The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Cover Story -

I was drink­ing iced cof­fee at a har­bour front café in Parga, on the north-west coast of Greece, writes Sam Mur­phy.

Colour­ful build­ings spilt down the sur­round­ing hill­sides; the sea glis­tened in the bay. I emit­ted a re­laxed and, I ad­mit, self­sat­is­fied sigh.

I’ve earned this, you see. I – along with the dozen-or-so other par­tic­i­pants of the triathlon hol­i­day I was on (rn­r­tri­camps.com) – cy­cled here, along quiet roads through olive groves, pass­ing white­washed churches and empty beaches that we’d oth­er­wise never have seen. As we slapped on sun­screen and topped up our wa­ter bot­tles for the 16-mile (27km) re­turn ride to Siv­ota, a party of tourists shuf­fled off a coach and into an ad­ja­cent café. I couldn’t help feel­ing they wouldn’t savour their drinks as much as we had.

That’s one of the things I love about ex­er­cise holidays. The plea­sure to be gained from those hol­i­day sta­ples – a doze on a sun lounger, an ice-cold beer, a gooey ice cream – is dou­bled when you’ve earned it through sweat.

It’s sur­pris­ing just how much ac­tiv­ity you can man­age on a fitness hol­i­day with­out keel­ing over. There’s not just more time for ex­er­cise but also for recovery, so you feel en­er­gised.

Hol­i­day ex­er­cise has another trump card to play – its novel con­text. It was on a Wild­fit­ness retreat (wild­fit­ness.com), while walking on a slack­line strung up be­tween two gnarly trees in the Cre­tan moun­tains, that I dis­cov­ered hon­ing bal­ance could be fun rather than bor­ing. That week, we also ran on beaches, weight-lifted rocks and hiked through the Topo­lia Gorge – all the while mar­vel­ling at our sur­round­ings rather than dwelling on how much ex­er­cise we were do­ing. I went home fit­ter and feel­ing that I’d truly ex­plored the is­land.

Sam Mur­phy is a fitness jour­nal­ist and a colum­nist for Run­ner’s World.

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