When is the best time of year to visit Portugal?

For as long as I can remember I, and most people I know, have been brainwashed into thinking a decent holiday in Europe is only feasible in July and August. Even hairdressers seem to be trained to only ask you about your holidays when spring comes to an end. I remember sweating my way around golf courses, queuing to get into a decent restaurant, rushing to the beach early to get a good spot and waiting till it was almost dark to have a game of tennis. That after fighting my way through airports that always resemble the inside of a sardine can (I’d imagine, I’ve never actually been inside one) whatever time of day you head off.

All the while it was perfectly warm back at home – what an odd (and expensive) time of year to leave. If the UK is anything like it was this summer then perhaps more people will realise there’s no need to leave.

Granted, if you have kids in school you have no choice in the matter. But if you don’t then it’s time to start thinking about skipping rush hour and heading to Portugal in October.

If you’re like me and want a relatively active break with walking, tennis, golf, sightseeing or cycling the likely mid 20s temperature(it can and does hit 30 degrees) is actually far more pleasant.

It’s also far easier to get a court, you’re less likely to be waiting for ages for the people in front of you to clear the hole and the whole place is actually much prettier. The countryside loses the inevitable browning of the summer becoming green, verdant and teeming with wildlife.

It’s almost bizarre then that at this glorious time of year everything is actually cheaper! Your flights will likely be half the price, as will the hotels. In all likelihood the whole trip will cost a fraction of a mid August one.

If you’re still stuck in your July and August ways give it a try – it’ll change your holidays forever.

Is it time to stop hating running?

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a friend about running. He was on Team Running, I very much on Team Hate Running. It’ll grow on you if you try, he told me, it’s the best thing ever, he insisted.

I have a car and a bike, I replied, and I can only run about 100 yards before everything hurts.

We carried on with this back and forth for some time before we reached the point at which it was clearly going to be quicker to actually go running than complete the conversation.

To cut a long story short I now love it and have become something of a running bore. Who knew the simple act of throwing one leg in front of the other repeatedly could involve so much kit (I love kit) so much planning and so much exploration.

First let’s talk kit.

With the temperature cooling one can’t simply chuck on shorts and a tee shirt and head off. Wear layers of technical clothing and pockets of body heat are trapped between them plus sweat and moisture is transported away from the skin. When you first set out you want to be feeling a bit chilly – this will pass as you get into your stride and with multiple layers you can remove them if you start overheating. Basically you’re supposed to dress for a run as if it’s about 10 degrees hotter than it really is.

Now let’s discuss schedules. If you’re taking up running the first run is the hardest. Remember that while you’re plodding along and remind yourself it’ll get better every time. Don’t worry about distance or times to start with just get your body used to the idea. For the next few runs get a playlist going and dance your way along the track. Specially made playlists exist that change pace musically to encourage you to change pace as you run.

After experimenting over the course of a few runs you’ll start to work out the pace that suits you – stick to it for a while and see if you can go a little further each time.

Before you know it you’ll be excited to lace up and get moving and when that starts to happen you can look around for some runs to take on in the local area. Other runners will have mapped them all out for you online so have a look and stick them in your diary.

My main advice is don’t push yourself too hard, build your speed and stamina slowly. And of course if you get the chance, head somewhere warmer to run as a treat to escape the UK chill. In Portugal, my main stomping ground, there are endless beautiful tracks to choose from surrounded by beautiful views and stunning countryside. It doesn’t get much better.

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