Ruth Field: With all that sand, don’t forget to keep your grit about you

I’m enjoying my holidays to the full, but I am also making damn sure I get exercise every day

Being active is every bit as necessary to me for a great holiday as all the wine, cheese and merrymaking . . . and the long stretches of runnable sandy beach are drawing me in. Photograph: iStockphoto

Being active is every bit as necessary to me for a great holiday as all the wine, cheese and merrymaking . . . and the long stretches of runnable sandy beach are drawing me in. Photograph: iStockphoto


Q So, Ruth, do you really run on your holidays or do you just say that to make us feel bad about ourselves? I don’t see how it is possible with three kids and a husband to look after. It’s actually more work on holiday here in Spain than when the kids are at school and my husband is at work. Where do you find the time? It’s too bloody hot all day, and I am ready to collapse when the kids go to sleep later than at home. But I keep thinking of you in the same boat somewhere, gritting out runs all holiday. And my inner bitch is getting in my face about it. So, make my day and tell me it’s a big fat lie and that you are lounging about like the rest of us, eating and drinking too much, and that you left your trainers at home. Please make my day. Jenny

A Hmmm. Well, Jenny, it will please you to hear that I have slackened off the running somewhat. The only time I have been tempted to go for a run is after having arrived on Ile de Ré a couple of days ago; long stretches of runnable sandy beach are drawing me in. And it isn’t so hot here that it can’t be done in comfort, so I know I’ll be out there most probably this evening. But I can’t see myself doing more than a few beach runs and . . . confession . . . this is my third week away, and that (as yet un-run beach run) will be my first since I left the UK.

But before you think I’ve been bone idle for three weeks, nursing a slowly inflating spare tyre with fois gras baguette and gallons of wine – there has been some of that, of course – a great deal of activity has been happening in between. And it was a very calculated decision on my part to ease off the running on holiday, mainly because I was out jogging almost every day for some time before we left home, and I genuinely felt it would do my knackered body good to have a proper break. Experience tells me that a holiday from running now will only heighten my enthusiasm for the sport on my return home, so I am not worried about breaking the good habit.

And, like you say, Jenny, there is less time for running on holiday because you are with your kids and husband from dawn till dusk. I usually use the first 45 minutes after dropping the boys off at nursery in the morning for my run back home, leaving a late evening run on holiday as the most realistic option. But my tendency to crack open a frothy* long before the twins are in bed pretty much cancels out that option.

But here’s the thing: I am taking a lot of other exercise and I am making damn sure I get it every day. While my sister was here, we would stand waist-deep in the swimming pool, catching the twins and throwing them in the air and depositing them on the side, time after time after time. Afterwards, we were breathless, and our arms and shoulders ached. This sort of frenetic activity in reps of 15 counts as epic strength training, in my book. Swimming is an activity I really do not enjoy and am loath to do at home, yet I really get stuck in on holiday knowing that my joints will thank me for the lower impact activity for a change. Given half a chance, I swim 30 or 40 lengths, possibly not in one go but over the course of a session in the pool.

Now we are on Ile de Ré, we have hired bikes, and are putting in 15-20km of bike riding each day, just getting to and from beaches and markets, and with the added load of a four-stone twin and all the crap you have to carry to the beach, this is another excellent source of exercise. I can tell it’s strenuous enough because I am sleeping like a log and we are ravenous. Also, a day on any beach with twin toddlers counts as vigorous activity in my book, the sand providing added grit factor to every step you take. Were it not for the swimming and cycling, I would create a time to run or walk each day instead, because I know that being active is every bit as necessary to me for a great holiday as all the wine, cheese and merrymaking.

So yes, I slacken off, and take a break from running on holiday, sometimes. Especially when I can use the change in routine and environment to try out new things outside my home comfort zone. What I don’t ever do though, is nothing. Not that there is much chance of nothing ever happening with twin toddlers. But when those quiet moments – and they are only moments – do come, on the beach or on a sun lounger, I enjoy them all the more when panting, breathless and soaking wet.

The Grit Doctor says

The key to keeping your inner bitch happy on holiday is to keep active by building activity into your holiday, every day, in whichever form you can.

*Frothy: Australian term for a beer. My gorgeous sister got engaged to her wonderful Australian boyfriend, Lukas Konieczny, while on holiday with us here in France, and we have adopted some of his brilliant Australianisms. My other favourite is, when he is feeling a little hot and sweaty, he says, “I’ve got a bit of a bead on”.

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