An Active Week in Morocco Was the Fitness Jump Start I Needed

Travel writer Caleigh Alleyne needed a wellness reset after a tumultuous year.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Even though I have always been active, my weight has fluctuated for as long as I can remember. After getting through a particularly stressful year, I entered 2018 thirty pounds heavier than the previous year. I knew I needed to make a change, but didn’t know how. Until I found the motivation I was looking for while scrolling through social media. Exodos Travels was advertising the launch of their Fitness Week in Morocco – a country I’ve had on my bucket list for ages.

Morocco Fitness Week was a seven day trip beginning in the coastal town of Essaouira and ending in Marrakech. Throughout the week the small group would participate in high-intensity cardio workouts along with fitness excursions unique to the destination. The activity level was advertised as moderate to challenging. With the trip just three months away, I knew I’d need to step it up at the gym in order to keep up with the group in Morocco. Through interval training, I concentrated on being able to run a little faster and cycle for longer distances to help increase my cardio level before the trip. The idea of vacationing in Morocco gave me the motivation I needed. Not only did I shave some time off my 5K, but I lost eight inches, and in the process, found myself focusing less about the number on the scale and more on becoming stronger and healthier overall. (In need of a spiritual getaway? Head to this desert location.)

Here are a few things I learned that might help you on your own adventure.

Just move

The focus of the week was less about losing weight and more about incorporating healthy living practices into daily life. Each day, two to three group fitness activities were led by our instructor Andy McKee to help target key muscle areas through high-intensity cardio workouts. But, as I learned, what you do outside of the gym is far more important than one intense workout. The morning run on the beach was a great way to start the day and get moving, but it was the hours wandering through the Souks (and often getting lost in the winding markets) that brought my daily step counts to over 14,000 every day. One of the healthiest things you can do when on vacation is to walk as much as possible to stay active.

The destination is your gym

There is nothing I dread more than heading to a cookie-cutter hotel gym while on vacation. What I loved most about this trip was that all of the workouts we did were outside. We were either on the beach for a jog or drill exercises, or up on the terrace of our Riad for a circuit or boxing class.

But my favourite days were when we turned the destination into our gym, like when we cycled 27 km along the Atlantic Coast and hiked 18 km through the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Those days were also the most challenging. I told myself early on in the week that I did not have to be the fastest, or the strongest, but I had to finish everything. I used my Fitbit Versa to track my speed, time, and distance so that I could measure my success against my own personal best. The best souvenir from this trip was the sense of accomplishment I got when I finished each challenge. (Looking to book a hiking holiday? Check out this U.S. city.)

Eat what the locals eat

One of the benefits of travelling to a country like Morocco is that clean eating is a way of life. The majority of foods are sourced locally and prepared fresh to make some of the tastiest tagines and salads I have ever tried. I ate mostly pescaterian on the trip which was easy as we started our trip in the port city of Essaouira where fresh fish was readily available. For dessert, we would skip the cakes and candy in favour of locally grown fruit (sometimes topped with cinnamon powder as a treat). Morocco is also a predominantly Muslim country so alcohol is usually sold privately in riads, hotels and resorts. In order to get as much as I could out of the Fitness Week, I decided to avoid alcohol all together which helped reduce my sugar intake over the week.

Reward yourself

While the purpose of a trip like this might be fitness, it’s important to find a balance. Take the time to sight-see, shop for souvenirs, or plan a moment for relaxation. In Morocco, traditional hammam experiences are a popular way to cleanse and exfoliate the body. They leave you feeling refreshed after a long hike or busy day in the markets. I decided to fly home a day later then the group and reward myself with a relaxing day at the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech. Located just outside of the busy downtown medina area, it’s a little oasis looking out onto the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains. After spending the morning soaking up the sun, I dropped by the spa for a rejuvenating massage with Moroccan Argan oil to help work out some of the muscle tension from my active week. I left relaxed and ready for my long flight home, and with a huge sense of accomplishment.

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