For most Brits, the go to destination for a quick break is Spain. More specifically, Southern Spain and the Costa Del Sol. The strip of coastline is known for its sandy beaches and warm, reliable climate. It also happened to be the
destination my Girlfriend and I visited for an early Summer break last year. We stayed in Benalmádena and explored the surrounding areas, here’s what we found…
As always I was keen to try to maintain some fitness whilst away. This was a bit different to normal as we were staying in an apartment and not a hotel. This meant that having a gym to hand was not an option. There are two ways that I used to keep up my fitness in Spain with minimal equipment.
The Spanish coast is known for its endless beaches and attractive surroundings. Keeping this in mind I chose to use running as my main form of training. Now, I hate running, like really hate running. However, I learned that done in the right way, in the right settings, it can actually be okay.
My first run was a long one and it is not often that I run at a steady pace for long distance. However, getting up early morning before the beaches and walkways are busy is refreshing. Sticking to the coastline works best for me. It’s fresh, cooler and generally more enjoyable. Spain and particularly Benalmádena is famed for having nice ports and harbors. This makes running around them quite cool and allows you to carve out different routes.
I didn’t bother timing the longer runs, I used the route down to the coast as a warm up and then tried to keep a comfortable pace throughout. One good tip for an extra spicy run is to do the following:
- Set a time that you want to run for on the way out i.e. 10 minutes
- Don’t under-pace this, run as if it was only a 10 minute run
- Turn around at the 10 minute mark
- Try to get back to your starting point in under 10 minutes
This is a fun way to challenge yourself and mix up your running. It also prevents boredom making it feel like two workouts. Not only this but if you are honest on the way out, the way back in is a real challenge!
In addition to going on long runs I threw a couple of short and fast intervals in whilst in Spain. Just behind where we stayed was a road leading up to Paloma Park. I seriously underestimated the incline on the hill, however it was a good sprint session.
I ran for a total of 10 intervals. All out sprints up the hill to a marker approximately 50 meters up the hill. I then walked back down to the starting point as recovery and as soon as I hit the bottom went again. If you’re honest with this type of training and are strict on standards it can be really good. Just make sure you really do go all out on the sprints and turn and go once you reach the start point. No hanging about at the bottom to tie shoe laces!
The second type of training I utilised in my training was body-weight training. I have posted before about just how beneficial body-weight training can be in training. I don’t think this is ever more applicable than when being on holiday. You can create a good workout anywhere with simple movements and this is what I did in Spain.
Some workouts may require a bar to do pull ups on but these are readily available in Spain. We could learn a lot from Europe. Most parks or promenades have mini exercise stations open to the public. You can literally go at any time and use the basic equipment. This is great for getting a fun workout in. Jog down as a warm up and then hit a simple workout as above.
Even if you don’t have access to one of these parks you can still get some fitness in. One day I went onto the balcony and completes 15 minutes of 5 burpees, 10 air squats, 15 sit ups. Go hard at this and you can get a brilliant workout in wherever you are.
As always, when abroad I love to stick to local foods and dishes. Finding out what the local area is renowned for and eating restaurants serving that food is always a win. This particular area of Spain is well-known for seafood. The seafood is often freshly caught that day and taken straight into the kitchen to cook. Benalmádena harbor has some really nice restaurants that serve brilliant seafood.
My Girlfriend has been to Benalmádena before so knew some places to eat in advance. However, I always find taking some time to walk around the local area and look at different menus. A good guide if you ever go is www.restaurantespuertomarina.com. This lists some of the best restaurants in the harbor.
Spanish Garden, Benalmádena
One of the nicest places we went whilst there was Spanish Garden. This came with high recommendations from my Girlfriend and it didn’t disappoint. The aesthetics of the restaurant itself are really traditional. There is a lot of greenery throughout the restaurant and also big open frame windows.
The cool thing about Spanish Garden is that you order a main and this arrives as normal. Then, a few minutes later an array of seasonal vegetable side dishes arrive from which you pick what you want. I genuinely don’t think that the food gets much fresher than Spanish Garden and it has real family feel to it.
I opted for a fish dish which surprised me as the dish was quite literally a fish served whole. The menu here is also quite diverse so there is something for everyone. I’d definitely recommend a visit.
When we visited Malaga we stopped for lunch in a restaurant called Toro. This is just along the harbour and looks out onto the water. The food is traditional Spanish tapas, we love tapas but you can also get larger dishes there as well.
It was quite a relaxed lunch really. We just stopped in whilst passing and there are numerous restaurants along the front. The food was great and the setting even better. The policing of the newly developed harbour in Malaga is really well done. This means it is kept in very good condition and is lovely to sit and relax watching the world go by.
In all honesty, we took this trip to Spain quite leisurely. For the most part we stayed local and opted to walk everywhere. This was mainly due to the fact that my Girlfriend knew the area well and nothing was really too far away. However, we did venture further afield on some days and here’s what we found worked best…
We spent one of our days over in Malaga which is a bit bigger and has more going on. We took the train both ways which was about as easy as it could be. The station is a short walk up the hill near Paloma Park and takes you straight through to Malaga. We did have a bit of a Google Maps moment when we got to Malaga as we somehow started to walk in the wrong direction.
Even in the larger environment of Malaga we walked wherever we went. Again, the harbor is a nice walk, this has recently had a renovation and is quite modern with a cool market place on some days. The center is very attractive. This is made up of the typical Spanish back streets you would associate with the country. Within these there are all sorts of independent shops and bars/restaurants.
The Church is one of the main tourist photo attractions and whilst not the biggest is certainly attractive. We actually got lost wandering around the center but finding your way back to main roads is easy enough. There is also all of the modern shops and retailers in the center of Malaga. These have been built into the existing buildings well so don’t ruin the traditional feel.
We went over to Torremolinos early one morning almost by accident. The plan was to head to the water park but we realised this was closed until later in the season. Rather than waste the day we stopped and had a wander around. Torremolinos is a popular destination in Spain. It has an abundance of shops and bars to stop off in as you wander around the winding streets. This makes for a lot of stops for coffee and snacks!
If I’m honest it’s quite touristy, however it still makes for a nice walk. Everything leads downhill towards the sea and you end up coming out on the promenade. This means you can easily follow the path back round to Benalmádena. It is a bit of a walk but not too far and soon passes by with the beach stretching nearly all of the way around. So if it all does get too much a quick stop off for a beer to cool off is readily available.
Taxis have to be the go to option for most people abroad. For some reason taxi’s always seem to be right to hand in Spain and the service is pretty good. We didn’t use them around the area we stayed but did get one to Torremolinos as we originally intended to visit the water park but didn’t. We walked around there and also walked back. Torremolinos is within walking distance of Benalmádena and it makes for a nice walk around the headland.
As I mentioned, we got the Train to Malaga which was really easy. They take card or cash payment at the stations, even the smaller ones, so you don’t have to worry about that. The line through to Malaga also stops at most of the main areas you would want to visit and drops you off right in the middle of the big shopping center. Walking was our main form of getting about once we got to each destination and really isn’t that taxing.
So, there we have it. As far as quick and easy trips abroad go, Benalmádena and the surrounding areas in Spain is ideal. Spain is full of similar places so scouting around for something to suit you shouldn’t be difficult. It has plenty of attractive places to visit and enjoy. The food is good and fitting in some exercise there isn’t too difficult either.