It's vacation season, and we all agree we should take a break from work. But that doesn't mean we should take a break from working out.
Working out is a great habit that, once broken, can be hard to pick up again. But you can still fit it into your overseas tour or beach visit.
“The priority is still the vacation. The question becomes how and what can we incorporate to stay active? If we're at the beach, maybe we do some paddleboarding, beach jogging, bike rides,” says Victor Maldonado, a personal trainer in Washington.
Washington running coach Kathy Pugh doesn't just advise her clients to go on running tours when they visit new places, she does it herself. This summer, she and her 14-year-old daughter jogged the streets of Cleveland. “We probably logged at least a 10K one of the days,” Pugh says. But better yet, their running tours were lined with street art and views of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, and punctuated by a visit to West Side Market and a glorious lunch of pizza and cannolis in Cleveland's Little Italy. “It was a culture, art, foodie run tour, and never once did we have to find and pay for parking,” Pugh says.
It's true that running tours and paddleboarding don't exactly equate to a one-hour spin class, or several sets of dead lifts and pull-ups. But unless you're training for a marathon or are on a very long vacation (more on those later) it's not so important to perfectly replicate what you're doing fitness-wise at home, says Jessica Matthews, senior adviser for the American Council on Exercise.
“I recommend moving away from the 'all or nothing' mindset that is so common when it comes to fitness and nutrition,” Matthews says. “The key to developing and maintaining lasting healthful habits is to remain flexible in your approach.”
If you need motivation, consider what doing nothing on vacation can cost you. Here the principle of reversibility – which Matthews sums up as “if you don't use it, you lose it” – comes into play. According to Mathews, the body starts experiencing changes after as little as one week of inactivity. Declines in cardiorespiratory fitness begin after seven to 10 days (strength, however, doesn't begin declining until three weeks or more of inactivity).
That means that if you're training for a marathon, you might not be able to take it quite as easy on vacation, Pugh says. Instead, you might seek out local running clubs or ask a concierge to help you map out a safe running route.
If you are vacationing for weeks on end, you might want to check out the local gym and see if they offer week passes, says Maldonado, who often gives his clients workout programs for the road, including a non-gym body-weight workout.
“You can do a lot with body-weight exercises like lunges and squats, sit-ups and push-ups,” Maldonado says. “You also start looking for 'hidden' equipment. Maybe a couch can be used for (triceps) dips.”
Another important aspect of not coming back from vacation feeling discouraged and out of shape is to keep an eye on vacation eating – in a mindful, not punishing way, Matthews says. If you're going to indulge in boardwalk french fries or ice cream sundaes, then do so without guilt or shame and focus on eating vegetables and fruits and other foods in their whole state. She also recommends broiled, baked and grilled over sautéed and fried food, as well as keeping healthful snacks such as raw almonds on hand.
The bottom line is that vacationers should return re-energized and ready to continue making healthy choices every day. Maldonado puts it this way: “Fitness is so much more than a number on a scale and the size of your waist. It's about healthy habits and having energy and community.”