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  • Writer's pictureJulian Molteno

HOLIDAY STRATEGY — Active Rest


For those of us who love to exercise and eat clean, going on holiday can be problematic — especially if you are on a family holiday. Fitting your “fitness-lifestyle” needs in with the rest of the family’s holiday and relaxation needs can be difficult and requires some flexibility and planning — and compromise. Usually when we go away I make sure Suzy books a hotel with a gym. I can then get up at 7am while the family is still asleep, and go train. I would have a lovely hour or so cycling etc., and by the time I was back in the hotel room, showered and having already eaten my usual Greek yoghurt and Peanut Butter, the family would be waking up and getting ready to begin the day. I had done my training without taking any time away from “family time”. Perfect — or so I thought! Suzy and I like to book our holidays well in advance, it is nice to have something to look forward to, and I like to pay for the flights and hotel straight away so the holiday seems less expensive when we are actually there. Usually Suzy needs no prompting to get something booked but this year she seemed reluctant. It turns out my early morning training strategy is not quite as clever as I had thought. Suzy feels it is “not relaxing” and is annoyed that all my wet workout clothes end up draped all over the bathroom, making the place look a mess. Also . . . she wants the freedom to book a holiday in an apartment or smaller hotel etc., where a gym may not be available.  

My wet workout clothes, in the hotel bathroom, are not appreciated.  As part of my “Be a Better Husband” drive, I agreed I would go along with whatever holiday the family wanted and just make the most of it. So we are going to Italy, to Lake Como, and staying in an apartment in a small town called Bellagio, I knew a gym would be out of the question, so time for Plan B! ACTIVE REST!! I’m not sure if Active Rest is one of Arnold’s phrases, but I first came across it many years ago in an article that was written by him. It would be typical of him to champion this approach to mental and physical recuperation as he was a man who enjoyed so many different aspects of life, and while bodybuilding was his passion for so many years, he enjoyed skiing, hiking and other manly outdoor sports too. He was an Austrian after all! Post-contest, after so many intense and gruelling months of training and dieting, Arnold would take a few weeks break from the gym. The purpose of this was twofold; firstly to give his body a rest, let his joints and ligaments recover from the heavy lifting, and secondly, to allow him to recharge mentally, so he could then return to the gym with renewed vigour. A few weeks break from the gym however, did not meaning lounging about eating strudel and watching telly — Mr Schwarzenegger was not that sort of man!  

Arnold looking very sporty!  Time for some Active Rest! Arnold would take this opportunity to indulge in all the other sporting activities he loved. He hiked, cycled, skied, and jogged, etc., keeping his muscles moving and stimulated, but placing less stress on his joints. He spent time outdoors, in the Austrian countryside, revelling in this phase of his training regime. Enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, and, of course, loving life!! So my holiday “Plan B”, was Active Rest, in honour of the Great Man himself, to be performed with joy, and vigour and glory, celebrating the wonder (and privilege!) of being able to exercise!! The run-up to the hols is crucial, and my Active Rest preparation starts a week or so before the holiday, because Active Rest must be earned. Don’t slack pre-holiday! I remember being confused as to why my training and dietary motivation was so bad in the few weeks before I went into the South African Defence Force back in 1987. Basically, it was because I knew that for the next 6 months or so, it was going to be almost impossible to train well, and therefore my training motivation weakened. Having learnt my lesson I now do the opposite and give myself a head start by training extra hard in the run-up to the holidays. I spent the week before we went away battering myself in the gym and on the stationary bike, training more than I usually would, to allow myself a day or two at the beginning of the holiday where I would not feel the itchy-nervy need to train. The day after we arrived at the amazingly beautiful town of Bellagio on Lake Como, I set about pursuing my glorious Active Rest strategy. I swam a lot in the pool, really enjoying the hot sun shining down on me in the warm water. The pool was about 15 meters long and I would do between 100 and 200 lengths throughout the day, which I did most days. I have not swum for a few years and it brought back so many childhood memories of happy days spent in our pool in Johannesburg.  

I loved swimming in the sunshine! The view definitely added to the happy feeling too!  On one of the days I hired a bike and spent the morning cycling along the shore of the lake and then up into the mountains. The scenery was so beautiful, and it was so gratifying to feel the strength in my legs as the lake was left further and further below. The only issue was that I was not used to a racing bike so my lower back and neck (and triceps as I had worked them the day before!) really suffered. It was totally worth it though and the whole experience was a very enjoyable one.  

Looking like a cycling nerd, apparently!  I also had the use of one my client’s TRX Bands. Joy very kindly offered to let me use the TRX that she had bought for her Antipodean holiday, but never used!! (I would normally mention that I wrote a post regarding this incident called “The Covernant . . . Julian has a rant”, but shan’t, as that would blow Joy’s cover.) In a normal gym-setting I would scorn the TRX, but as an Active Rest tool, it is invaluable. All you need is a firm tree etc., and you are in business! Every couple of days I would hook it around a sturdy olive tree and do 10 x 20 rows and 10 x 20 press-ups, I would alternate between the two exercises, going pretty much non-stop, and had a satisfying workout. I got a lovely pump and it felt great working out in the sun like Arnold and Franco at Venice Beach!! 

TRX Bands can be set up just about anywhere and can give you a really nice pumping workout.  One morning I went on a mountain hike with my younger daughter Octavia. After fuelling up with my usual protein coffee, yoghurt and some peanut butter (I brought 3 jars of Meridian, knowing that I would not be able to get anything nearly as good over there), we set off quite early and followed one of the routes on the map I had bought the previous day. 

A sad day when you finish the excellent Meridian and have to sink to shitty Skippy!  It was not a great map and I am not the best map-reader but we managed to go in the right direction — which was straight up!! It was an uncompromising and brutal assault, straight up the mountain. We then traversed along a contour line that required sure feet and a good head for heights, especially when a family of wild boar came rustling and rummaging past is! Amusing but also quite frightening. As we started our mountain-goat-like descent, the heavens opened and it poured with rain! Slippery baby-steps all the way down! We finally got back to the apartment absolutely soaked through but both feeling very pleased with ourselves for completing an arduous but fun Dad and Daughter walk.  

Octavia and I setting off on our hike! A critical part of Active Rest is to keep your muscles primed, so you can go straight back into heavy training when you return to the gym without the weights feeling super heavy and awkward. It also prevents them from getting so stiff and sore (after your first workout back) that you have to have a longer rest before being able to train again, when you are now mentally feeling fresh and raring to go! That would be frustrating. In my opinion, you can not train for a week and not feel any ill-effects, but any longer and you will be more sore than normal. Active rest stops this so is especially critical towards the end of the rest-period. Our last few days of the holiday were spent in Milan — at a hotel with a gym! Thank you, Suzy! I did 2 good stationary bike rides and basic Pulldown, Leg Raise and Machine Chest Press circuit to get my well-rested muscles ready for action back in London.  

The basics is all you need from a hotel gym.  We went away for about 12 days and I am happy to report that when we got back to Barnet I weighed the same as before the holiday and pretty much look the same too. I was happy with that. All-in-all I was pleased with my Active Rest Strategy, I had a lovely relaxing time, did plenty of fun exercise, rested my body and mind, and am now feeling physically refreshed and mentally ready to snap back into some proper training again!! All thanks to Arnold!!! 


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