Stacey Margaret Jones: Travelcise – 30A (You Can Have Fun Staying Fit on Vacation)


A beach vacation means lying about on the shore, taking an occasional dip in the sea, and cocktailing and eating fresh seafood, getting up late and lazing about in the sun and in the shade…

… and a tough Vinyasa flow class, the exertion of a stand-up paddle-board lesson, biking and possibly even running. Even a dolphin-excursion can include the opportunity to “travelcise,” or work out while on vacation.

Travelcising always enriches my vacations because I get to try things I can’t at home or invest existing practices with insights and experiences from new teachers.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving your running shoes and your yoga clothes at home when you pack your bags for a work or leisure trip. I’ve certainly done that myself. And rest is an important part of fitness, as it allows for muscle recovery and energy restoration and renewal. But I feel better when I’m getting regular exercise, and since I knew I was going to be eating like it was my job in local restaurants when we booked our recent trip to Rosemary Beach along Florida’s 30A area of the Gulf Coast, I immediately started looking up opportunities to break a sweat. 

One of the greatest things about the 30A developments like Rosemary Beach is that they are linked and organized for information sharing up and down that section of coast. It’s just another great feature of a vacation in what I call “the Barbie village,” where everything is pretty and designed for tourists to go home happy.

To find out about exercise classes and events in any of the included communities, just go to and check out the fitness calendar on the site. It lists every class that day, and makes it easy to plan, especially if you’re looking for things to do if it rains. Beaches covered by the site include Alys, Blue Mountain, Grayton, Inlet, Rosemary, Santa Rosa, Seacrest, Seagrove, Seaside, WaterColor and several others.

While it’s easy to use, sometimes the links to the locations aren’t completely clear to someone new to the area. But a quick phone call is usually all it took me to get the necessary information (such as exact location, rather than just “Rosemary Beach”).

The first day, it was sunny, and as we learned on our first trip to Rosemary Beach in 2011, when the sun shines, you go to the beach, so that’s what we did, all day Monday. It was glorious.

Before we ever left Conway, I booked a dolphin excursion with Blue Dolphin Tours in Panama City Beach ($50 per person) for our second day. This was not meant to be travelcising: I wanted to get my beach-averse husband out and about a little, and he loves dolphins (who doesn’t?), but it ended up being a somewhat active day, and we felt ready for our grouper sandwiches at George’s afterwards.

We found these particular tours appealing because they take small groups (we numbered five with a family of three from Cincinnati) out to see dolphins, they are see-able. Of course, the captain can’t entice them, but the knowledgeable crew are good at putting tourists near where the dolphins may be. We saw quite a few in the water on our way to Shell Island, where we were going to anchor and swim off a sandbar.

And that was where we got a good workout. All of us clambered off the boat and swam around in water that came a little higher than my waist. We dove down for sand dollars and the crew found things to show us, like sea urchins and scallops in the wild. We spent more than an hour in the sea, and I was pleasantly fatigued as we finished up our swim.

Making it an absolutely perfect day was the dolphin who got curious about these folks looking for marine life as he swam by and came up near us to get a closer look. We were all transfixed. Jay and I had never been so close to a wild dolphin before.

For our second fitness outing of the four-day trip, I found a stand-up paddleboard class I wanted to attend in WaterColor at the Boat House (which, everyone seems to think you will know exactly where this is, but we didn’t, nor did our GPS, so if you’re ignorant like me, leave your condo in plenty of time). The class was full, but the staffers said we could rent boards for an hour and we’d be shown how to SUP on our own in the inland lake ($30 per person for an hour).

We had seen a woman stand-up paddle boarding on our first day at the beach. She was out just past where the waves were cresting and rolling into shore, but it was still choppy. She stayed upright, but I was nervous about trying that sport if we were going to be on the open sea.

The Boathouse in WaterColor is on an inland salt-water lake, so it is very calm—and absolutely beautiful. There are actual lily pads! Fields of lily pads! The morning we were there, rain was threatening, and it wasn’t too crowded. We checked in a little early and were taken straight down to get our boards and get out on the water.

To stand-up paddleboard, you have what looks like a modified surfboard, and you straddle it as you paddle away from the dock (no standing on the boards nearby to prevent head injuries if you fall). Once you’re out a bit, you put the paddle across the board in front of you, holding it with both hands, move your feet from the water to the center of the board and push yourself up from all fours to standing.

Theoretically. The first time I tried I was so wobbly, I was about three-quarters of the way up before I quickly sat down to avoid falling straight in the water. Then, I tightened my life jacket. I looked around to find my husband.

“You okay?” he called from his seat on his board. “You looked pretty unstable.”

“I’m going out here,” I called, making a bee-line—as much as one can canoeing with a paddle board—toward the other side of a footbridge that bisects the lake. I wanted more privacy. Suddenly I was really happy I hadn’t gotten us spots in that class. This wasn’t something I wanted to do on command. I needed to center myself, calm down and not be too embarrassed with failure.

Once out away from most of the paddle-boarders, I tried again, and though I was still wobbling wildly, I managed to stay up and paddle around for some time. I got better at navigating and found I was more accurate backing up than going forward after I ended up in a big patch of lily pads when that had been the exact destination I had been trying to avoid. My husband tried three times to stand, but didn’t stay up too long each time. He was glad for his life jacket when he fell in, but the water felt great!

While this activity looks easy, it is quite intense exercise, not only because of the difficulty of balancing, which got easier during the hour, but also because every single muscle of my body was working to keep me upright. I fleetingly remembered my brief consideration of a SUP yoga class and laughed out loud. I wasn’t going to be able to do downward dog on one of these things any time soon when standing was nearly too much for my abilities.

I also knew it was more intense exertion than I had planned when I started to feel symptoms of heat exhaustion. I’m prone to this condition and had foolishly not prepared for the heat and humidity beyond slathering on sunscreen. Adding the activity of balancing and paddling was too much for me, and I had to sit down on my board for short periods throughout the hour to recover—and to try not to pass out. I tightened my life jacket again.

I didn’t have drinking water with me, and the lake water, late in the summer, was warm, not cooling. If there hadn’t been some cloud cover from the threatening rain, I would have had to give it up and paddle in to the dock for relief. As it was, I could sit briefly, breathe and recuperate between efforts. It’s an activity I will definitely try again—honestly, I wish I had a pool in my back yard so I could go out right now and practice!—but I’ll be better prepared for the weather and exertion next time.

My husband’s verdict? He’ll just rent a kayak next time and paddle around, perhaps with bottled water and a sun hat for me. 

My final workout was a Vinyasa flow class at the fitness center in Rosemary Beach. Vinyasa is a kind of yoga practice that links the breath specifically to movement, and is what I practice at home in Conway. I had looked at several yoga classes up and down 30A, but this one was close to “home” and at a good time of day. It turned out to be perfectly scheduled for a rainy morning, too. I didn’t book ahead, showed up and paid my $15 drop-in fee with a debit card and took my mat into the classroom.

The calendar didn’t specify that this was a 90-minute class, and I might not have gone if I’d known, but I was so glad I did. It was a challenging session taught by a clearly expert teacher, and I had that rare and wonderful feeling of surprising myself with what I was actually capable of doing. I couldn’t do every pose, but I stuck with the extended flow sequences, though I was dripping sweat and my muscles were shaking. When I left to the pouring rain, I felt completely cleansed and ready for my last day of vacation.

Of course, 30A also has a pedestrian and bike path that runs among the beach communities as well. Last time, we rented bikes and went for a 14-mile ride among the towns on the eastern end of the highway. It’s too hot for me to run there, but tandem bikes are available for renting along with regular cruisers if your condo doesn’t include them. It’s a beautiful and interesting ride, with fun places to stop, no matter where you go along the coast.

The opportunities to stay active make Rosemary Beach even more appealing to me and my husband, and the ease of finding things to do wherever you’re staying makes being an active tourist really doable. I get to enjoy all the Gulf coast has to offer, including guacamole and cocktails daily, but I don’t come home feeling like a beached whale.

That’s definitely a travelcising win-win.

Travelcising 30A



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