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Inspiration In the land Of Gods (aka Arillas, Greece)

People are creatures of habit. They love making excuses to not work out, especially when traveling: “My trainer is not holding my hand; my favorite classes are not offered; I have meetings all day; I am on vacation; I have sightseeing to do.”

Keeping up with your workout program while traveling can be challenging, but it also can offer some rewarding experiences. It is time to think out of the box and be adventurous…act like a kid again…it is time to play!

I recently had the pleasure of taking my first trip to Greece with my wife, Dionisia, a first generation Greek-American. As excited as I was for the trip, I thought to myself, “What am I going to do about my work outs? My squat and clean & jerk are going to get so weak” – oh the horror?!

I have always loved nature and working out in the outdoors. I was beyond lucky to find my nature, fitness loving counterpart in my beautiful wife, Dionisia. We share a healthy thirst for adventure, fitness and the outdoors. We love to go on hikes and use fitness as part of our sightseeing program, whether traveling through the USA or abroad, for work or for pleasure.

The main goal is to have fun, get the blood flowing and see a different perspective than you would on a cheesy tour or just working out in your hotel gym; trust me, they all look the same whether you are in Paris, France or Paris, TX.

We ventured up the Ionian coastline from Athens to her parent’s village, Arillas, on the island of Corfu, or Kerkyra as it is known to Greeks. Corfu is an absolutely beautiful place. The island has a rich history with Venetian architecture, majestic mountains and hills that roll into the beautiful coastline with many olive groves….let me empasize that, many, many olive groves!

Olive groves in Arillas, Greece
Olive groves in Arillas, Greece

Arillas is a small village on the northwest corner of Corfu where life slows down to enjoy the simple things: family, food, love, the ocean and the ubiquitous olive groves. The ancient olive groves are magical and endearing.  They are straight out of a scene in “Lord of the Rings” and seem like they could talk to you at any moment with a wise, old voice.

The trailhead on the Arillas Trail
The trailhead on the Arillas Trail

I was fortunate to hear about the “Arillas Trail” from her beloved Uncle Kyriakos Argyros. The trail system was formally set up in the Spring of 2013. The trails are used to access the olives and transport them to the local olive press during the harvest.

I wanted to feel connected to my wife’s ancestors, my in-laws and the back breaking work it must have been to haul bundles of olives up and down the hillsides. The least I could do was a great workout to honor them and this beautiful place.

An upside down view of Arillas
An upside down view of Arillas

The trail starts at the beach and has a challenging climb in elevation through the 400 year old olive groves. The perfect backdrop for a great workout was set. I was excited to see a different view of village life that my father-in-law, Spiro Kaloudis, had mentioned many times with a big smile on his face. This was going to be our gym for the day.

Dionisia looking out from the trail at the Ionian Sea
Dionisia looking out from the trail at the Ionian Sea

We did not have dumbbells, barbells or expensive cardio equipment. So I summoned the creativity gods to come up with great body weight movements for us to do while also taking in the beautiful scenery.

Rock slams = ball slams on the Arillas Trail
Rock slams = ball slams on the Arillas Trail

We ended up settling on one minute of body weight exercises for every five minutes of hiking we did. Wherever we were on the trail at the 5, 10, or 15 minute mark and so on we would do one minute intervals of a great body weight exercise: push ups, walking lunges, dips, air squats, jump squats, burpees, scissor kicks, hand stand push ups, rock slams (the outdoor cousin to ball slams) and broad jumps. The olive tree branches and stumps served us well.

These tree branches just needed to be climbed!
These tree branches just needed to be climbed!

We spent over 3 hours venturing into areas that could not have been found in any guidebook. We observed Arillas from a different point of view; a fantastic environment of plants and trees where time seems to have stopped.

My new pull up bar/branch
My new pull up bar/branch

We came back from our hike with an immediate sense of invigoration. I felt connected to Dionisia’s family on a whole other level. We shared our adventure with her relatives at dinner over some great wine. It still makes me laugh to see their confused looks when we told them about our hike. Her Aunt and Uncle are still probably scratching their heads at the “crazy American” who had their niece do push ups and squats along the ancient olive groves.

Dionisia added some yoga into the workout
Dionisia added some yoga into the workout

Challenge yourself on your next trip. What can you do to stay in shape while seeing your surroundings from a different point of view? You cannot go wrong by strapping on your running shoes, walking out the front door of your hotel and letting your creative side take over. Get off the beaten path.

There is nothing quite like doing hand stand push ups against a palm tree, or burpees on the beach as waves crash into you. Sprint up the side of a mountain as if your livelihood depended on catching a wild animal like our ancestors did.

In a city? Great! Enjoy the architecture or city parks…also, there is something fun about doing pull ups outside on construction rigging.

The opportunities are endless. Change your mindset and think less about the discomforts or excuses that are easy to throw around while away from home. Think about the sense of adventure that lies before you.

You can get a great workout anywhere, you just have to be inspired to do so. So what will you do to find your inspiration on your next trip?