This is the story of how I combined getting fit and healthy while having a fantastic time on holiday in Weymouth in 2015. It is still one of the best sets of memories I made that year or any year but also one of the most active, playful and fun.
Day 2 of our Weymouth holiday started with a trip to the famous Durdle Door and ended with a walk to Portland along the road next to Chesil beach.
Again it’s a story told in pictures and it was a day packed with stunning views, experiences and memories. The story I am telling is that good health and fitness comes from living well as a human by understanding how humans work and using that knowledge to live each day in tune with how we are designed. This trip benefits from years of learning and experience and I can now share and explain how this knowledge helped me get more out of the holiday with better memories and experiences and become healthier and stronger.
The image on the right shows the Fitbit statistics I accumulated over the course of the day to show that through all the fun I had also contributed a lot to developing my overall health.
Day two saw me notch up over; 3,400 calories, 190 active minutes, 40 floors and 10 miles. So it was another day of two halves where I clocked up some excellent fitness statistics while having a fantastic day on holiday. The statistics today were even bigger than those yesterday.
I was getting tired by this point to be honest because the previous day and the build-up to the holiday was taking its toll but I was also still so excited to see everything I could see and I kept finding new things every time I explored further so I just kept going and exploring and enjoying.
Normally I would take a rest day after the efforts from the day before but because; it is only day 2, I just get on and enjoy as much as I can today. We only have 6 full days here and I am worried the weather or something else will stop me exploring later.
The second day
The pictures of things we saw, did and enjoyed act as a simple guide to how much good recovery, eating and movement you can get on holiday. Alongside I have described some of the things we do as a family to get the best out of the day.
There are two parts to this article,
- Part 1 highlights are the Morning at Durdle door and dinner in the afternoon.
- Part 2 covers the Evening where I continue my solo exploration of Weymouth venturing over to Portland, discovering a living museum of history, landmarks and World war II relics.
Part 1: The morning and afternoon
The journey there: Managing energy again
We woke up and lazily got ready for our trip as we wanted to save our energy and just go slow. The weather was grey so it was not inviting but we had been looking forward to visiting Durdle Door since we planned the trip so we got ready and set off.
It was only a 40 minute drive to Durdle Door and when you arrive you need to walk about a mile way from the car park to Durdle door itself along a steep path.
For a young family it’s more a medium level trek, not easy but not hard and all the way is a great coastal view making it all worthwhile. Even better was that there was an ice cream tractor along the way (see the pic on the left). So to match the chilled theme of the holiday we had to try the ice creams because we were in Dorset and we don’t often get to try Dorset ice cream. That is my excuse, plus with the walk we were earning it 🙂
When we got to the cliff overlooking Durdle Door the view really did impress us all. As you can see from the photo it is like a giant dinosaur going out to sea and it is so easy just to gaze in wonder.
The short trip down to the beach is the hard part of the walk because it is 143 steps with no hand rail and very steep. Just like the steps in old houses before health and safety got in the way!!!
They are perfectly fine of course as long as you look where you are going Which was fine for me but as all parents know it is not so easy when a child is with you because you cannot account for their enthusiasm/craziness and have to keep an eye on them as well as lookout for yourself which made this that bit more risky.
I think at one point I had to carry little one because he could not reach between the steps with his little legs. In all it was fine and what I know is that stairs are fantastic for investing in your bones.
Moments: Bones respond to the challenges we put them through
Bones grow in response to the loads and pressures being placed on them which is natures amazing way of ensuring that the load bearing materials go precisely where they are needed. In this case load bearing materials are referred to as bone mineral density or BMD for short. Walking is a great activity for gentle exercise and supports bone growth but stairs, being much more demanding, support much greater bone growth and build better bone mineral density. This is why vigorous activity is so beneficial for bones because it provides the stresses and impacts that bones are listening for to stimulate their growth processes and increase bone mineral density.
At the same time our bones reflect the types and intensity of the activities that we do so it is important that we vary our activities and intensities enough to ensure our bones grow to support all types of movement and not just a limited set.
This is why scrambling over rocks yesterday was so important because it stressed our bones in different ways and angles which was different to today where the stresses are more vertical.
The Durdle Door beach is unfortunately the typical beach I got used to when I grew up and is shingle and pebble and not the lovely sand of Weymouth. That is a shame but it does mean we did not get covered in sand which is its own blessing.
I was perfectly happy just sitting on the beach enjoying the view which can be the benefit of being a parent. As a parent you have so much to do all the time and you are generally tired so you really enjoy just sitting and watching the world go by.
These surroundings were lovely though and you can see that it was not long before I was taking photos and recording our memories.
To be able to look through the Durdle Door was so much fun. It is basically this massive picture frame that things sail and float past so there is always something to look at and try and capture. I have since heard that it is common for those who enjoy kayaking around our coasts come and tick Durdle Door off their bucket list.
Once I heard that I added kayaking through Durdle Door to my bucket list and to be fair it was already on the list I just did not know it was “a thing” but now I do i am planning to visit again later and paddle through one day.
Capturing memories with photography
I really enjoy photography for so many reasons as it helps you see the world around you more deeply. You notice things you never would have and you pay more attention. Anything that absorbs you can be a form of meditation and I find photography gets me into that meditative state where I am just being and enjoying for the sake of it.
The photo on the right with the rock face of Durdle door on the left looking across to the cliffs is the kind of shot I enjoy taking. It is something I learnt from proper photographers and I really noticed how the contrast in depth and focus gives the shot something you want to look at.
A friend who really knows how to use a camera also taught me that the best photos come from bad weather which blew my mind but these photos on this very grey day attest to his insight. Ever since I have noticed how right he is as you can see how the gloomy sky adds so much drama to this photo and brings out the colour in the environment around it.
That said I would still prefer a nice bright sunny blue sky any day 🙂
When I started photography I took lots of landscapes and all sorts of random photos like the one above but as I looked back through them later on it struck me that my favourites are those with my favourite people in them.
Even if they are not the main feature of the photo it is the people, or animals, that give life to them. I think now that we can all take as many photos as we want this has become even clearer to me.
This is another way that I have found that I can use my duties as a parent to my advantage and get more out of a situation because once I realised that my favourite photos generally have my children in them then when iI am looking after them I get the chance to do photography making it a win-win situation. This is why having a family adds to the pleasure of taking pictures and gives you more to photograph not less.
Young children are really hard to photograph well because they move so much so most of the photos I take have something wrong with them but often enough everything comes together and I get something that I can not stop looking at and that makes it all special.
Dinner: Epic pies
For the morning and early afternoon we were exploring Durdle Door so by the time dinner came along we had worked up a proper appetite. Mummy had booked us into a really special restaurant focusing on Pies called “The Handmade Pie House” and it did not disappoint.
We are both fans of a good pie and the attention to detail on these was superb. Check out the picture of the pie and mash and you can see the lock stencil on the top of the pie. The menu had a set of themes and that carried through into the dish and the flavour was as good as the presentation.
It is always fun when a restaurant makes an effort and this restaurant showed what a pie can be. Food is always a contentious issue when it comes to health and I am used to people saying how healthy I am when I have a ton of salad followed by fish or something considered healthy but they say nothing when I have a nice big pie, chips and peas like this followed by an epic dessert.
Nutrition is always about balance and one of the most important aspects is variety. I practice a simple method which is summarised by “Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder” and what this means to me is that I crave food regularly and the only way I can resist temptation is if I have had something really nice recently. You see nutrition is a hot topic these days but we forget that centuries ago we did not have so much food around and often it did not taste as good. So we did not have to contend with the never-ending supply of food that we want to eat. The concept of willpower was not as important in the past simply because food was either too expensive or limited for most people to eat to much of it. Only relatively recently has food been so relatively cheap and energy-dense.
My grandparents grew up in a generation that did not have the obesity problems we have and I remember they had a different attitude to food. History tells me that our modern approach to food is new and very westernised and that previous cultures ate differently. I find that eating well is an important thing to do as long as you understand what eating well means.
As part of my research, I have been exploring ways to incorporate older approaches to food into my modern lifestyle.
To help with this I have used restaurants, takeaways and other types of food as opportunities to try different methods and ideas. Variety and seasonality are two common elements used by cultures across the world and is why I had ice cream in the morning and this dinner in the evening. This is not a perfect example of variety or seasonality just part of the wider picture where variety is the overall focus and seasonality is a related approach that provides a balance in nutrients over time.
This meal is part of years of exploring the different flavours and textures that food can provide and over time I have learnt how to balance the good times like today with leaner times so that the overall energy balances. There is more to this art too because variety is the spice of life and over time I have learnt the value of vegetables and fruit to improve the flavour and texture of meals while also providing the added benefit of padding out the meal while reducing the overall calorie count. These are lessons I have learnt since this meal but this gives a little insight into the way I use each day as a learning experience that enables me to improve the way I care for myself and my family on a regular basis while we enjoy ourselves at the same time.
What matters is how I eat over a series of days because no one meal can provide all the nutrients you require and the quality of your diet is reflected in your average meal over time. The value of this approach to food and my attempts to incorporate habits that worked well for our ancestors is that I have learnt how to blend the modern with the ancient and benefit from both. It does take a lot of thought and effort but if you take this meal as an example you should see the benefit. I have absolutely no guilt in enjoying this hearty meal. In fact, I know that it is as important as the other food I eat and is part of my healthy lifestyle.
Look at that dessert!!!
To make the point again if you look at the dessert you will see a strawberry. Not a fake one, a real one. It was around this time that I started to ask specifically for more fruit with each dessert like this because I found the dessert always tasted better with more fruit.
The reason is simply that there is too much sugar in the dish because the restaurant is matching the sweetness expected by customers and I used to really enjoy this.
Once I started adding fruit I was amazed to find that the sugar hid the beautiful flavours of the fruit and done properly I could bring out the flavour of the fruit with the sweetness of the meringue, ice cream or whatever sugary ingredient is used. With this approach I always think of Eton mess or black forest gateau in that done well they are a celebration of the fruit with the meringue or gateau there to reduce the sourness of the fruit and bring out the flavour.
Fruits are generally made of water (from 80% to 95% for grapes and melon) so this is a great tactic for reducing overall calories and also a way of increasing the quality of nutrients you consume. Fresh fruit is made up of cells which have cell walls and cell walls contain most of the nutrition of any organism. That is why they are so good for us.
There is much more I could say about what I have learnt but that is for later. Today I just wanted to show how chasing flavours and texture can improve the variety and balance of your diet and how a meal at a restaurant can be a perfect opportunity to get more experience with different flavours and textures as part of the overall goal of eating a varied and seasonal diet.
The beauty of this approach is that each meal becomes an opportunity to learn and explore instead of being simply a calorie-counting exercise full of guilt. It means you can think about the opportunity for entertainment that the meal can represent and what you can get out of it instead of just fixating only on energy content.
Part 2: The evening
Little one is in bed, time for Daddy to explore.
So once again after little one is off to bed and mummy is settling down for a relaxing evening I set off to continue exploring by myself. This time instead of heading towards Weymouth I continue along the causeway connecting Weymouth to Portland which I have ventured along a couple of times already but not got all the way across so far.
This evening my plan is to cross over to Portland and see what it has to offer. I have seen lots of boats across the bay and watched from a distance the way the clouds flow up and over Portland like a shroud. If you look at the picture on the left you will see how this giant cloud literally envelopes Portland implying it has its own microclimate. I am thinking the views from there must be amazing and now I want to see for myself what this fascinating island is like.
So I set off and for the first 20 minutes, it does feel like a drag. I am just putting one foot in front of the other on a dusty road and it is not pretty. The view is good but the pathway is nothing special and it seems to go on forever.
Soon enough though I reach the Portland side and things get interesting. I have spotted two fascinating things which I am intrigued by. The first is this massive ship that looks to be a warship and later I had a look on the Royal navy website but could not identify it. According to forces.net it is likely to be the HMS Portland returning from several months at sea. Maybe you see warships floating in the harbour every day but I do not so this was for me quite a sight and I just wished I had some binoculars so I could have a real nosey around. This googling led me to learn more about Portland Harbour. Apparently, it was the largest man-made harbour in the world when it was built and remains one of the largest to this day. I thought it was big but I did not know it was largest in the world big!!!
What is a Mulberry Harbour?
The other thing I saw were some giant red containers just floating away as if they belong there yet they looked so darn old. I could not really understand what they were so of course google came to the rescue. To my surprise I was looking at two relics of the D-Day preparations for World war 2 called Mulberry Harbours. Portland history goes into real detail on these amazing structures.
D-Day revisited explains that these Mulberry harbours were of the type Phoenexes:
Portland history tells us that these amazing prefabricated structures were designed to be slowly sunk to the sea bed along with hundreds of other sections to form two artificial harbours each the size of the port of Dover. Without these structures the harbours could not have been made and the D-day landings could not have happened.
A living museum
So basically I am finding Portland Harbour to be a living museum that i can walk around and view the exhibits. How cool is that, and just look at the view against this epic sky. It was so warm this day that it really was a thrill to be wandering along with all this to look at.
I kept on wandering along the harbour front and wandering around the lower parts of Portland including the docks and the area known as castle town and I stumble along the next cool bit of trivia. The whole of this area was a key venue for the 2012 London Olympics and a sign (Pictured left) proudly notes all the areas where watersports took place.
This triggers flashbacks to watching the sailing during the Olympics which was held right in this harbour and beyond. So again there is all sorts of history to be seen and I am freely walking around it. This is exactly why I make the effort to get up and out because finds like this are everywhere you just need to make the effort.
So for the rest of the walk, I am picturing all these amazing Olympic athletes buzzing around the place. How the harbour would have been a hive of activity and that I now get to wander around the Olympic venue at my own pace.
A little more wandering led to this next hidden gem Portland Castle which I never got to see inside. It looks awesome to me from the outside and cemented the idea that Weymouth and Portland have some pretty special military history given; Nothe Forte, Sandsfoot Castle, the Mulberry Harbours and a warship in dock. This castle is another military treasure I want to explore at some point.
On this beautiful evening, the castle entrance looks stunning and I was loving how the new HDR feature on my phone camera was bringing out the colours so you can get some idea of just how pretty everything looked.
All that fun gave me these fitness stats. 10 miles, 22,000 and 192 active minutes and it was all worth it because years later it is still one of the best memories of 2015 for me. What I hope you have gained from this is the knowledge that days out can be both a wonderful experience and a great way to invest in your health and grow stronger and fitter while making some great memories that you will treasure.
I began this series telling you that there is so much active fun on holiday if you want it :-). I hope that now you are inspired to get out and explore for yourself.
- Visit Dorset: Durdle door
- Lulworth: Durdle door
- London 2012 10 years on: How Portland and Weymouth have benefited after hosting sailing events
- Weymouth & Portland Home of Olympians: Weymouth & Portland celebrate 10yrs since they hosted the 2012 Olympic Sailing Events
- London 2012: ten years on: Lasting legacy remains at the forefront of British sailing