Remember how I told you about the changes I’ve made to my exercising routine whilst traveling? (The secret is to actually start having one.) Well, this time I went to a trip specifically to exercise and to try as many new ways to tease my muscles as possible. And guess what? I came back feeling a hundred times more refreshed, active and centered than in any other trips where a gym detour didn’t even cross my lazy mind.

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In January, Gloria Sports Arena, Turkey’s biggest sports centre, opened in Belek – that’s 30 minutes outside Antalya. It’s a golf resort, sports club, luxurious hotel, spa, beach and foodie’s paradise all in one. So really, the whole space is about twice the size of the town I grew up in.

Active Holiday

Gloria combines three resorts in one – plus all the sports facilities. They’re connected with regular shuttle buses and depending on what holiday “programme” you want to go for (beach, spa, golf), you stay at whatever hotel specialises in that. Room rates are surprisingly reasonable with €100/night for a double room at Verde Resort. Alternatively, you could just come for a day or two of exercising and create your own fitness schedule – but don’t forget to pop by the spa afterwards!

Over the weekend, I’ve spent most time at the sports centre which is plastered in a ‘sporty’ interior design, meaning lots of photos of athletes, chairs with footballs as an armrest and actual paintings showing tennis courts and players (even above beds!). They are pretty serious about this, so there’s no way not get in the mood for some spinning and the like.

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National football, hockey, golf and swimming teams regularly do their preps at Gloria, of course that’s no surprise when you can excel – or fail fabulously – in around 50 different types of sport. Apparently there’s an effect called “climate training” which means if you take your team to a southern destination, they are more likely to actually step up their game (literally) because the weather’s a lot better than in grey Holland or Switzerland, and the scenery and food probably is too (surprise, I made last bit up, but I’m certain it’s true!).

But now, let’s get down to business.

Zumba, HIIT and golf

First up, Zumba. My teacher was a very passionate and elegant Columbian, but there was no way I could even come close to the “Sexy, sexy!” moves she demanded. Everything went way too fast, I was giggling out of pure embarrassment for 60 minutes while everyone was getting in that special Zumba zone – and I was dead relieved when it was over. But somehow it was still a lot of fun – and the other ladies told me that every first Zumba class is a bit of a mess. I think I’ll keep the moves in mind for the dancefloor, for when it’s dark and when there’s no larger-than-life mirror with everyone witnessing my apparent problems with rhythm – and then sign up for another class. Anyway: ever tried, ever failed.

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The one hour of High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on the other hand has possibly been my favourite hour in all of 2015. HIIT is the perfect sport if you like getting exhausted quickly and fancy a good dose of adrenaline. You basically switch your gym machine every 30 seconds and oh boy, are these 30 seconds intense. The instructors (and that applies to everything I’ve tried) are very knowledgeable and um, very composed – I’m positive that I was by far the least fit visitor they have ever had, but somehow they managed not to laugh even when the whole room had already joined in my laughter.

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Got a bunch of stereotypes about golf in your head? So do I. And guess what, they’re all true. I gave this golfing business a go while about 80 percent of my energy was wasted on getting over the fact that I was indeed playing golf (on one of fifteen golf links), so there were about 20 percent left which I could focus on developing my non-existent skills. To spare you the drama, it didn’t go down well. I only hit about one in five balls, and that one barely exceeded the 50m mark. I know it’s supposed to be super exhausting with all that throwing and the moves, but I think it takes dozens more hours to get into. And I certainly wasn’t a natural… It was still fun and rather unforgettable – especially being surrounded by some beautiful Taurus Mountains which I cannot wait to climb one day soon.

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Antalya vibes

Antalya is a 30-40 minute drive from Gloria and a perfect opportunity to stretch these muscles and get your head and heart a little inspired after all the workouts. And what can I say: Antalya you absolute babe! I’ve heard a lot of people say very mean things about Antalya – I guess there is no way it could be anything like Istanbul but then, is there one single place on earth that could live up to Istanbul? Exactly! But there are some extraordinarily beautiful corners that deserve some love. If you’re traveling off-season (which generally is a good idea with just about any destination) you’ll be spared the crowds of tourists in the old part of town and can instead dig into dürüm, Turkish tea and fall in love with a sunsets and strangers’ smiles.

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I particularly loved the farmer’s market. There was so much life happening between the stands. And that’s the thing with Turkey in general. People are so good at sharing life and just getting whatever’s in their heads and hearts out there. Of course that can get messy sometimes but I’ve found myself constantly stunned by the variety of jokes, beauty and friendship that filled the city. That explains why my camera and I went crazy, hence the tremendous visual overload here. Whoops. I couldn’t stay there as long as I wanted because there was a spa treatment waiting back in Belek. Don’t blame me …

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Angels, spa and Valentine’s

So, up until now I’ve been trying to go easy on the exaggerations. But my lord, there’s no way I can keep it down about the Hammam massage that my body has been blessed with after a full 48 hours of exercising. I have never been covered in as beautiful a cloud of soap bubbles and relaxing tunes before. Some angel scrubbed all the worries and dust from my skin and I genuinely felt like a new person. Absolute bliss. I’m a bit reluctant to ever visit another Hammam again, because I’m pretty certain it wouldn’t be as heavenly as this one. So really – if you’re not into exercising and feel like a spa retreat instead, look no further!

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And then Valentine’s Day happened. I’m sure I don’t have to put any more trolling on to the day (the Internet is pretty good at that already), but my heart was rather overjoyed when this artwork of a dish made it to my table at the French Basilika restaurant. Well hello Mr. Chef – fancy being my Valentine!? The food overall is very diverse and don’t even get me started on the cocktails! The main restaurant Verda hosts a couple of different theme nights (Chinese, Italian, or, ehm, Turkish) each week and once you’re in the resort, you can visit any restaurant.

So – aside from turning me into a fitter, happier and healthier person in three days, I’ve already made plans to take my girls here. No better way to bond than over sports and spa.

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Teşekkür ederim Gloria Verde and Öger Tours for a perfect mix of Strawberry Daiquiris and exercising madness. My sore muscles love you!

All photos taken by Caroline Schmitt and Gloria Resorts.