Confessions of a staycation lover

When it comes to the weekends, I am often counting down from Wednesday (hump day) to buzzy Fridays, filled with excitement about the fact that I am going to spend my Saturdays and Sundays staycationing in London.

London is an amazing city with so much to see and do and as much as I may feel like I deserve some down time in the weekends, I also know that it is a crime to stay indoors when there is so much happening across the city.

If you wanted to, you could live in London like a tourist – cramming your Saturdays and Sundays with market visits (Portobello, Borough, Broadway!), festivals, pop up events, museums and galleries, and more.

That is what I often did when I moved to London four years ago and I absolutely loved taking in everything the city had to offer. In fact I lived in a perpetually dreamy state for six months straight after I arrived, enamoured with the vibrancy of the city, which is always alive and brimming with possibility.

Now that I have been in London for several years and it has truly become my home I feel more comfortable with taking a more relaxed approach to my weekends.

These days most of my staycationing revolves around walking and food. This is a wonderful combination as you can indulge in delicious brunches and dinners and then erase much of the guilt by burning calories directly afterwards. You can’t go wrong!

London has every type of cuisine imaginable and countless restaurants, cafes, diners, market stalls, and more. Before I make eating plans with friends I often consult Google about the best spots in the hopes of unearthing undiscovered gems.

By the same token, as a creature of habit I also like to go back to my favourite places. There is something to be said about knowing what you are going to get and having faith in the quality of food they deliver.

When it comes to walks, I have taken to walking to my many of my destinations instead of taking public transport. London has an amazing underground train service and it has served me well over the years, but it is a real treat to walk above ground across town and take in so many of London’s most famous landmarks.

For instance, a walk from home in west London all the way to London Bridge to get pasta at a wonderful spot called Padella takes me past the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Southbank. I can assure you, walking past such iconic sights never gets old, no matter how many times you have done it!

So as the weekend approaches I am working out my plans, figuring out where to eat and where to walk to, and I know that by Monday I will feel as though I have had a relaxing and fun-filled staycation.

#Fitness goals

I have always admired people who have a dedication to exercise and intense physical activity in their spare time. Several of my friends have run marathons, taken part in iron woman contests and regularly attended boot camps. They’ve spoken about their exercise preferences – high frequency, low intensity; low frequency, high intensity. My preference – low (to no) frequency, low intensity.

By low intensity I am largely referring to my love of long walks which tend to be pretty chilled by their very nature and work wonders when it comes to giving mental clarity whilst gradually increasing fitness levels. I am lucky to have London’s Thames river on my doorstep and one of my favourite walks is around Putney Bridge and back, taking in Hammersmith’s pub and house boat-lined shore and Bishops Park, covering an impressive amount of greenery by London standards.

Over the years I have actually played several sports for fun (believe it or not), mainly over ten years ago but I figure that still counts. I played netball competitively when I was very young and tennis non-competitively on Saturday mornings when I was at high school. Non-competitive tennis largely involved me learning how to hit a tennis ball without it flying out of the court and serving within the lines. Needless to say, there was no risk of me getting good enough to play a complete game from start to finish but I had fun in the process. There were also short stints with touch rugby and swimming, none of which really stuck and which I largely dreaded attending.

In London I tried my hand at increasing my fitness levels by attending a boot camp once. This was obviously not of my own accord, but thanks in large part to my very fit friends who attended it on a regular basis. My goal – get through it in one piece, preferably by not being the worst person there. Not lofty ambitions but I made it, running countless laps of the field in Hyde Park, crawling through mud, and doing those high jump things that exhaust you.

I was proud of myself for getting up early on a Sunday morning and going (an accomplishment in and of itself). But the train ride home covered in mud left much to be desired and the fatigue and aches for a full week afterwards convinced me that I needed a break from boot camps. Permanently, it turned out.

That brings me full circle to the present day and Zumba – my saving grace when it comes to elevating my fitness goals. I had seen the infomercials for Zumba years ago and never had any real desire to try it out…until I turned 31 and I realised that walking alone would not necessarily be enough to get me through the long winter months whilst still fitting into my jeans. Winter means Christmas feasts and comfort food and this combination is not good for one’s waistline.

So my sister convinced me to join her for Zumba class, the main criteria being that it be in close walking distance to our flat. I could easily get a gym membership at work and go to classes there, but I am not one for fitting in lunch break gym sessions, the main issue being that I simply can’t be bothered with having to lug in gear to the office, shower and get myself back into presentable shape by 2pm. I have great admiration for people who can do this.

Anyhow, we found a Zumba class that is less than ten minutes from our flat and I managed to drag myself down there one chilly December night. We got there a bit late which already put us on the back foot as far as getting into the moves goes and being a complete novice I struggled to keep up with the moves through the whole class. I was conscious of my flailing limbs being out of sync as we moved across the floor, moving in the wrong direction as we shimmied and did various hip hop, samba and salsa moves. In the middle of it all I realised that this was precisely why I had never taken a dance class – I suck at choreographed dancing. This is despite actually loving to dance, but only if it’s freestyle and I don’t need to co-ordinate myself with other people in any way.

By the end I realised that it was going to be sink or swim and that I’d need to get those dance moves down pat if I was ever going to be able to show my face around there again. My sister and I vowed to return. When we did, I decided to chill out, kind of follow the moves and just have fun – all in the Zumba spirit. I am a convert.