Posts Tagged With: paddle boarding

Fit for Travel in 2015


On New Year’s Eve, one of my Zumba instructors asked me when I was going to write a blog post about Zumba. My first thought was, “I do a travel blog, not an exercise blog” and my second thought was, “Why not?” I’ve attended Zumba classes while traveling in northern Wisconsin; St Louis, Missouri; Sarasota, Florida; on a cruise ship in the Caribbean; and even in Krakow, Poland where the instructor didn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Polish but we both spoke Zumba which was good enough. It’s obviously travel-related for me. So, Brenda, this one’s for you.

When I’m at home, I go to Brenda’s class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings and to Nikki’s class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It’s a fun way to get fit by dancing. You can go at your own pace and once you know the basic steps, you can go anywhere and feel comfortable joining the class.

Zumba with Brenda

Zumba with Brenda

Zumba Love

Zumba Love with Brenda

I’ve found Zumba classes all over the world while traveling, and if you want to find one near you, check out The one below was in O’Fallon, Missouri at the YMCA.

Zumba at O'fallon Family YMCA, O'Fallon, MO

Zumba at O’fallon Family YMCA, O’Fallon, MO

When not going to Zumba, I still try to stay active wherever I go. There are lots of opportunities to move your body that enhance the travel experience and don’t feel like “working out.” So here are just a few suggestions I’d like to share.

First of all, we walk–a lot–wherever we travel. If a point of interest is within walking distance, we walk rather than ride. I admit it’s probably more about my budget travel goals than getting exercise but it’s also a healthier option. And sometimes you can’t get there unless you hike, like we did in Krakow, Poland. Michael took us to see Kościuszko Mound which involved a long hike through a forest and then when we got there we still had to climb the mound. But the view was totally worth it.

Krakow, Poland

Hiking in Krakow, Poland

Kościuszko Mound, Krakow, Poland

The trail circles the mound with no railings until you reach the summit at Kościuszko Mound, Krakow, Poland

Kościuszko Mound, Krakow, Poland

View from the summit of Kościuszko Mound, Karakow, Poland, April, 2011

Closer to home, you may recall my post from July 15, 2014 about the hike my husband and I took around Devil’s Tower, Wyoming or the July 22, 2014 post about hiking part of the Spokane River Centennial Trail with my girlfriends. If you don’t remember, that’s a shameless plug to check them out.

Devil's Tower, WY

Devil’s Tower, WY

Spokane River Centennial Trail

My friends hiking the Spokane River Centennial Trail, 2014

Another option is to ride a bike. Bike rentals are often inexpensive and add an experiential dimension to any trip. We rented bikes on several occasions in Belgrade, Serbia and Lucca, Italy which got us farther than we could have gone by walking but still enabled us to enjoy our surroundings at a leisurely pace.

Belgrade, Serbia

Biking to Ada Ciganlija, Belgrade, Serbia, Sept. 2010

Biking the ramparts in Lucca, Italy, 2013

Biking the ramparts in Lucca, Italy, 2013

Even hitting the links or the pool is fun, especially when entertaining children. Of course, you can’t take your golf game too seriously with children, which I think is a good thing.

Golfing at Winghaven Country Club, O'Fallon, MO

Golfing in Missouri

Pool at Winghaven Country Club, O'Fallon, MO

Pool Time

If you’re more adventurous, try snorkeling. Most rentals will give you instructions but it’s pretty easy especially if you’re near the shore and can stand up if you start to feel uncertain. It’s such a great way to enjoy tropical marine life in the Caribbean. The coral and the colorful, iridescent tropical fish look amazing when viewed from underwater.

Snorkeling in the Caribbean

Snorkeling in the Caribbean

Snorkeling in the Caribbean

Snorkeling in the Caribbean

Still more water options include kayaking and paddle boarding, both of which are much easier than you may think.

Kayaking in Isla Mujeres

Kayaking at Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Paddle boarding in Florida

Paddle boarding in Florida

Cruise ships are notorious for weight gain among their passengers so to counteract this threat, I make an effort to do something active every day. We always explore the fitness center as soon as we board the ship so that we know what is available and where to go to find it. On every ship we’ve had weight machines, free weights, treadmills, and elliptical machines in the fitness center. They also offer classes that may include pilates, crossfit, Latin dancing, stretching, abdominal work outs and more. Some of the classes charge a fee, however.

Fitness Room on the Norwegian Star

Fitness Room on the Norwegian Star

We also like to play a little shuffleboard which probably doesn’t burn a lot of calories but at least we’re moving. Notice the walkers behind our friends on this deck, too.

Shuffle board

Shuffle board

Our last cruise on the Norwegian Star had a water slide and I even had a turn at that just for the fun of it.

Water slide on the Norwegian Star

Water slide on the Norwegian Star

There are really so many fun ways that support fitness while traveling that it’s not difficult to find something you’ll enjoy. If you really dislike any form of exercise, however, here’s a suggestion. I received a Fitbit Flex as a Christmas gift and it tracks every step you take, syncs with your computer, iPad or smart phone, and shows you the results. Health experts tell us we need to take 10,000 steps a day. With this on your wrist, you’ll see how many steps you’re taking all day long and find out whether you need to do a little more. I love it and you may, too.

Fitbit Flex

Fitbit Flex

Do you make any New Year’s resolutions? I usually try to think of a few ways to improve my health and fitness but not commit to anything that will likely result in failure. This year I’m resolving to take 10,000 steps each day. Fortunately, the Fitbit tells me that one hour of Zumba racks up over half of those steps each day and burns 300-500 calories.

Yes, that's me in the headband at a Zumba Pretty in Pink fundraiser against breast cancer

Yes, that’s me in the headband at a Zumba Pretty in Pink fundraiser against breast cancer



Brenda between my friend and sweaty me (post workout)

“Ditch the Workout, Join the Party” as the Zumba slogan goes. I’ll look for you there!

Share how you stay fit while traveling and/or your fitness goals for 2015 in comments.

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Escape to Siesta Key

If you’re looking for a great escape from cold and snowy winter weather, Siesta Key, just off Sarasota on the gulf side of Florida, has to be a strong contender.  You may think it’s a little early to plan now for winter but I just made my reservation for March, 2015, and it was already a challenge to find a place.  Everything is booked!  Well, not literally everything but it seemed that way to me.  This will be my fourth spring break at Siesta Key and by now, I believe I’m somewhat of an expert.

With sand as soft and white as powdered sugar, this wide beach proclaims itself the #1 Beach in the USA and I wholeheartedly agree.  Just look at that sand.  It’s 99% pure quartz which explains why it’s soft, white, and cool underfoot even when temperatures soar.  They know what they’ve got here, too, so don’t expect any deals during March.  It’s pricey but some places are worth it.

Siesta Beach, March, 2014

Siesta Beach, March, 2014

Every year I meet my childhood bestie, Gail, at the Tampa airport and we drive south in a rental car to spend a week on this idyllic island.  Last year we discovered La Siesta Condominiums, stayed there, and now we’re hooked.  We wanted to book again for 2015 but due to some miscommunication, it looked like that wish might be thwarted.  In the end we got it resolved happily and while we don’t have the condo we had last year, we are still in the complex.

The location of La Siesta Condominiums on Beach Road across from public Siesta Beach is perfect for us.

La Siesta Condominiums

La Siesta Condominiums

The public beach is well-kept; it’s cleaned and raked every morning with big motorized vehicles nicknamed sandbonis.   Lifeguards on duty year round ensure a measure of safety for swimmers, not that I spend much time in the water.  The beach is popular and the parking lot is full by 10 a.m.,  so it’s great to just walk across the street and not have to fight for a parking place.  We noticed construction underway of an additional parking lot last spring, however, so that problem may be alleviated for next year.  I’ll keep you posted.

Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach

Many amenities other than swimming and sunbathing are available at Siesta Beach.  There are restrooms, showers, a concession area, picnic areas, and shady places to escape the sun.  We attend pilates, nia, and yoga classes in the morning right on the beach and they have a drum circle on Sunday evenings an hour before sunset.  The sand volleyball courts get a lot of use especially by the young people.  This location is close enough to walk into the village for coffee or groceries or you can just walk the beach for exercise or pleasure.

If we don’t want to go to the beach, we can always enjoy the pool at our condo complex.  The pool is never overly crowded and the other guests seem to be mostly retired couples from Ohio and Michigan.

La Siesta Condo Pool

La Siesta Condo Pool

The screened in lanai off each condo is a perfect place to have breakfast and lunch and keep an eye on the action below at the pool or get a sliver of a view of the gulf across the street beyond the beach.

View to lanai from living room at La Siesta

View to lanai from living room at La Siesta Condos

Aside from just hanging at the beach or pool, there are rentals around Siesta Key for boats, kayaks, and paddle boards.  Last year we tried paddle boarding and found Dan from Siesta Key Paddle Boards to be very helpful and accommodating.  He met us at Turtle Beach with the boards, gave us a lesson, and provided a map and directions to navigate the canals lined with mangroves to another beach and back.  Dan was there waiting to take the boards upon our return.  I’ll warn you, however, mastery was much easier than recovery.  I had no idea how hard I was working until my lats killed the next day… and the next.

After all that exercise, a girl’s gotta eat and there are plenty of good restaurants on Siesta Key.  Gail is a bona fide foodie so I usually trust her with restaurant decisions.  One of my favorites for local grouper, however, is Turtle Beach Pub.  I can get my fish grilled or blackened and avoid the gluten in the fried grouper.   Also gluten-free, in 2014 we discovered Vertoris Pizza House in Bradenton.  They make the best gluten-free pizza EVER.

Gluten free pizza

Gluten free pizza from Vertoris Pizza

But my new favorite restaurant has to be Owen’s Fish Camp in Sarasota.  “Owen’s Fish Camp is southern country-style restaurant set in a cool, comfortable, urban setting,” according to their website.  (I think they forgot the word “a” before southern but maybe that’s a southern thing.)  My roots are southern so I was immediately intrigued but Gail was doubtful, not being a fan of southern cooking.  In the end, we decided to give it a try, and the non-foodie (me) scored one.  We both loved it along with all the other people who crowded into the place. Fortunately, they had live music to entertain us while we waited to be seated and The Cadillac Grainer String Band played foot stomping hillbilly blue grass string band music that was a whole lot of fun.

But let’s face it, restaurants are ultimately about the food and the food at Owen’s Fish Camp is excellent.  I had the market fish of the day (it was local but I don’t remember what it was), blackened, with two sides.  I chose cheesey grits and collard greens.  Mmmm, good.


Entree at Owen’s Fish Camp

So, I told you I think I’m somewhat of an expert on Siesta Key.  Here’s what I know.


  1.  Book early.

  2.  Most vacation rentals give first preference to last year’s return renters.

  3.  Rental websites are not always reliable so give them a call.

  4.  Turtle Beach on the south end of the island sand is not the soft white quartz.  It’s brown, coarse, and ordinary.  Siesta Beach and Crescent Beach are quartz sand.

  5.  Rentals only provide one roll of toilet paper (2 if you’re lucky) so plan ahead and don’t get caught short.

Lagniappe:  A few extra views from Siesta Key


Siesta Key, FL


Siesta Beach, FL


Siesta Key, FL


Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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