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by Hazel Plush and travel writer, The Daily Telegraph, August 17, 2016
Need a new fitness goal? Raise the stakes on your sporting hobby by taking it international – or at least to a more picturesque spot in the UK. While Team GB has been clocking up gold medals in these disciplines, we’ve been finding holidays that combine sporting skills with excellent itineraries, giving you something truly epic to train for.
1. Swim around Oman’s Musandam Peninsula
If you’re used to plying lanes at your local leisure centre, take your hobby to a new level on a swimming holiday – preferably somewhere with warm water, gorgeous beaches and fantastic cuisine (it’s hungry work, you know).
With its rugged mountainous coastline and gin-clear waters, Oman’s Musandam Peninsula fits the bill perfectly – and SwimTrek’s Oman Fjords trip offers six days of guided paddles to remote islands, seafront villages and untouched beaches. You’ll be in fantastic company: dolphins can be spotted almost daily. A traditional dhow fishing boat is your back-up vessel, where lunch is served – and if you get tired you can simply lie back on board and enjoy the view.
2. Cycle Portugal’s coastline
Mallorca is a challenging destination for hard-core cyclists and Croatia has much to offer hill-hungry pedallers – but Portugal is best for combining two-wheeled adventures with gentler treats, such as port wine tasting and boutique spa hotels.
Headwater’s Porto Coastal Cycling tour, an eight-day self-guided itinerary, takes in Porto, Furadouro, Aveiro and Praia de Mira. There are bike rides along the south bank of the Douro river, where the rabelo boats queue along the quay and along the protected Aveiro Lagoon where there’s a chance to spot pink flamingo, purple heron, and kingfisher.
3. Swap gymnastics for yoga in India
Unless you’ve got a head-start on us, you’ll need some serious training to even attempt Team GB’s moves. So, start with the basics: who’s for yoga? Strengthen your core, work on your balance and improve your flexibility on a guided retreat – and where better to start than the birthplace of yoga: India.
Vana Malsi Estate will put you through your paces: rather than following a particular school of yoga, teachers here instead consider its historical roots and look at the practice in a “pure, undiluted form”. Body postures, meditation, and breath control are all analysed, assessed and improved during daily morning sessions at the outdoor yoga temple, and evening sessions are available for those who’d like to practise further. Next stop, Tokyo 2020.
4. Equestrian escapades in France
Swap dressage for more outdoorsy pursuits: there are some amazing places to saddle up around the world. A trot through Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands, perhaps? Or Tanzania, where intermediate and advanced riders can follow wildebeest tracks across the 350,000-acre Grumeti Reserves? Telegraph Travel’s Minty Clinch explored Montenegro on horseback : “Riding ever upwards, we passed through a virgin landscape where ridge after rocky ridge stretched into infinity,” she enthused.
But for horseback adventures closer to home, head to the Carmargue . “The pools, grasses and marshes of France’s south are ever-beguiling territory, and all the better by horseback,” said Telegraph Travel's Lizzie Porter after a ride through one of the region’s biggest bull-breeding ranches. “We trotted on our dusty white Camargue horses, stocky and graceful in equal measure.”
5. Canoe on the Yukon, Canada
Create your own slalom (of sorts) on the Yukon, as part of a river canoeing trip through the wilds of Canada. Artisan Travel’s Canoeing in the Yukon tour starts in Whitehouse, paddling at a leisurely pace over 320km through the Yukon wilderness. Setting up camp each night on the riverbank, this 10-day tour does not require previous experience – so is suited to travellers of all abilities.
Highlights include the Royal Canadian Mounted Police outposts; the small native village of Carmack which has only 500 inhabitants; and abandoned trading stations such as Hootalinqu. There’s also a chance to see black bears and moose roaming the shore as you travel to the confluences of the Teslin and Big Salmon Rivers.
6. Fine-tune your tennis at La Manga Club Resort, Spain
Since it opened in 1972, La Manga Club has become one of the largest sporting resorts in the world. Notable athletes come to run the perfectly groomed greens and test-slide the immaculate clay courts. Not to mention the premiere football and rugby teams, who descend upon the sports pitches in January as a ‘break from training’, and the handful of celebrities who own luxury properties on-site.
Telegraph Travel’s tennis fanatic Victoria Monk visited the ‘Weekend Warrior Academy’ for some intensive training – and left with renewed passion for the game . “The program is split into four sessions over the course of the weekend; groundstrokes, serve and return, net play and game play. Each lesson follows a clear and logical structure, with each moving progressively on from the last… Already I’m noticing improvements in my game.”
7. Sail around Sardinia
Ply the waters of Sardinia and Corsica aboard a monohull yacht on Intrepid’s eight-day Sardinia and Corsica Sailing Adventure . Sail to the glitzy Costa Smeralda before moving on to Isola Caprera, crossing the strait to the ancient port of Bonifacio.
The tour also takes in the Maddalena Archipelago, coasting towards the islands of Lavezzi, Spargi and Santo Stefano. Highlights include the King Aragon Steps; Bonifacio with its sandy beaches and medieval houses perched on limestone cliffs; and Caprera Island which is criss-crossed with walking and cycling trails. The itinerary is flexible so there’s time to drop anchor where you wish for a quick wander or swim.
8. Dive from Welsh cliffs
You don’t need Tom Daley’s moves to master an epic dive – as Lizzie Porter found out while coasteering in Pembrokeshire : “The jumps, from about nine feet to a mega 20ft drop – got more outlandish – the odd splat of a bellyflop notwithstanding. Flips, twists and funky chickens all got a showing.”
For the uninitiated, coasteering involves scrambling, swimming and cliff jumping along a stretch of coastline, decked in wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets. “We were screaming a lot,” said Porter of her trip. “But there is little else on the planet that is as liberating, or exhilarating, or as downright fun.”
9. Go golfing around the UK
Where does Gold medal golfer Justin Rose like practice his game? At Swinley Forest Golf Club in Berkshire, apparently – but annoyingly, that’s a very exclusive members’ club, so you’ll need to pull some strings if you want to get in. Try one of Britain’s best golf hotels instead .
We’ve rounded up the best golfing retreats in the country, all with top-notch courses and professional tutors on hand. Take your pick from coastal links courses, converted castles, and the “English rival to Gleneagles”.
This article was written by Hazel Plush and travel writer from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.