Karl Henry: 10 healthy days out across the country this summer
Summer is here at last and as I write this I am lying by the pool in the Canary Islands, my first holiday since December. There is something lovely about taking time off, relaxing, having fun and just catching up on yourself and those around you.
But it also got me thinking of healthy holiday ideas for the rest of the summer in Ireland, trips that could be done over a weekend and that don't cost the earth.
When I'm away I train most days, but it would be great if families and couples were enjoying active adventures in Ireland over the summer, experiencing new sports and activities as well as having fun.
You have the whole summer ahead of you, so here are my top 10 ideas for active staycation days out across the country.
We live on an amazing island with some of the best surf in the world, yet I am always amazed at just how few people have tried it. Surfing is a great exercise, working pretty much every part of the body, and even falling off is the best fun. People of any age can do it and it's normally cheap, costing around €25-€35 for a two-hour lesson including wetsuit and surfboard. Check out Inchydoney Surf School in West Cork or Surf World with Richie Fitzgerald up in Bundoran.
You will love this one as it's free. You can do it yourself at any one of Ireland's beautiful parks and green spaces, or if you'd prefer a little guidance, the clothing brand Gym+Coffee has a free summer stretch series all around the country during the summer. It's free to attend, lasts about an hour with a qualified instructor and then everyone goes for coffee after. The sessions are nice and chilled, as well as a great way to get some exercise in. Check out gympluscoffee.com for more details.
Cycling has boomed in Ireland in the last few years with the Bike to Work and the City Bike schemes. Spend a weekend cycling some of the amazing greenways over the summer, up in Mayo or down in Waterford. Rumour has it there are more greenways coming. They are fantastic as they are safe and you can rent bikes to do them. Just don't forget your helmet!
One of my favourites - all you need is a good pair of hiking boots and you're good to go. Ireland has brilliant mountains waiting to be climbed, and Coillte.ie is a super resource of maps, directions and information on each one. They are generally signposted and there are different grades for all types of fitness.
This one is for the risk takers. Ballyhoura, Ballinastoe and Rostrevor are all great mountain bike centres, with sign-posted trails, bike hire facilities and man-made trails to really challenge you. It's tough but it's seriously good fun too.
Think overnight stargazing, plankton that shine under the water and storytelling - all part of Jim Kennedy's night-time kayaking trips in West Cork (atlanticseakayaking.com). Kayaking is offered all around Ireland and it's great fun for all the family.
A relaxing yoga weekend away can be the perfect tonic for a busy lifestyle and there are so many different types to choose from - whether you prefer combining yoga with cookery or spa treatments, it's totally up to you! Places like the Burren Yoga Centre and Monart Spa have special packages.
A trip to a multi-activity adventure centre with friends or family is a really good day out. You can choose the activities you want to do, have lots of fun and try out new sports. Many of them offer a pier jump at the end too.
Imagine a large surfboard and a big paddle and you're there. Great fun, easy to do and very relaxing, paddle boarding is becoming more and more popular. You can book all inclusive lessons for around €25-€30, see sup.ie for more details.
Finally, the simplest activity of all. Get your togs on (or not, if you're that way inclined) and jump in. Swimming in the sea is back in vogue, and it's so simple and so good for the body and the mind. On top of all that, it's free!