For some, breaking a sweat during a vacation is taboo. Sports and strenuous physical activities should never find a place in the itinerary unless it involves trekking from one shopping mall to another. Or from one restaurant to the next. Yet for others, adventure is the soul of a great holiday and sports-seeing (experiencing a destination through sports) beats sightseeing.
I used to belong to the first camp who believes that holidays must be all about spas, shopping, fooding, and never lifting a muscle beyond carrying the retail stash or lifting the fork to my mouth. At most, I'll get off the tour coach, snap a few photos and escape back into the air-conditioned cocoon of our ride. Why work so hard during a holiday when I'm already a slave to my job back home?
Then in 2010, I had my first taste of bicycle touring and the satisfaction of a self-powered vacation grew roots within me. Instead of passively sitting in a coach, minivan or public transport to move from one attraction to another in subsequent holidays, I choose to cycle, jog or trek to see a place. Of course this only works for places that are well-connected and easily navigated with key attractions neighbouring each other. But for anyone who's done self-powered touring, you can get anywhere as long as you have the time. And patience. And endurance. The good thing about being your own transport fuel is that holiday weight gain ceases to be a problem.
The whole vacation need not be self-powered but I work into the itinerary a day or two where I don't rely on chartered or public transport to see the sights. It's usually quite a daunting task because bicycles are not always available for hire or exploring some place on foot may be a safety hazard. There are some cities where I won't go jogging or walking alone. That's why I appreciate Sydney as a choice destination for an active holiday. The city is safe with well sign-posted roads linking major attractions and the seamlessly connected public transportation network system accommodates bikes as well as running shoes. Sydney is like a huge outdoor cardio gym!
But I didn't always see the city that way until a recent trip opened my eyes to just how friendly Sydney is to vacay and torch those stubborn adipose at the same time. Here are some suggestions to experience Sydney and come home fitter...
Lace Up for the Sydney Running Festival
Why jog on a treadmill when you can run along Sydney's scenic waterfront precinct that links the iconic Harbour Bridge to Circular Quay to the Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens?
I'm not much of a runner but I took part in this year's Sydney Running Festival and for the first time, had my photo taken in the middle of the Harbour Bridge instead of having it as a backdrop!
|Costumes welcomed. The Sydney Running Festival is as much a celebration of fitness as it is an occasion to unclothe the superhero within.|
|Being in the run, it's easy to forget I'm a tourist and one with the Sydneysiders.|
I resolved to run the 3.5km in wooden clogs (cha kia) but after 300m, I surrendered to the hatching blisters and changed to proper running shoes. But the click-clock sure made for a great running rhythm! Also brought along a carrier fashioned with newspaper prints to lend authenticity to the Samsui persona.LoadingClick clock click clock... Sydney Running Festival in cha kia! :o)
|Millions have snapped a photo with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background, but a chance to snap a pic in the middle of the icon only comes to those who join the Running Festival.|
|The opportunity to photograph this shared symbol of Sydney (the other being the Opera House) at its belly is simply fantastic.|
|This is the real "human traffic". Legs aren't the only parts that get a good workout with the run being as much a photo marathon as it is stretch of stamina.|
|The course wound around various vantages to frame Sydney from different angles.|
|No, you don't have to look like this guy to qualify for the running fest. The sporting event welcomes families, individuals of varying fitness levels and even has a spot for paraplegics.|
|Samsui power! I had more fun than run and it was an awesome experience to be Sydney rather than see Sydney. Perhaps next year I'll attempt a longer route or the 21km Half Marathon *gasp!*|
|Team Singapore! Us, the greenies, had in our presence one of Singapore's rising female marathoner, Mok Ying Rong (304). The lungs-on-legs ranked 4th out of 430 finishers in the 21km Half Marathon category. Superb performance!|
I'm not a fan of running long distances back home because it always feels like I'm deep breathing exhaust fumes no matter where I ran (and the haze!), but getting a taste of jogging in Sydney through the Running Festival, I could understand why being constantly out of breath can be so enjoyable here. The air feels fresher.
Perhaps it's the cooler weather, the festival is held in early spring where day temperatures hover between 15 to 25 degrees, or maybe it's the effect of a change of scenery to Sydney's picturesque waterfront with the extraordinary opportunity to run on the Harbour Bridge freeway that I was distracted from the panting.
Whether you are a hardcore marathoner, casual jogger or tourist seeking a memorable experience, the annual Sydney Running Festival is definitely one of the best ways to let Sydney leave a footprint inside you. It's also another great excuse to play dress up!
To find out more about Sydney Running Festival and take part in the next run on 20 Sep 2015, visit :
Try Stand Up Paddle & Yoga on Water (SUP Yoga)
Originating from Hawaii, stand up paddling is steadily catching on as the less strenuous cousin to kayaking and canoeing but if you ask me, SUP definitely requires more guts to paddle off. Why? Because the fear of falling into the water is more acute when you are gliding on water standing up. Compared to sitting down in a kayak, it's a longer way down.
As if balancing on water while standing up is not hard enough, now imagine doing yoga on the SUP board. Looks like Mission Impossible has found another
|Our SUP yoga session happened on the tranquil waters of Rose Bay, a suburb of yacht and boat owners 15 mins by a water taxi from Circular Quay. A pelican floated close to shore, exhibiting the allure of the clean and green waters.|
|Conducted by Charlotte from Workout on Water, we began with a warm up session to nimble up the body. Workout on Water offers SUP yoga classes twice every month or through private bookings.|
|And now the challenging part... trying to stay afloat while executing the yoga poses. It wasn't as difficult as I thought. Just as I was gaining confidence, the most dreaded thing happened...|
|... plonk. A walrus sighting occurred. The water was freezing but mixed with the shock of falling in, it actually felt very refreshing and really good! The bay is very shallow so it is pretty safe even if one does drop unglamourously in.|
|Cold water + white singlet = uh-oh, embarrassing stiff nipples showing through wet t-shirt moment. The lesson here is avoid wearing white. Unless you are Carmen Electra.|
|Head stand on the water?!?! Charlotte did it in the blink of an eye. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.! The cheery gal is Australia's first and only SUP yoga accreditor and an O'Neill sponsored athlete.|
But there is one downside to the SUP yoga session... one hour is too short!
Taking your yoga practice to another level or just enjoying an unusual exercise can be arranged or booked at workoutonwater.com.
Tour Manly Contours on a Bicycle
Sydney is blessed with many beautiful beaches and the great thing is that most of them are easily accessible by public transport. While Bondi Beach may hog the limelight with a reality TV show (Bondi Rescue) and being the venue for the annual international art spectacle, Sculpture by the Sea, there are miles of sandy coasts both popular and secluded waiting for you to show them your bathing suit.
As I've been to the famous Bondi a couple of times, I decided to explore Manly Beach during this trip. On a bicycle. *I could hear my mum's hair fall off their follicles from the stress over my safety* I've never been to Manly, neither have I cycled in Sydney, so I was really excited to tour the contours of the metropolis's northern shoreline.
|From Circular Quay, I took the F1 ferry route from Wharf 3 to Manly. The ferry can transport over 1,000 passengers per trip so it is a huge ship with toilet facilities and a cafe onboard.|
I made my trip on a Saturday and the wharf was packed. A ferry departs every half hour so if the one you queued for is full, just wait for the next one (click here for the ferry schedule). Tickets can be purchased at the wharf or you can get an Opal Card which allows you to ride Sydney's buses, trains and ferries with just a tap.
|A 30-minute ferry ride later, Sydney's high-octane cityscape dissolved into Manly's retreat of low-rise town houses and wide tree-lined avenues.|
|There's a tourist info station near the entrance of the Manly wharf to get directions as well as tickets for attractions and shows at Manly. It is worthwhile to get tickets at the info station as it offers discounts which you don't get if you purchase at the door of the attractions. Here's a list of things to do at Manly.|
|Instead of a checking out Manly on foot, I chose to cover more grounds by pedaling. Bicycles can be hired from Manly Bike Tours and there are various bike types and rates to choose from. I took a hybrid road bike for a day which costs A$36. |
The shop is located not too far along a street straight ahead from the Manly ferry wharf. Opening hours are 9am - 6pm or 10am - 5pm (during winter).
|Manly is part of a string of sandy coasts collectively known as Sydney's Northern Beaches. Manly Beach is only one of the many beaches that yawns along the northern edges. Pictured here is Manly Cove, which is next to the ferry terminal.|
|Reminiscent of the Gothic grandeur of Notre Dame, the medieval castle-like St Patrick's Estate serves as a private business school today.|
|Zoom in of the jagged concretes of Sydney's downtown. The basin bordered by Circular Quay, South Head and North Head is designated as Sydney Harbour.|
|A recluse beach I came across during the ride. If I had the time, I would love to spend some chill moments at this hidden bay that's so deliciously inviting.|
|A road-sign that you probably won't see anywhere else except Australia!|
|After the North Head cycling route, I decided to explore the beach route that brought me to Cabbage Tree Bay. Behind me is another of Manly's popular beaches, Shelly Beach.|
|Linking the ferry terminal to Manly Beach is The Corso, a boulevard flanked by shops, restaurants and branded stores.|
|Sunset at Manly. This photo was shot on a boardwalk next to a bar beside the ferry terminal. It's a golden celebration of completing my virgin exploration of Manly and first time pedaling in Greater Sydney.|
Exercising my holiday through the Sydney Running Festival, yoga on water and cycling tour of Manly, I felt closer to Sydney than my previous trips where I was an observer rather than a participant of what this most populous city in Australia has to offer.
So the next time you're planning a visit to Sydney, consider supplementing your trip with a sporting activity to not just raise the metabolic rate, but feel the pulse of this vibrant Australian city!
This post has been made possible in part by Destination New South Wales and CTC Travel.