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5 vacations that combine fitness with fun

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Courtesy of Austin Fit Magazine

Editor's note: Each month, Austin Fit Magazine shares with our readers a story from its latest issue. In the May issue, on stands now, Austin Fit Magazine takes a look at five vacations that combine fitness and fun.

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Hearts Wide Open Yoga and Seva Retreat (www.yogasevaretreat.com, June 29 - July 6)

Claudia Castro-Leverett, owner of Del Sol Yoga in Austin and a lead yoga teacher at Lifetime Fitness, was born in Nicaragua; when she was 3, her family moved to the United States seeking political amnesty.  Castro-Leverett has made Austin her home but she misses her family, who returned to the rain forests of this Central American country.  She’s since managed to combine her business with her love of family and desire to give back from the yoga that sustains her in the form of the Yoga Seva Retreat.  This seven-day trip combines doing good with being well; “seva” means “service,” and the first two days involve visiting Castro-Leverett’s family’s eco-lodge, Selva Negra, in the mountain forests.  In addition to daily vinyasa classes and afternoon and evening meditation classes, participants give their services to the local orphanage, which houses almost 100 children, as well as an area eldercare facility.  Afterwards, they return to Managua for five days at the Redondo Beach and Aqua Wellness Resort, which is more of a traditional spa experience.  When registering for the event, participants have the option of choosing the full seven-day package or the shorter five-day experience.

One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Is Nicaragua stable?”  Castro-Leverett pointed out that the New York Times recently listed Nicaragua as number three in its “The 46 Places to Go in 2013” and mentions the Aqua Wellness Resort by name.  But, more than cheap and tasty food and inexpensive beachfront land, Castro-Leverett said that the ability to make a difference is a huge draw.  “We can move our bodies,” she said, “but there’s a piece missing.  Once you give to yourself, you must give also to others.”

Tulum: Nirvana Summer Solstice (www.holyogis.com, June 17 - 24)

Christion Robertson is the founder of Holy Yogis, an Austin-based studio that views “travel as an important part of change.”  Holy Yogis puts together a variety of different types of retreats that focus on travel and healthy living.  The next event is a seven-day trip to Tulum, Mexico, that involves healthy meals, meditation, yoga, an exploration day trip to the Mayan ruins, beach time, and a snorkeling trip to Gran Cenote.  “We believe that the combination of fitness and adventure allows people to easily access their creative spirit and confidence to return home and conquer their goals like champs,” explained Robertson.  In addition to refreshing the spirit, the trip is “green,” meaning that Robertson has focused on practices for travel that sustain the local environment, conserve energy, and maintain the organic beauty of the area. 

Move Run European Destination Marathons (www.movesports.com, trip dates vary)

Move Run is an elevated travel agency for marathon runners.  Like your traditional travel agency, Move Run puts together itineraries and travel packages.  Unlike other services, Move Run focuses on destination marathons.  They put together a detailed fact sheet about the race, and the cost of the trip includes race registration.  The company also provides assistance and support in travel logistics for family and friends who are traveling with runners and going to the race to cheer.  For an additional fee, delivery back to the hotel will be provided.

Some of the upcoming races are the Prague (May 12), Copenhagen (May 19), and Edinburgh (May 25 through May 26) marathons.  In September, there are two big trips:  the Rock ‘N Roll Portugal half marathon (September 30) and the Berlin marathon (September 29), which boasts over a million spectators and 40,000 runners on this historic course.

Hill Country Bike & Wine (http://www.hillcountrybw.com, tours vary; not offered in January, July, August, November and December)

Love bikes? Love wine? Then pedal your way through the Texas Hill Country with Hill Country Bike and Wine tours. Founded in 2013 by cyclist Ashley Hunter, Hill Country Bike and Wine gives its tour groups the opportunity to leisurely experience the scenic Texas Hill Country while visiting local wineries along the way.

Groups are led by an experienced guide, and the tour includes rental of a fitness hybrid bike and helmet. The $179 price tag also includes wine-tasting fees (two to three wineries are visited on each tour), a catered picnic lunch, van support (including wine purchase pick-up service), and a souvenir water bottle.

Not planning on winning the Tour de France anytime soon? Not a problem. According to the company, tours are “designed for the tourist, not the cyclist.” The distance between each winery averages about ten miles, and the terrain is described as “flat to gently rolling.” Participants should plan to make a day of it: The tour’s duration is typically from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“There isn't a better way to experience the beauty of the Hill Country than on the seat of a bicycle,” said Hunter.  “Our riders not only get to taste some of the best wines in Texas, but our scenic routes offer breathtaking views of an area we often fly by in our vehicles.”

Open Water Swimming Holidays With SwimTrek (http://www.swimtrek.com/, tour date and destinations vary)

“Ferries are for wimps.”  At least, that’s the motto behind SwimTrek—a British tour company offering open water swimming holidays to some of the most beautiful and iconic swim destinations in the world.

The first swim tour company of its kind, SwimTrek prides itself on offering options for everyone—from the open-water newbie seeking a leisurely excursion to the experienced swimmer wanting an intensive training adventure.  The only requirement is the ability to sustain a consistent pace for the average daily tour distance; a training plan is even provided before the tour to ensure that participants arrive prepared.  Tour groups are limited to 16 people and are divided according to speed, which is determined upon arrival in a stress-free environment.

Other than diving in and having fun, swimmers have few details to worry about on their tour.  SwimTrek guides are experienced swimmers who are trained to ensure the safety of all participants.  Accommodation, two meals a day, and a support boat are also provided, meaning that swimmers can relax, stay safe, and make the most of their vacation.  Tour participants even receive swim coaching to improve their technique.

The prices of tour packages vary according to length.  Participants can pay anything from $100 for a day-long swim on the Jurassic Coast to $1,900 for a week in the British Virgin Islands. According to Sophie Milton, spokesperson for the tour company, “SwimTrek holidays are ideal for swimmers who want to fine-tune their technique for the new swimming or triathlon season, get comfortable with open water racing, embark on an marathon swim challenge, or swim simply for the fun of it.”

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Read more in the May issue of Austin Fit Magazine, available now.

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