We need vacations. Our brains and bodies crave a break from our hectic norms. The down-time is necessary to recharge – mind, body and soul – making us healthier and more productive when we return to the regularly scheduled program of daily life. At the same time, we’re told we eat too much and move too little. So, what is the best way to spend our time off? Should we lounge on a hammock with a cocktail or count calories and go to the gym? Generally, we should aim for a healthy balance between the two extremes.
It seems natural to take advantage of being unburdened of food shopping and meal prep by indulging on foods that someone else makes and serves us. But, it’s a waste of that opportunity if we choose to gorge on foods we make at home or order regularly at chain restaurants. Instead, choose local restaurants and pick regional items from their menus. Every region has unique in-season produce, artisanal specialties, livestock and seafood. They’re unprocessed and, therefore, healthier and fresher and taste better there than anywhere else on the planet. And, the best way to immerse yourself in the culture and people of a region is through the food of that region.
Similarly, every area has its unique landscape and every city its unique cultural offerings. The best way to explore a new place is outside of a motorized vehicle. Using your feet whenever possible – whether walking or cycling – is less stressful than finding parking or negotiating an unfamiliar public transportation system. Plus, you see and experience so much more. Beyond that, vacations provide more free time and opportunities to sample movement outside the confines of monotonous gyms and studios – from trail hiking to paddle board yoga – that challenge us mentally and physically and allow us to have fun, a necessary ingredient for a successful vacation. The added bonus is physical activity during the day translates to quality sleep at night, allowing us to feel energized for the next day.
When it comes to the specifics of how much you indulge in local cuisine and the types and amounts of activity in which you engage, that depends on where you are in your fitness journey.
If you’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with healthy eating and exercise and you’re currently on the off-ramp, vacations aren’t good times to get back on track. Dabble in the general guidelines above but, primarily, use your vacation to de-stress and rest. Work on the third facet of fitness, sleep. Explore the causes of your difficulty sticking to a fitness regimen through journaling and reflection.
If you’ve experienced the results of the recent adoption of a healthy eating plan, exercise routine or both, congratulations, you have lots to celebrate! It’s wise to take a break from the strict rules you’ve been observing. But, you don’t want the short hiatus to turn into a set-back. The key is finding a balance between breaking from the norm and incorporating fitness into your vacation.
Allow yourself a little lee-way when dining. Don’t abandon all your healthy-eating rules but give yourself guilt-free permission to enjoy the local fare in moderation.
When it comes to exercise, replace the dedicated workouts you do at home with vacation exploration by foot, pedal or paddle. Do sit on the beach or by the pool but do some moving in the water, too. Don’t concern yourself with intensity or duration, simply aim to do some type of movement each day of your vacation and you can feel good about staying on track. You might also discover some new, enjoyable modes of exercise to bring back home with you.
If you have difficulty remembering what your life was like before exercise and eating healthy, then you’ve made fitness a priority. A vacation is unlikely to cause you to abandon it. For you, taking a break from a full workout schedule to focus on getting more sleep and rest may be just what you need. When you do feel like breaking a sweat, push yourself beyond your comfort zone by trying something new or revving up an old workout that’s become stale.
Vacations are inherently healthy endeavors. Make the most of them by utilizing a vacation strategy that works with your fitness goals, not against them. It’s a simple way to ensure you have an enjoyable respite and return refreshed and ready to embrace your life with a renewed perspective on your well-being.