Tag: happiness

Travel Swellness: The best ways to keep fit during a Mexican vacation


Working out can be tougher when you’re away from home and out of your routine. Do you work out when you travel? Or does it depend whether you’re on vacation or traveling for work?

I don’t think it’s impossible to keep active while you travel. It calls for being regimented, though. For the past several years (this year was an exception) I’ve been in training for marathons almost entirely year-round with a busy travel schedule. Anyone who’s ever trained for a marathon knows that it calls for consistent training (I usually run three times a week, sometimes four, when I’m training, although I think many people run more often than that). I made it work by planning in advance and scheduling my long runs for before and after the trip, and fitting in my shorter distances or speed training during my trips since I typically have limited personal time when traveling for work, and certainly never 2-3 hours to fit in a long run.

On my recent vacation with Expedia.ca to Cancun, though? I had to listen to my body, and what my body (and mind) was telling me was that I needed a break. I was on the verge of burnout a few times this year. So while there were plenty of activities available at our resort, Finest Playa Mujeres; kite surfing, a bike tour, Zumba, and more, I opted to not flit from activity to activity — and anyone who knows me well know that that is my usual M.O.

It has been found that this type of vacation, one filled with activities and excitement to keep one stimulated can help you refocus, in fact. It might be a flurry of activity, but getting your brain engaged will help wake up thinking patterns you haven’t fired up in awhile — this according to a psychologist in Psychology Today. Your exhilarating vacay would serve as a way to reinvigorate that pep in your step.

But I knew that this was not what I needed this time around; I realized this when I did a quick search for surf lessons nearby…but could tell my heart wasn’t into it (and I really love surfing and usually try to grab the chance to whenever I can so this was really indicative of worn out I felt). And so, a light sched of fitness was what I had in mind. I played it by ear and while I surely lost some of my fitness, I’m OK with that;  it was just one week and it’s not as though I have a marathon I’m aiming to PB in shortly. While it’s important to pay attention to your fitness, it’s also key to be kind to yourself.

So my healthy vacay routine? (Sorry if you were hoping for a roundup of hardcore sweat seshes!) It started with getting plenty of sleep. This meant being in bed way before midnight (which never happens in real life).


Thanks to going to bed so early, I would wake up in time to walk on the beach to enjoy the sunrise and stretch a little. While it’s most certainly not comparable to my typical running regimen, I think it’s important to keep moving even if it’s something as light an activity as walking.


There are tennis lessons most mornings at the resort and we took advantage of the lessons. With the pro coach on staff, I learned that I twist my core too much with my swing, must work on that. The lesson incorporated cardio drills, too, such as running suicides — not easy in the Mexican sunshine! The heat always really wipes me out.

swimming laps at Finest Playa Mujeres

Finest Playa Mujeres also has a few very long pools, which are great for doing laps. While I’m still quite fearful of swimming in open water after my triathlon swim nightmare this summer, pools I can handle.


And, last but not least I went for very short runs on the beach. What can I say, I guess I’m a runner at heart. Beach running though is a first for me; running in the sand is tough since you’re always working on getting your footing so I usually avoid it (also because I’m usually scared of twisting my ankle with a goal race in my calendar), but hopefully it helped prep me for running in snow this winter. I’ll probably be ramping up my training this winter and through all of 2017, especially as I discovered while in Cancun that my name was drawn in the Chicago Marathon lottery.

Yes, it was a light fitness week…but it did me good. In any case, you can look forward soon to my tips on working out when you travel (including a Toronto-focused itinerary for visitors to my hometown!). More details on that soon…

When booking your vacay, research what activities are available at the resorts you’re considering when you’re exploring Expedia.ca and choose one that offers your faves. More tips on finding the right vacay for you here. And since how you fuel your body is all part of the equation, check out my approach on how to not ruin your healthy diet while on vacay here!

 With no more beach vacations on my calendar for the rest of winter right now, I’ll have to live vicariously through you. Looking forward to your beachy posts. What are you planning? (And didja know that vacation planning boosts your happiness?)



Leave a Comment December 28, 2016

Travel Swellness: How vacations make you happy (+ my review of Finest Playa Mujeres)


My recent trip to Cancun, Mexico, thanks to booking through the folks at Expedia Canada, couldn’t have come at a better time. Because while I have traveled non-stop this year, this trip I planned to be way different than any other I’d taken this year: this was going to be a vacation.

Most of my trips, you see, are for work, and this means the trips typically involve a very busy  itinerary with very little down time. And while this mean I may take part in absolutely wonderful experiences (such as surfing in Barbados or eating conch on the beach), it can also mean visiting one too many beautiful churches or American history museums or seeing every type of room in a hotel including meeting spaces I will never write about, which is fine (I enjoy pretty churches and museums and cool hotels) but it’s certainly not how I would choose to spend a lot of my vacation time. I’d rather be poking around local haunts or even, well, just starting a day later than 6 a.m. some days. And I’m usually not with friends when I travel for work (although I do get to meet a ton of great writers who have become friends!). But this is all part and parcel with what I do for work, and that’s fine. I’m just trying to explain how most of the travel I do is not vacation, even though I know it may seem like so…


But this Mexico getaway? “You look really happy,” and “Wow, you’re really on vacay,” said my friends of this Expedia trip. These are friends who know me well and can read when I’m too tired or hiding (poorly) being cranky. And I was happy and relaxed; having six days to decompress in the warm sunshine with my only concern being whether to order a margarita or caipirinha was exactly what this frazzled freelancer needed.

How and when vacations make you happy, though, actually happens long before you make it to your destination, though. And I’ve talked about this in the past on the blog. Researchers in the Netherlands took it upon themselves to find out how vacays affect your happiness, and what they found is the biggest jump in your happiness happens in the eight weeks leading up to your vacay, when you are  planning it. And I was giddy and excited planning where to go and what we would do in our trip (and you can check this post for my tips on finding the right Expedia vacation for you).

After your vacay, your happiness typically drops back to your usual baseline of happiness. It’s only if you experienced feeling “very relaxed” on your trip that your happiness jumps for a period of two weeks post-vacay — and I’m, ahem, happy to report, that that would be me. I was beyond pleased with our choice of vacation spot (here are my tips on how to narrow down your Expedia vacay search to find the right one for you). We stayed at Finest Playa Mujeres and I’d say the only thing that could’ve made it better would have been had it been an adults-only property — but that resort is such that you can usually escape to an adults-only pool or just one of the quieter pools during the day.


The room (which I failed to take a photo of…see, I truly was in vacay mode!) was spacious and modern, and featured this chic nook on our balcony for a sweet snooze. I finished one book (The Nest — which I very much enjoyed)  and happily dove into another (that I’m still racing through, The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall); reading more books is another way I’m trying to make more time for myself.


The entire resort is beautifully modern and chic in design, from its airy lobby to its long pools, some equipped with pretty hammocks.


The beach has plenty of palapas, so you don’t have to rush down before sunrise to “reserve” your spot. There is sometimes one or two people on jetskis in the water, but they’re usually far out enough that it’s not too loud; it’s still a peaceful beach.


The staff are lovely — the only time I felt they could’ve done better, in my opinion, was when no one on staff asked the parents at dinner at the table beside us to have their child watch his tablet with earphones on rather than at full volume (kudos to the woman at the other table for letting them know as she left the restaurant  this was rude — although it only resulted in the volume being turned down a smidge). PSA: It is not OK to play things on your phone, computer or tablet with the volume on in public with people within earshot. All in all, though, the guests at this resort seem to be there to relax; it’s not a rowdy crowd.


I’ve stayed at a fair number of all-inclusive resorts and besides its beautiful grounds and design, Finest Playa Mujeres also stands out when it comes to its food. There are a few missteps — avoid the both the pizza and pan-Asian restaurant (except do try the nem as an appetizer — those fresh rolls were delicious!), but the a la carte restaurants (which you don’t have to book a reservation for) are actually tasty. If you’ve been to a typical all-inclusive resort, you know what I mean; the different cuisines tend to poor takes on Italian or Japanese and rubbery overcooked lobster. AT Finest, though, we enjoyed the calamari and sangria at the tapas restaurant, the fish tacos and tender steak at the Mexican restaurant, and so much more. The buffets have a wide variety, too, including some lovely fish in a coconut sauce. My favourite lunch was at the beach shack, because I can graze on nachos with ceviche and guacamole on the daily, and they always had fun snacks including quesadillas and chicken wings.


The cocktails are refreshing and well made. The best margaritas we enjoyed at the Golden Bar, and at breakfast there’s a self-serve mimosa and bloody mary bar (always a nice touch), and a wide array of juices;  we also enjoyed some lovely wines, sangria, caipirinhas and pina coladas. And the adorable Sweet Corner coffee shop has some good coffee — we were regulars there for cappuccinos, ristrettos and espressos (what can I say, we like to be caffeinated) — and some yummy buttery mini croissants. I somehow failed to try any of the ice cream they had here at the cafe (I just wasn’t in the mood so I wasn’t going to eat ice cream just because it was available — that’s one of my tips for not ruining your healthy regimen ICYMI).


With the cold weather here now, it’s a good time to start planning a winter getaway with Expedia if you haven’t already and let the happiness of an upcoming trip fill you and get you through the next couple of months.


1 Comment December 21, 2016

Beauty Swellness: Elmwood Spa Holiday Glow GIVEAWAY

Front Entrance 72dpi_RGB


THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED FOR ENTRIES. Congratulations to Jennifer K., the winner of the Elmwood Spa Holiday Glow package! (Jennifer, check your email for more details about your prize, enjoy!)

Are you making a list and checking it twice? The past few years, I feel like I’m buying fewer gifts and choosing instead to give either something homemade (such as an addictive caramel popcorn that I make) or by taking someone out to dinner or to an amusement park, for example. And research shows that experiences, such as vacations, provide more enduring happiness than material purchases.

Which is why I think a gift card to the spa is a fantastic gift idea for the person in your life who could use a little me-time but rarely gets to indulge in it. Elmwood Spa (one of the first spas I ever went to in Toronto so it holds a special place in my memories) has several spa packages that would make a lovely gift for someone on your list. You could make it even more special by, say, offering your babysitting services so that your bestie doesn’t have to worry about finding someone to watch the littles. Or, even better, give your friend a gift card, and invest in the same package for yourself so that you can go together and decompress and spend some quality time together. Surely this will be more memorable than a pair of pyjamas, wouldn’t you agree?

To make your shopping a little easier, I’ve got one sweet giveaway (that you can choose to either give to a loved one or keep for yourself!). Enter to win one Elmwood Spa gift card for a Holiday Glow package (valued at $225). The Holiday Glow package includes one 50-minute Swedish massage, ElmLine Essential Facial, three-course lunch at the Terrace Restaurant, and water therapies in the spa’s pool, whirlpool and steam room.

View More: http://enspyre.pass.us/bangkokgarden

To enter this giveaway, you must be a Canadian resident.

You can enter to win the Elmwood Spa Holiday Glow gift card  in three different ways (you can enter once via each method):

  1. Email me at healthandswellness@gmail.com with your name and mailing address (please put “Elmwood Spa” in the subject line).
  2. Twitter. On Twitter, follow me (@healthswellness) and Elmwood Spa (@elmwoodspa) and tweet:

I want to get an #elmwoodglow this holiday season by winning this @healthswellness #giveaway! http://bit.ly/1MlvUvk

  1. Facebook: “Like” the Health and Swellness page on Facebook and comment on the Elmwood Spa photo about what your favourite spa treatment is.

This giveaway is open to Canadian residents and you can enter up until 12 p.m. EST, Thursday, December 24, 2015. The winner will be chosen at random and notified via the method they’ve won. If they do not claim their prize within five days, another winner will be selected at random.

Good luck!


Elmwood Spa_72dpiWomen's Change Room

4 Comments December 18, 2015

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