Why would you want to have a fitness plan in place for upcoming travel? Fitness is a habit. Fitness consists of decisions we make on a regular basis. Do you take the stairs when you can? Do you make sure to eat plenty of vegetables and drink enough water? These are all daily decisions that influence our overall fitness and health in the long term. Things get a little more relaxed on vacation but sustaining hydration and minimizing overeating can help keep you feeling your best when having long travel days and feeling sluggish when entering different time zones. Exploration and enjoyment of new places not only requires and maintains a certain level of fitness, but planning for exercise and a little nutritional forethought can help to reinforce and continue those habits after your relaxing vacation.
Some of us may worry about losing ground on all that progress we have made on our fitness journey while away from home. Maybe you are new to fitness and have recently worked to establish that exercise routine in your demanding schedule. There may be some people out there whose lives completely revolve around the gym, carry around Tupperware containers of chicken breasts, and plan everything around it. This article is geared toward those of us who enjoy travel but also want to maintain what we have worked to achieve the rest of the year. Also, movement and exercise just feel good after long days of travel and is beneficial for both mind and body. I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit over the past several years for vacations, a fitness conference, and for family visits. I always plan in advance for the travel and take into consideration what kind of workouts and exercise I will be able to do on each trip. Granted, shorter trips may be an opportunity for a much needed break, longer duration trips or travel through the year may add up. If you are someone who travels often, or for a longer period, it is a good idea to have a plan in place. Maybe that seems extreme to some people, but hey, it is a lifestyle after all. We are talking about your health and movement makes the body feel its best. Whether you travel for work or vacation, it is easy to worry about gaining fat or losing strength while visiting new places, but this article contains some tips that will enable you to travel, eat well, and exercise regularly with or without access to a full gym.
I always try to manage my expectations for the types of exercise facilities offered by hotels if I am unable to get to a gym on a trip. While you may not be able to perform the same types of exercises you would normally perform at a lifting gym, if that’s your thing, you can still exercise in a way that maintains your strength, conditioning and current exercise habits. In the past I have been stuck in the mindset that if I cannot visit a gym with barbells and weight plates, it is not a real workout and a complete waste of time. This is far from the truth. Getting in a workout and movement can prevent you from detraining too much and keep you in the groove for when you return home. It keeps you feeling and moving your best. Gym hotels and even hotel room workouts can be an effective way to keep up your fitness, burn a few extra calories, and just boost your mood, especially if jetlagged. Exercise and exposure to daylight may help to synchronize your body with a new time zone, in addition to keeping you in those healthy habits.
Dieting on a trip can be challenging, and vacations are a time to enjoy life and relax. I would say it is best to avoid attempting fat loss if possible. That does not mean the entire vacation should result in a bacchanalian feast. There is a middle ground. Stake out a grocery or a convenience store to stock up on some essentials and peep the menus at the places where you will be eating. I like to load up on proteins from the store to stash in the hotel room or bars to take with me. I rarely track calories on vacation because I plan for lots of activity when visiting new places. I do like to focus on getting in my protein to protect my precious gains and feel full. That does not mean I will be refraining from a pasta dish if that happens to be a specialty where I am visiting. Avoiding eating out for every meal also helps save money and calories. Hydration is another one to focus on, especially when consuming more alcohol on vacation, as many of us are prone to doing. Additionally, staying hydrated may help keep us from overeating.
Another piece of advice that is helpful to keep activity levels up on vacation is to explore your destination on foot or bicycle. When on vacation, plan activities like a city tour on bicycle. Not only is it a great way to see parts of cities you will not see by motor vehicle, you will get lots of exercise and are likely to meet new people, like we did on a recent visit to Cologne. Check in advance to see if bicycle rental is an option. Many cities now offer bicycle rental for a small fee. I can hardly think of any places we have visited where we did not explore by foot. I have gotten 25,000 steps when visiting Paris without even trying.
The next major tip I would recommend is to plan your workouts in advance. Generally, a couple weeks will not be a big deal in terms of losing strength or muscle, but I use the opportunity when vacationing to stay in the habit of resistance training and work on some things I might not normally work on at my regular gym. Does the place you will be staying have a hotel? If not, buy some resistance bands and a suspension trainer. My favorite suspension trainer is the Jungle Gym XT by Lifeline Fitness. It is easy to hang from a door or loop through itself over beams and fits easily into my roller bag.
Here is a great workout to do in your hotel room. The headband is optional. You can do this in about 20 minutes. It is inspired by a workout from JC Deen a few years ago. This will get your heartrate up and work to keep your strength up. It is to be performed as a circuit for 5 rounds. It can be adjusted for most fitness levels. Perform as many repetitions during each round as possible while maintaining proper form. Take as little rest as possible between exercises. If form must be sacrificed for reps, terminate the set and move on to the next exercise.
Bodyweight squats (pictured with a resistance band)
Bodyweight Row using suspension trainer, such as the TRX or Jungle Gym XT
Single Leg Glute Hip Bridge
Push-Up on floor or using TRX
RKC Plank for 10-15 seconds
Take advantage of your big meals and workout before any substantial dinners so you can “carb up.” Muscle glycogen synthesis after workouts is a good thing, so I always try to work out prior to a big dinner on vacation. Use the food to fuel the exploration of your new and exciting destination. Use food for recovery and enjoy it. Food fuels us, body, mind, and soul.
Travel time may add up during the year and simply taking the time off completely could result in loss of progress or take away from already existing exercise and diet adherence. I believe the relaxation and exercise complement one another. Movement truly is medicine, and using this movement in the form of tracked steps or resistance training, even while on vacation, enables healthy habits that will serve us even after the vacation is over. This advice is meant to keep you healthy, moving well, and staying active on your trip. It is by no means a way to make you enjoy your hard-earned vacation time any less. Make sure to relax and enjoy your time away from work and the stresses of daily life to return home refreshed and renewed.