landscapes and clearly marked routes of between 2km and 5km.”

• Get the right gear: Have the right raincoat, good hiking shoes from a reputable brand like Timberland, socks and hat  – you never know when the weather might turn. Water and sunscreen are a must.