Practical Tips to prepare for your active summer holidays

Couple Kayaking

The summer months with longer days and school holidays, for many mean taking a break to somewhere warm and beautiful. What better way to experience and enjoy a new destination than to cycle, explore on foot or glide down the river? If you are going to take an active summer holiday this year, there are a few things to consider enabling you to enjoy it as much as possible. Whether you are looking to do something new like trying paddleboarding, hiking up hills or if you are experienced, but you’ll be doing more of a favourite activity, it is worth thinking about the following things.

Is the activity possible at your current fitness levels?

Keeping your expectations realistic, is important for your enjoyment of your active summer break. A week’s holiday where you go hiking every day will be fine for someone who hikes regularly, but if you’ve never hiked before that might require more preparation. For example, you might like to focus on building your core strength, increase the distance you hike and walk your new boots in, before you travel. When physically preparing for your active summer holiday, you might like to consider which muscle groups you will use more of and focus on building those up.

What equipment do you need?

On top of the basics for the holiday (hiking boots, shorts, raincoat) what else do you need to pack? Ideas to consider might be, sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, insect replant, hydration tablets, snacks for the day, other appropriate footwear, a rucksack, a waterproof bag, a waterproof phone case, a change of clothes in case you get wet, blister cream, plasters and a first aid kit. Run through the day, thinking about all the things that could make the experience more enjoyable.

How and when to hydrate and fuel up

On an active day, your meals are going to need to be high energy to aid recovery so that you can go again the next day, eating lots of carbohydrates and protein will be important. Specifically, carbohydrates will give you energy throughout the day and focus on protein for muscle repair at the end of the day. Consider if you need to take food or snacks with you or can you get them on route? Have a think about how much water you need to carry with you, where and when you might be able to refill your bottle. Bearing in mind that you are on holiday and there to relax, be mindful that drinking lots of alcohol is going to leave you feeling dehydrated, tired and possibly lacking energy.  

How will you recover at the end of the day and prepare for the next day?

Creating a stretching routine to help lengthen the main muscles you are using at the end of the day will be beneficial. Planning in other more relaxing strategies such as a hot bath or massage, even if it is a self-massage with a tennis ball, might be beneficial. Maximise sleep as much as you can and rest tired muscles in the evening while socialising and refuelling.

Client Case Study

Several months ago, one of my clients said she was going on a kayaking holiday in July and asked me to focus her weekly sessions to build up her strength in preparation. My client, her partner and friends have a mixed level of experience in kayaking, and she wanted to be able to keep up with the more experienced ones. As someone who also kayaks, I know that it can get quite tiring and you can get back ache from sitting in one position for a long time, especially as they are going to row over five days.

I went away and thought about my client, her current strength and fitness levels, despite her being one of my strongest clients, she won’t mind me saying that she is one of my least flexible. We spend time every week in her one-to-one sessions doing Pilates to help her stay mobile. When we did her next session, I explained that we would start to focus on her core strength a bit more, specifically the muscles in her lower back, the obliques and transverse abdominals. Here is an example of some of the main exercises that use these muscles that we are focusing on:

Rotation-based core exercises

  • Russian twists. Sitting on the floor lean back holding one weight with both hands, bringing the weight to one hip, then rotate to the other side whilst leaning back with a straight spine.
  • Elbow to knee pluses. Lay on your back with bent knees, bring the opposite elbow to knee and pulse for 10-20 pulses and then change sides.
  • Kneeling woodchops. Kneel on one knee and hold one weight with both hands, bring the weight to the hip of the side that you are kneeling on and then move the weight diagonally across the body to the opposite shoulder, keeping your arms as long as possible.
  • Pilates ball twists. Put the Pilates ball in the small of your back and lean back into it twisting an elbow towards the floor and sitting back up in between and alternating sides.

Lower back exercises – all done by laying on your stomach

  • Swimmers. Lift the opposite arm and leg away from the floor lifting the chest, alternate sides.
  • Prone beats. Rest your forehead on your hands so that the upper body stays still. Lift and stretch your legs away from the floor, click your heels 4 times, keep the legs straight, and lower the legs back to the floor, the slower the better.
  • Dorsal raises. Again laying on your stomach relax your lower body so that it says still, with your fingertips by your temple, lift the chest away from the floor keeping your spine nice and straight.

One key thing we will make sure of is that she has a stretching routine to do every time they stop for a break and at the end of the day to prevent soreness, injury and stiffness the next day. The main ones she will need to focus on are lower back (knee drops) hip flexors (kneeling stretch) and hamstrings, seated or standing and holding each of these stretches for 30-60 seconds each.

If you have an active holiday coming up soon and would like to focus your training on helping you enjoy it as much as possible, get in touch so we can create a plan to help you have a fantastic holiday!

Sara McDonnell

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