For my January 24th article about staying active on vacation and the trend of fitness tourism, Fun, Adventurous, Healthy Vacations, either click here or scroll down.
Now that the holidays are officially behind us, Canadians from Charlottetown to Victoria are collectively looking forward to one thing: March Break. No matter if we’re trading the cold and snow for sun and sand or if we’re opting for the glitz and glamour of the ski slopes, we all have one thing in common: we’re really looking forward to it.
Because, well, why wouldn’t we look forward to it? No work, no house to clean, no snow to shovel. We eat, we drink, we drink some more … and, almost inevitably, we gain five pounds. Lying in the sun and drinking daiquiris feels great in the moment; it doesn’t feel so great when our jeans barely zip up for the plane ride home.
A movement is afoot, though. A zip-up-your-jeans-with-ease-after-vacation movement. More and more Canadians are choosing active holidays. Holidays which prioritize fitness, healthy food, and an active lifestyle. Holidays which are equal parts fun, adventurous and healthy.
As is the case with any trend, there are varying degrees of extremity. While some families choose hot yoga retreats or a week of ‘bootcamp’ (and yes, apparently some do consider that a vacation), the majority of health-minded Canadians opt for a more moderate approach.
To learn more about this growing trend, I decided to go to the source. I’ve talked to experts from two popular vacation spots for the active Canuck — Vero Beach, Fla., and Mont Sutton, Que. — to get their take on fitness tourism and why many travelers are staying fit in the sand or the snow.
Vero Beach is a small, barrier-island city on Florida’s east coast. The town is so favoured by Canadian snowbirds that many refer to it as ‘The Muskokas of the South.’ And although the beachside community attracts visitors from Thunder Bay to Westmount, they all share the fact that they travel south to stay active.
Vero Beach offers the traditional perks of a Florida vacation – sunny weather, gorgeous beaches, lots of pool time and easy travel — but adds some more modern options for the active traveller. The town is chock-a-block with yoga studios, kayak and bike rentals, and watersport expedition purveyors.
“The trend has moved tremendously towards more active vacations,” says Vero Beach expert and owner of Daley and Company Real Estate (and, yes, my mother) Sally Daley. “Hotels offer packages including kayak expeditions, stand-up paddling excursions, boat and fishing trips, and surfing lessons for the whole family. Of course visitors can rent bikes or go for a jog, but there really are so many more options.”
The trend has had a ripple effect in the local economy. Instead of all-you-can-eat buffets and burger joints opening, Vero Beach is full of farm-to-table cafes and vendors selling local produce, fish, and meat. “Despite our smalltown ambiance, our restaurant scene is remarkably diverse, with several new eateries dedicated to the farm to table movement, embracing the use of local produce and protein. And our popular Saturday Farmer’s Market on Ocean Drive is a wonderful way for vacationers and locals alike to buy small batch vinegars, baked goods, fresh fish & produce — and of course citrus, as Vero is home to world-famous Indian River citrus,” says Daley.
But if there is one thing Canadians know, it’s that you don’t need sun and sand to stay fit. Which is why I also chatted with Mireille Simard from Mont Sutton Ski Resort in Quebec’s Eastern Townships about the trend of active family vacations. An easy drive from Kingston, Mont Sutton is a both geographically and financially accessible ski resort – a rare commodity these days.
“The majority of visitors come to Sutton for the ski experience — the active side of the sport!” Simard told me. “They come to make the most of the mountain during their stay and spend great moments on the slopes with their families. After a day spent on the slopes, you just want to enjoy a cozy apres-ski at the Bar Le Tucker, close by the fireplace, with a glass of local wine to have a taste of the area and to start again the day after!”
Visitors to Mont Sutton can stay fit no matter their level of skiing prowess — the resort has ski runs for beginners and experts alike, along with an education-focused section designed especially for children. And for people like me — those who fall just looking at a pair of skis — options like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and skating exist in abundance.
And in a strikingly similar manner to the trend in Vero Beach, Sutton’s local economy has taken note of the fitness trend. “In the town of Sutton, guests can find a wide range of restaurants with healthy food and sustainable development values,” Simard told me. For example, “Le Cafetier offers vegan meals, homemade muesli, sandwiches, salads and range of smoothies … plus the coffee is roasted on site. There is also an accommodation called Auberge des Appalaches, which is labeled ‘Créateurs de Saveurs,’ certifying that the food served has been harvested or prepared by businesses from the Eastern Townships. Quality and local flavour guaranteed!”
These aren’t, of course, the only ways to stay active while on holiday. No matter where you’ve chosen to vacation, you always have the option of making healthy choices. But, with fitness tourism growing in popularity and spots like Vero Beach and Mont Sutton beckoning, it’s tough to justify any vacation other than a healthy one!
Author’s Note: For more information on Vero Beach, Fla., please visit www.DaleyandCompany.com or email Sally Daley at Sally@DaleyandCompany.com. For more information on Mont Sutton, Que., please visit www.MontSutton.com or email Sutton@MontSutton.com
Molly Daley is a nutritionist and runs the healthy eating, fitness and wellness blog Diary of a Formerly Fat Girl. Find her at www.DiaryofaFormerlyFatGirl.com or follow her on Twitter, @DOAFFG.