Did you know that vacations are one of five situations that precede a lapse in exercise? According to sport psychologists, boredom, lack of time, laziness, illness, and yes, vacations can preempt exercise adherence. Many people put forth tremendous effort to begin and maintain a regular exercise program only to have their efforts sabotaged by a vacation get-away.
There are two comments I consistently hear from clients returning from vacation:
1) I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation but, boy, do we have some work to do to get me back to where I was before I left.
2) This workout feels a lot harder than I thought it would be.
These comments address two key points:
1) successful adoption of a new behavior requires consistency, and
2) fitness levels decline without maintenance.
Maintaining some form of a regular exercise routine during your vacation will make it easier to stay on track physically as well as serve as a trigger to consider other decisions more careful. We know from research, and anecdotally, that building some form of exercise into plans for the day typically leads to better decision making in terms of food and alcohol consumption among other things. Here are five strategies for including exercise into your vacation:
1. Be flexible – SUP is a great core workout and could easily take the place of time spent in the gym one day. Hiking, swimming, surfing, even a day spent exploring a city on foot can all be ‘counted’ as exercise on any given day. Working out on vacation can but does not need to resemble the exercise you do as a part of your normal routine. Being intentional about making some form of daily exercise a priority will go a long way toward making you feel good and diminishing feelings of guilt.
2. Consider what makes you feel your best – vacations tend to be a time of indulgence. No one will begrudge you for it, however, you will likely feel best if you indulge intentionally so it’s a good idea to create a strategy and stick to it. Something as simple as, I’m only going to have dessert 2 times during the week I am away so I’m going to choose wisely and enjoy them thoroughly. Or, I’m good with one or two poolside/beachside drinks each day but other than that will drink water and make sure I’m getting some exercise daily (see #1). Grant yourself the gift of enjoying the indulgences because you have made a conscious decision about what and how often you can indulge without overindulging.
3. Set a goal for frequency and intensity.
Attempt to maintain the same frequency and intensity of your regular exercise routine. For example, if you normally workout twice a week, plan for two weekly exercise sessions during your vacation. In order to maintain the fitness level you have worked so hard to achieve, your vacation exercise intensity should be similar to your regular exercise sessions, although the duration may be shorter.
4. Social support
Identify family and friends ready and willing to be active and recruit workout buddies ahead of time. Make it fun by each person choosing what the activity of choice will be for the day. Include kids, parents, your spouse and it’s likely that these activities will turn out to be some of the most fun experiences of your holiday.
5. Schedule your return training session.
Before you leave for vacation, schedule your return exercise session. This will increase accountability and help you get right back into your exercise routine. If you feel like sticking to your regular training plan on vacation is what you need, find out what equipment (if any) will be available where you are going and plan out your workouts before you leave – if you are working with a trainer, ask for their help in determining your vacation workout plan.
Vacation is a time to relax, rejuvenate and reconnect. The same holds true for your workout program. If you have been training intensely and/or working rigorously for the period preceding your trip, time a way from your training may be just what you need. Remember, the more stress you endure, the more recovery you need. Depending on how hard you have been pushing yourself, vacation could be a time to focus on restorative activities like sleep, gentle yoga/stretching, mindfulness, low intensity cardiovascular activities. If, on the other hand, you typically struggle to get back into your regular exercise routine and this causes you stress or disappointment, put vacation exercise plan on your travel checklist.