Every GOOP-obsessed woman is looking to savasana or bootcamp their tushes off on a fitcation, it seems. And while the ne plus ultra of these luxurious fitness-focused vacations might be a yoga retreat in Tahiti, for example, or cycling in Vietnam, there is a simpler and more budget-friendly way do do it: choose a destination and plan an itinerary around classes and lessons you’re keen to try out.
I flew down to Southern California to try my first pick-your-own-fitness adventure, SoCal being, after all, the birthplace of many fitness style trends. You’ll find more workouts to try here than you can reasonably fit into one trip, making it an ideal destination for you to tone up doing a variety of fitness (hello, cross-training) — not to mention having more healthy eateries and juice bars to try out than Beyoncé has hit songs. Pack your Lycra and sneakers, hop into your car rental and get set to sweat in SoCal.
Take your yoga practice into the air
While you can find aerial yoga in Canadian cities, it’s unlikely you’ll find an aerial yoga class set outside on a rooftop with a view of the ocean in the distance. At La Jolla’s Trilogy Yoga, using the silks to support you through stretches and inversions, this yoga practice will call for a bit of trust both in yourself and the fabric, making it a practice that’ll challenge you both physically and mentally. As someone who can occasionally get motion sickness, I used that as extra motivation to stay in control of the silks to minimize swaying.
Above: Working out on a California beach with the sun setting has many benefits.
For those who love to spin but can do without the nightclub atmosphere, over-the-top dramatics and crowded sweaty rooms of most spin studios, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief at the beach spin class at the historic Hotel del Coronado. With spin bikes set up by the sand and facing the ocean, participants each get a headphone so you can enjoy pop hits and hear the instructor’s cues without disturbing the peace for beachcombers. Best part: I loved that instead of A/C, the salty Pacific Ocean breeze cools you off.
Soothe those muscles at the spa
Don’t overlook recovery when planning your fit getaway. A visit or two to day spas over the course of your trip will help flush lactic acid from your muscles and better prepare you for your next workout. In San Diego, you’ll find the newly renovated 40,000 square-foot AquaVie Spa Wellness Club, which offers a sports massage to help soothe your overworked muscles, and if your leg days have you feeling beat, make sure to add on the fatigued leg treatment to boost circulation. Post-spa, I ordered a light lunch to enjoy beside its Olympic-size rooftop pool, which rounded out a recovery day perfectly.
Ride the waves in Huntington Beach
Whether you’re a novice or expert, Huntington Beach is the spot to try to catch a wave — it is the birthplace of surfing in America, after all. You can look forward to relatively consistent surf conditions, and with a sandy ocean floor, beginners can learn the basics from the surf instructors from who know how to break down the basic steps so that you may be up on that board and surfing to shore before you know it. Ryan, my instructor for my very first surf lesson a year ago and again for another lesson this visit, is so enthusiastic about his surf students getting up on that board, it’s motivating — and it works!
Sun salutations in sunny California
The sunny beaches of California make for a stunning and appropriate spot to practice sun salutations, wouldn’t you agree? That said, nailing your yoga poses may prove more difficult than you realize when you’ve got soft, shifting sand underneath your feet (I know I found tree pose next to impossible). In Huntington Beach, book a beach yoga class and they’ll provide the mats and instructor. Keep in mind there’s little shade on the beach so sunscreen is as essential to your practice as is your ujayi breathing.
Kayak in La Jolla
Presented by Everyday California with a helmet, I was confused. “For kayaking?” It and the life jacket are required, and if you go out on a rough day as we did, you’ll understand why that helmet is needed. There are caves you can explore when the ocean is calm (hold onto your Go Pro tight, as many have been lost in the water here) and to come in from your excursion, you’ll have to surf that kayak on a wave. Catch that wave the wrong way and you’ll get tossed out of the kayak (and possibly hit on the noggin with it, as I was). If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a sea lion or two.
Sweat your way svelte in Santa Monica
California beauties complement their Spinning, Pilates, surfing and yoga with another sweaty endeavour at Shape House. Celebrities including Selena Gomez come to this urban sweat lodge, where you put on oversized cotton gear and tuck yourself into a padded infrared heated foil blanket. The temperature will reach 75C as you lay there and catch up on Hulu or YouTube for the next 55 minutes. If you’re claustrophobic or heat up easily, you can bring your arms and/or legs out of the hot cocoon like I did. Each session is purported to burn up to 1,600 calories and lead to better sleep and weight loss.