CREDIT:JARCOSA – FOTOLIA/JOSE ARCOS AGUILAR
This week’s winning entry
Shedding it all in Ibiza
A few years ago we took a cheap flight to Ibiza and stayed on the island of Formentera, where we were given free use of our hosts’ bicycles. Cycling would be easy, they said, because the island was flat with only one hill.
They were right – and we quickly became as one with our machines, daring to go off-piste along sandy coastal paths. Our tyres scrunched over baked plants, releasing the intoxicating scents of rosemary, thyme and lavender. Jade-coloured lizards scurried by and we found inlets and empty beaches where we could abandon bikes and clothes and swim in the sparkling Med for hours.
On the second day, our legs ached and we felt a bit bruised – but the feeling was good, the awakening of long-forgotten muscles. Being outdoors, cycling and swimming every day made us long for our beds before 9pm and we fell asleep as soon as our heads touched the pillow.
At the end of our stay we felt lighter of step, as though we had shed years and worries as well as pounds.
Marilyn Hole, from West Sussex, wins a £500 travellocal voucher.
More feedback from readers
How Madeira proved not to be a piece of cake
Returning from nine hectic days in Madeira, we wondered why we had never visited before. Perhaps it is because this island is not for the faint-hearted, being one of the most vertiginous places we have visited. We walked nearly 20 miles – not a great deal for some, but we are in our 70s and not hugely fit. However, after climbing thousands of steps of all gradients, sizes and depths, particularly in Funchal, the weight lost offset any weight gained by sampling the gastronomic delights.
We didn’t walk the levadas as there were sufficient challenges elsewhere – such as the 130 steps up to our hotel, to say nothing of Madeira’s steeply turning lanes and streets. Now we are fit enough to get to the top of our local hill without stopping to admire the view!
Linda Pinkney, East Sussex
Friendship, forests and fitness in the Swiss Alps
Having left the culturally vibrant city of Zürich, I made my way to Steg im Tösstal, a more rural region of Switzerland. It was here that I met my “friendship group” for the first of many hiking adventures. We convened on the low grounds, in the small, quaint village of Tösstal and continued ahead in pairs for the steep ascent of 21km (13 miles).
With the sun glaring intensely and the air thinning, beads of sweat started to fall and our breathing quickened. Our group finally arrived at the peak of the mountain after four hours of solid climbing, through unsteady terrain and several shaded forests. The view from the top was breathtaking. Lush greenery surrounded us for miles with the snow-dipped Alps as a backdrop.
It was the first of several hikes that holiday – and we felt fitter and certainly more enriched, having seen such stunning scenery first-hand.
Phoebe Overton, Leeds
A Pembrokeshire working holiday is affordable therapy
While I marvel at charitable marathon runners, I’m no keep-fit addict myself. I’m of sound mind, with good genes and 50-plus status, but I had no inkling of what a “working holiday” was until I tried a do-it-all week in Pembrokeshire.
I “worked” to my heart’s content in a splendid location, sharing low-key comforts, healthy meals, free evenings and gentle strolls along the coastal path. There was no stress. These were sun-splashed days of well-measured, cheery routines. Alongside attentive staff, we cleared woodland paths, helped rebuild fences and ousted weeds from dazzling perennial borders. A motley crew, we just “became” an affable team; a happy Norwegian lady, two friendly Dutch photographers, a reserved financier from London, an agricultural student and a quiet lady musician – all helped to mellow by the bluff banter of two very likeable, lively lads. This was enjoyable, affordable therapy.
Dorothy Norman, Clwyd
Take a detour and discover the heady charms of China
China has 13 Buddhist and Taoist holy mountains. These are not towering, snow-capped peaks but rugged outcrops, manageable by a fit walker in a day. Locals love to summit them predawn to witness yunhai, the morning sea of cloud. You can take the chairlift or a bus on some routes, but a walk up centuries-old paths past pagodas, grottos and monasteries provides welcome exercise for the transport-weary tourist.
After shuffling around the terracotta warriors site near Xian, take a bus to Huashan and stretch your legs by climbing steep granite steps to the ridge, where narrow paths are flanked by sheer drops with a single wire as a handrail. When visiting the ancient irrigation system at Dujiangyan, add a day for sprawling Qingchengshan. Majestic Emeishan, meanwhile, is less than two hours from Chengdu. If you have control of your itinerary, make sure you set aside time for these physical and spiritual delights.
David Syme, Edinburgh
A cycle tour of friends and family helped me get in shape
Just back from 15 months nannying in Washington DC, I was temporarily unemployed and certainly overweight from drinking too much iced coffee laced with coffee ice cream. The answer was to make a tour by bicycle of friends and relations in south-east England. I had a sit-up-and-beg, gearless bike with a basket in front and a carrier on the mudguard. Armed with a few clothes, my American “journal” and whatever sustenance was needed, I set off.
On most days I rode 30 miles on average, but on one day clocked up more than 40 in blistering heat, up and down hills between Findon in Sussex and Fareham in Hampshire, keeping off main roads and out of traffic. The distance on the last day, from Hedge End to Lechlade, was a mammoth 60 miles. I remember stopping to eat an orange barely 200 yards from the house we moved to five years later. Though I wasn’t much lighter on my return, I was fitter.
Annabel Bailey, Berkshire
Don’t become a running joke in sun-baked Lanzarote
My way to fitness was an “active” holiday at La Santa, in Lanzarote. I was two stone overweight and went with some friends from my local running club, so I got plenty of exercise.
Every morning there were three runs, covering 10km, 5km and 1km – so a maximum of about six miles. I’d always fancied running, and thought I’d be well up for the 10km route in the morning. This was a bit ambitious but I had to start somewhere.
The “leaders” of the pack were all David Hasselhoff lookalikes in red shorts. I started on the 10km run and quickly found myself at the back of the group. The second one, covering 5km, followed on from the first and I thought I would just tag along on the end. The final run was over a distance of just 1km but I ended up walking behind everyone on my own. The moral? Never run before you can walk.
Helen Brunton, Essex
A Staffordshire stately home was the perfect tonic
Hoar Cross Hall (hoarcross.co.uk) in Staffordshire is the perfect place for a weekend or midweek well-being break. On our last visit, we enjoyed two nights and days, walked in the beautifully kept gardens spending quality time together. We sunbathed on comfortable loungers. When the weather changed, as it so often does, we relaxed with spa treatments, exercise classes and, while sitting by the side of a large indoor pool, caught up on some long-neglected reading.
We enjoyed wonderful food served by attentive waiters, in exceptional surroundings. Finally, we ended our day enjoying a bottle of wine together, feeling relaxed and ready for another lazy day of pampering.
Maggi Dignam, Manchester
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