As with many other aspects of fitness, I see a lot of people take an all or nothing approach to traveling and their fitness. This is a generalization, but I typically see people who keep themselves in a controlled environment and work their face off to lose weight and get fit for vacation. Once on vacation though, all bets are off. The other scenario I see is people who don’t want to travel for fear of losing their progress, or their entire travel revolves around working out and eating “good” food.
What if we took a more balanced approach to travel though? Leading up to a vacation (especially one where a beach/pool is involved) most people are in fat loss mode. That makes sense as we want to feel good on our vacation. This usually includes following a set workout regime and paying particular attention to your food. Maybe you’re on a lower calorie diet or avoiding certain foods. Whatever it is, it’s completely reasonable to go into fat loss mode leading up to travel.
Where things get crazy is once you get to your vacation and go buck wild and eat everything in sight and/or give up working out altogether. Here’s where I think balance should come in. Instead of going HAM this would be the perfect time to go into maintenance mode. In maintenance mode, you would still focus on eating nourishing food most of the time, and getting in your workouts, but you would probably deter and try some local desserts/fare that you normally would not have as often at home; or have a little more alcohol than you normally would. As long as you are still listening to your hunger signals, this should not have much of an impact on your composition. You likely won’t lose weight by approaching eating in this manner, but as long as you are not eating everything in sight and ignoring your hunger signals, you will probably maintain where you are. This relates to your workouts as well. If you are not fueling your workouts, you may not be able to workout as hard, but as long as you are still getting in some kind of activity, you should not lose too much progress. You will likely maintain where you are and can continue to progress when you return from your travel.
The other downside to going completely nuts during travel is that it makes it much more difficult to get back into a routine when you get home. Your health does not actually take a vacation. So, when you go on vacation and gorge yourself, binge drink every night, and skip working out all together, this definitely has an impact on your health. Again, I definitely do not recommend going in the other direction and revolving your vacation around working out and only eating certain types of food either. Balance is always the game. I have found it easier for me personally when I simply focus on my health and not my body image. Instead of going out to eat and thinking “Oh, I can’t eat that because it will make me fat” I think to myself “I want to make sure I at least eat some vegetables so I am still getting nutrients” or “We hiked a lot today, so I definitely want something with protein so I can repair the torn muscles.” This is much easier for me to do whether I am out to eat at home, or when I am eating on vacation. Focusing on what my body needs means I can still enjoy eating out without stressing out that I am going to get fat overnight or lose all my progress.
I think the key here is just taking responsibility for your choices. Take responsibility for the fact that you are human and should enjoy vacation, but that you will still need to face the repercussions of treating your body like a garbage disposal. Take responsibility for being balanced. Having an all or nothing mentality can be very damaging to your mental and physical health. If you eat or drink more than you intended one night, you don’t have to feel guilty about it and binge the rest of the week, or do some crazy extra amount of exercise. Just move on and get back to your normal routine. When you get home, you don’t need to do some crazy cleanse (we all know how I feel about these). Instead, I usually just focus on adding extra veggies to each meal the first few days I am home, to replenish some of the vitamins I probably was not getting during travel.
This does not just apply to vacation. This also applies to when you are moving. Right now I have been in the same place for two years, which is the longest I have lived in one place since 2004. I feel confident when I say that I know it can be tricky to move and eat healthy, but it is definitely possible. Again, you cannot expect to be able to eat as well as you do in the controlled environment of your home. That’s fine, but that does not mean you have to eat fried chicken everyday either. Focus on getting protein at each meal, as well as some veggies and/or fruit. If you look for these two things at each meal, it is actually not that difficult to eat well when you travel. For example, I may order a cheeseburger with a side salad. Depending what I have done that day I might eat the bun or not. If I have just been sitting in a car all day and have had no real movement, I will probably skip it. If I have worked out, or gone hiking/running, I will probably eat the bun. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Focus on nutrients, and drink lots of water.
How I Have Lived This?
Your preaching is all well and good Kristen, but how have you applied this? I have two example for you: one from when I went buck wild, and one from when I was responsible and maintained balance.
Leading up to my wedding I was of course focused on feeling my best, but I was really adamant about not crash dieting or spending an excess amount of time in the gym. I lifted and probably spent about an hour working out usually six days per week. After the wedding, we honeymooned in Costa Rica at an all-inclusive hotel. We went on adventures most days, and spent a lot of time by the pool drinking (pineapple juice and rum were my drink of choice – hello sugar!). Each night I would plan to workout the next day, but at night we would eat at the restaurants and I would definitely go buck wild. Between the extra food, the sauces, and the sugary drinks, I would sleep in until 9 most days and then we would be running around getting ready for our activities. I did not want to miss out on time with my new husband just to workout. And I did not want to be the lame wife who was not drinking or trying out new food.
I still worked out a few times, and they were pretty pathetic workouts (because I was in a sugar coma!!). Looking back, I could have definitely been more responsible. I could have chosen a less sugary drink to sip all day, or something that I would not be able to drink so fast. I could have still enjoyed the fresh local food without gorging myself just because it was all-inclusive. I could have hydrated better and planned short, manageable workouts that would not take time away from our trip.
Currently, I am on a trip to Hawaii with my husband and son. We are visiting friends who are getting married this weekend! Leading up to the trip, my group and I have been doing a sugar boycott. I did it for the two weeks leading up to the trip, but did not want to take away from the trip by dictating where we could and could not eat because of the Sugar Boycott. I also have been really enjoying the local fare, but I simply stop eating when I am no longer hungry. I have enjoyed sushi, lots of local fruit, and even a few glasses of wine. I have stayed away from sugary drinks because I know I don’t feel energized the next day and I want to be responsible for my body. We have also stocked up on snacks (Quest Bars) to eat while we are hiking or at the beach.
I have been working out most days, but our group workouts are only 20-30 minutes, so I am not taking much time away at all. I usually sneak down to the gym while my husband gets my son ready for breakfast, do a quick 20 minute weighted workout, or 10 minute sprint workout, then I head over and meet them for breakfast. I am still enjoying as much time as possible with my family while also taking responsibility for my mental and physical health. I love to run, but I have honestly only gone for one run because I have just not wanted to take the time away.
So, I am not perfect. I have had vacations where I was really irresponsible, and I hated how I felt during and after. I learned from those experiences and I have found more balance when I travel. That is always my goal: balance. Finding it for myself, and helping others find it.
Below are quick bodyweight workouts you can try while you travel, or checkout some of my sprint workouts that I posted the other day.
Do each exercise for 1:00, working as hard as you can and taking breaks as needed (do not pace yourself). Complete 2-5 rounds depending on your fitness.
- High Plank/Low Plank
- Flutter Kick Squats
- Side Plank Dips (30 seconds each side)
- Alternating Lunge Jumps
30 Seconds work 30 Seconds rest: Burpees, Mountain Climbers, or Squat jumps. Repeat for 10 rounds. Be sure you are working as hard as you can within those 30 seconds.