The summer is almost here! That magical time is often when families pile in the car and hit the open road – like Chevy Chase and family in National Lampoon Vacation – but many adults opt for a different sort of trip to get away from it. Instead of a week at Wally World you might opt for time away on a cruise ship, which hopefully turns out better than Leonard DiCaprio’s experience in Titanic, or a week on a beach, which hopefully isn’t as eventful as DiCaprio’s adventure in The Beach. But wherever you go we bet you’ve got the same concern: How do you stay in shape while you’re off having fun and relaxing?
Wherever your vacation takes you, vacation it should be – like the lyrics to the Go-Go’s song – a time “to get away.” What it shouldn’t be is a time to take a vacation from your workout routine, especially if you’re training for a big event. Even if you just want to stay in decent shape vacation calories still count, even if you’re not being charged for them.
Don’t Forgo the Workout
Unless you’ve specifically signed up for an active vacation, it’s important to find a way to make your exercise fit into your vacation in a way that doesn’t feel like work. Cruise ships, beach resorts and many hotels do offer a gym. Don’t avoid it; instead hit it early in the morning so you don’t have an excuse after a day of leisure activity.
If there is no gym, bring a workout program with you.
“Those would be easy to take on vacation and could be done in a hotel room,” said Dillon Martin, professional fitness coach. “They are typically designed as a 30, 60, or 90 day plan. My wife is taking two of her eight TurboFire DVDs with us when we go on vacation so that she can keep up some of the workouts.”
Dillon added that, “A week’s vacation doesn’t mean you will go backwards, and if well timed, it might be a positive in your workout plan.”
Super Leisure Vacation?
There are certain vacations that offer the promise to just sit back, relax and soak in the rays. This however can seriously impact a workout routine, even if you’re just focusing on staying fit or watching your weight. Two weeks on a cruise ship and you might end up looking too much like the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island by the time you reach your home port.
“If your vacation involves is one of pure leisure, such as a cruise or a trip to the beach it becomes hugely important to work out,” said Steve Edwards, director of results and fitness advisor for Beachbody. “A cruise ship has food available around every corner. While there are opportunities to work out and do things, it is so easy to sit on a ship – or a beach – and just not move.”
Edwards suggests moving regularly, and that means more than just turning over to get an even tan. He also recommends making regular trips to the gym.
“Throw it on the daily schedule and get it done and, and if you like even out of the way,” said Edwards. “That way you can then spend the rest of the day relaxing.”
But even when you relax break it up with a stroll around the ship or down the beach, take stairs instead of the elevator and if you’re at a resort take a walk instead of a cab after dinner. Consider some fitness opportunities too; many resorts and cruise ships offer exercise classes, climbing walls and even team sports like basketball and soccer as pickup games. And even if you don’t normally meet with a trainer spring for one while on vacation – you are treating yourself after all.
Vacations are about breaking from the routine so trying a new activity like rock climbing might be something else you can bring home with you.
Will You Be Sightseeing?
While most some people would count a hike in the woods during a vacation as a workout, the same consideration isn’t always given when it involves a walk along the Seine in Paris or through the Roman Forum. A day spent walking and taking in the sights is actually quite a workout in itself.
“It certainly can be,” said Edwards. “Walking around Paris all day can make you more tired than a real workout,” says Edwards. “If you’re on an active holiday, there is no reason to worry about breaking your workout routine for a few days.”
In fact, if you’re planning to see the City of Lights this summer and will to take in the museums and enjoy walks around town the city, you might even leave the running shoes at home and bring some comfortable walking shoes instead. Trying to get in a run after a day in the Louvre isn’t necessary and it could even be more than your body needs.
“Walking around Paris all day is a lot more athletic than a typical day at work for many people,” Edwards added. “Sightseeing can be mean 10 hours or more of activity and that is equal to an ultra marathon – the sort of race where people walk stretches of it.”
If you just can’t skip the workout and absolutely feel the need to go for a run on the Seine after looking at Mona Lisa and her pals, think about dialing back the workout Martin suggested.
“If you are walking six to nine plus miles a day while exploring the city this will cause fatigue, especially if you are not accustomed to that much walking,” said Martin, who suggested that dialing back to the intensity to 60 percent or, he says, is a good way to handle the fatigue. “Alternatively you could do shorter workouts and up the intensity. For example, find a pool and do 10 x 100 meter hard intervals. Done in under 30 minutes.”
And that leaves time for lunch or dinner.
The Vacation Diet
Food plays a big part of any trip away from home. When on vacation, most of us tend not to cook. And, for many, exploring new restaurants and sampling exotic cuisine is part of the experience. While those training for a big event should use caution, for those on more active vacations shouldn’t worry about a post-trip bulge if they indulge just a bit.
“It depends on your goals and what you are actually doing,” said Edwards. “If you are training for something it’s a lot more important to be careful, but for those who work out for general fitness, eating on vacation should be part of the fun.”
Just walking around a city all day requires a much more massive caloric burn than sitting at a computer.
“The more active you are, the more you actually need to eat,” Edwards added. “If you’re moving around, you might really need some junk food. Think of how ultra marathoners and bicycle racers eat a lot because they’re burning so many calories.” If you are training for a big event, such as a triathlon, it might be necessary to watch the diet and get in those workouts…or if you can, time the vacation to come after, not before, the big day.
And feel free to let loose a little. It is a vacation after all, and overdoing it at the desert table or bar early on in a vacation might just be the best way not to do it again.
Hit the Bike… Or Not
It is hard to avoid some walking on vacation, but increasingly it is hard not see people riding bicycles. While you can’t ride a bike on that cruise ship, you can rent a bike in many European cities. While the traffic of Paris and Rome may not be for the faint of heart, many destinations are quite welcoming on weekend afternoons when roads are closed to traffic. Other cities, such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen are ideal for seeing the sights on two wheels.
Even American cities are become bike friendly, with smart bike rentals popping up.
Of course if you spend a lot of time after work on two wheels, a vacation can mean time away from the bike and if you can’t rent a bike running and jogging can still provide a way to work the your legs. So when you head back home you’re still feeling ready for a long ride.
“Running or jogging is a very efficient way to build some aerobic fitness, and only requires a pair of shoes, shorts, wicking tee, and a sense of adventure,” said Stages Cycling’s power education specialist Benjamin Sharp. “However, for the trained cyclist, the impact of running can be a painful experience as supple quads and calves are pounded by the pavement. In many cases, a short walk around the neighborhood of the hotel, first thing in the morning, might be all you need to keep the athlete’s mentality and find equilibrium in the restfulness of a vacation and the desire to be able to perform when reunited with the bicycle.”
For those who work out regularly sometimes the best part of a vacation is getting back into a routine when it’s over.