Adventures and Lessons from Costa Rica

rooftop all of usI distinctly recall returning to school in the fall of my fifth grade year and was asked to write ‘What I did on my summer vacation’…

(Knowing me, I have that paper somewhere in a journal – I tend to keep all kinds of embarrassing written things that I hope someone will burn when I die.)

My teacher at the time may have wanted to instill reflective writing skills in her students, but more likely, she just wanted some peace and quiet for an hour so she could plan the next lesson (I know this to be true having used this tactic on students before myself).

In any case, I did manage to take to writing as a means of reflection. In fact, there are days when I can’t even think straight until I write. Writing clears my head in a way that nothing else can.

I got to thinking about our Costa Rica holiday and here’s what I’ve come up with…

As always, I try to swing things around to fitness because that’s just what I do.

You may find some interesting tidbits and I have three workouts in here if you take the time to read this blog.

The beauty of travel is that it provides a mirror in which to compare things. Lifestyle habits are one of those things I pay close attention to. To be honest, most of my travel is within North America, so it was a real pleasure to hit Central America to see what life is like in Costa Rica.

First off, my intention is not to offend anyone. My experiences and observations are my own from being in Costa Rica for a very limited time. Living for one week in a different area hardly makes me an authority on anything. I just feel blessed and a little more enlightened than I did before I arrived.

Heat changes everything.

Holy balls, hot. I have to hand it to those that live in this climate; I’m just not accustomed to heat. I suppose others would say the same about the Canadian cold.

me surfing costa rica

One of the reasons we went to Costa Rica was to surf.

There are always profound lessons in the surf (when I’m not getting pummeled by waves and have time to think…).

One of the nice things about surfing is that there’s always another wave – it means there’s always a new chance to start over. No matter if I stood up on the previous wave or got schooled into the bottom of the sea, it’s like a ‘reset’ button when I see that new wave cresting.

This can be applied to your nutrition or fitness plan. If things go sideways, there’s always a chance to just hit ‘reset’ – no need to start on Monday or make a big deal about it. RESET!

After all, everyone fails; it’s the people that fall down and recover the quickest that actually get the best results.

I learned with surfing that it’s best just to jump right in. If I’m tentative on a wave, it passes me by. I need to paddle with passion and purpose; I can’t just paddle aimlessly without a plan of attack.

me and sam surfing costa rica

This is much like your training. When you have a goal, you’re much more likely to achieve it when you have a plan.

Get a plan, work your plan, and get results.

Surfing is fair. There’s no luck involved. If I do things right, I stand up and ride the wave, when I don’t do things correctly, I get dumped.

Your training and diet is the same. This is one of the things I like best about training. My physique is a direct reflection of the effort that I put into it over time. I can’t get anyone to do the training or to make the healthy food choices for me. When I ‘do the work’ I reap the benefits. Plain and simple.

Some would say, ‘I’m too old’ to start a new adventure like surfing – but it’s never too late.

It’s never too late to make improvements to your health either.

Hannah heading to surf…

Costa Rica is a beautiful country.

We wanted to see more of it so we rented scooters and to have a better look around, to see authentic Costa Rican towns, not just the touristy places. We enjoyed the ride tremendously even though our adventure was cut a little short by having a close encounter with a ditch when my daughter and her boyfriend took a corner and hit gravel. They got up close and personal with the grassy-gravelly side of the road resulting in a medical visit, x-rays and seven stitches. That was it’s own adventure and we’re happy to report a positive experience with a tiny town’s non-English speaking medical center.


It was cool to see the way folks live in Central America. These were just a few random observations…


It seems that everyone is ‘connected’… I was amazed to see the smallest of ‘shacks’ (some being very run down and almost looked inhabitable) but they all had a satellite dish attached. We passed no less than three cyclists (all with no helmet) talking on their cell phones. We passed school kids hanging out under a tree by the side of the road, all on their phones.

Safety standards seem to be much different from what I saw. In the small towns we passed, parents had kids on their bicycles getting them to school – based on the similar uniforms the children were wearing. Some parents had three kids on the bike: one on the back, one on the handlebars and one on cross bar. Fascinating.

local on bike

We rented a condo and my daughter’s boyfriend loves cooking so we went to the grocery store to get food. We enjoyed lots of fresh fruit; we’d never seen some of the produce before and signs were in Spanish so we didn’t know what they were or what to do with them. We saw lots of big North American brands that have made their way to the small towns of Costa Rica. We had tacos and burritos and pulled pork, steak and chicken buns with mango coleslaw.

And beer. Lots of beer. Honestly I’m not a beer fan myself, but you see beer on the beaches, on the streets, people driving motorcycles drinking beer. It’s almost as inexpensive as water.

The street vendors are relentless in the pursuit of a sale. I marveled at the Canadian politeness of Sam talking to them. He soon realized that they didn’t speak much English and they didn’t much care that he didn’t have his wallet or that he’d return later and soon learned to say ‘No gracias’. Hannah, a well-seasoned traveler, was polite but knew better to engage anyone unless she wanted to buy anything.

The bank was an experience. I needed to change $100 USD to the local currency. There was a guard at the door and two tellers. It took about 10 minutes, my passport, signatures and much speaking in hushed tones. I guess I look pretty shady and God forbid Hannah tried to come to the wicket to speak Spanish for me, she was asked to go sit down.

We experienced a bit of a drought during our stay. Typically this time of year (June/July) is the rainy season, but not one drop fell. That explained why our upscale condo rental turned off the water (without a word of explanation). We had three days of no running water, on the third day other residents told us that we’d have water from 7:30-9 am, noon to 1 pm and 6 -8 pm. I laughed to the kids that the one complaint I had about our beautiful condo rental was that we didn’t have enough towels. Turned out with no water, we had no use for the few towels we had anyway.

cards vs humanity 1

Nights were spent walking the little town exploring, sitting on the roof top watching the sunsets and playing ‘Cards Against Humanity’. Turns out we’re all horrible people based on this game – if you get a chance, make sure you play it and be prepared to be laugh until you cry.

And then the week was done. Just like that.

It went much too fast. I can only hope that I can round up the kids again for another family holiday soon.

Oh, just so you know, I only did three bodyweight workouts the entire week. I surfed twice a day (only once on the day we rented scooters). I didn’t go hog wild with treat meals, but I didn’t stay on a strict meal plan either. I didn’t gain an ounce…consistent training and good nutrition will allow you to take breaks like this.

Here were my workouts, I did one on the beach in the early morning cool and two in our AC condo because I would surely expire in the heat if I were to try them outside:

Costa Rica Bodyweight

1 min of each exercise

  • sunset last night 2Band squat walk
  • Push up
  • Skater with band
  • Prisoner plié squat
  • Spider crawl

3-4 rounds or 15-20 minutes

*I brought a small band with me


Pura Vida AMRAP

Do 7 of each exercise for 15-20 minbeach sunset

  • Jacks
  • Prisoner squats
  • Burpees
  • Alt side lunges (per side)
  • Push ups
  • Skaters (per side)
  • Spider crawl (per side)


Hola Jump Rope

Do the following AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) set in 15-20 minutes:

  • 50 jump ropes (any kind)
  • 10 push ups
  • 10 prisoner squats
  • 10 spider crawls (5 per side)airport
  • 10 prisoner reverse lunges (5 per side)

*You know I always travel with my jump rope =)

If you don’t have any of my programs, well then of course you need to pick up a few to take on vacation with you. You’ll see ALL of my programs here.

My Challenge Burpee and Challenge Jump Rope programs are very portable, and if you want full follow along workouts (with bodyweight options), my 21 Day Fat Loss Challenge program is a great pick too.

But just like surfing – make a plan and attack it and then thoroughly enjoy all the downtime you can.

I’m happily back in my bubble at home now, still on a natural high from a lot of adventures to look back on.

Pura vida!











Ps. What’s up for YOUR summer plans? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section.

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