One of the greatest gifts of traveling is the ability to leave our every day stresses miles away and for a short time enter a land of make-believe. For many of us, our vacation truly ends and reality sets in the moment we jump on the scale back home. Yikes! Suddenly, our happy vacation memories are replaced with guilt, and all that we can remember in the moment is how much we ate, and how little we exercised.
The fact is it can be very difficult to stick to our fitness regimen while we travel. We have an entirely new schedule, our sleeping patterns change, and we’re busy having fun and eating everything in sight. And the real challenge is who wants to travel to the world’s most beautiful places, only to spend hours of your day in the gym?
We travel to sultry cities like Rio , immersing ourselves in foreign delicacies (especially food) promising that we’ll work out when we get home. However, this is flawed logic. While it is good to take “time off” from our workouts, we still need to burn the calories we consume, or our bodies store it as fat, fooled into thinking that we’re eating in preparation for a long winter. And remember, fat comes on a lot easier than it comes off!
We eat and drink more when we travel, and we do not only eat more, we eat the wrong kinds of things. We crowd into the best restaurants, inhaling things we normally wouldn’t —desserts at every meal, copious amounts of alcohol, and meals consumed late at night. What this means is that you need a little exercise more than ever. But be realistic, and don’t expect to “enjoy” the same level of intensity in your workouts as you do back home.
Push ups and crunches are your friends.
These two “stand bys” can provide instant fitness gratification by allowing you to tone muscles and burn calories in a safe and easy way. You don’t need any equipment, but you will need motivation, and that’s the hard part. The trick is to make it as fun and interesting as possible, and hit the floor the second you get inspired so that you don’t talk yourself out of it. If you are in your hotel room, put on some music. Many hotels around the world offer the Fashion TV channel, which always plays great, sexy background music. Besides, watching skinny little things working the runway may be just the inspiration you need.
If the weather is nice and you are in a beautiful setting, take it outside! Find a quiet spot on the beach with a gentle breeze, and knock out as many pushups as you can. There is a reason that the military swears by push-ups, and talk about party pumps; there’s nothing better!
Make it part of the vacation experience.
Many of the world’s hottest destinations, including major cities have outdoor fitness areas where you can have a great workout, perhaps better than you might have in a gym. So many times I hear people say, “Oh, I can only work out in a gym.” Really? Who made that rule?
One of my favorite things about Rio de Janeiro , for instance, is the outdoor fitness area located on the beach between Copacabana and Ipanema. It is filled with chin up bars, rustic free weights, and some of the hottest people you’ve ever seen in your life, often working out in swim wear. Talk about fitness inspiration!
The best time to come is during sunset, when the ocean’s cool, sweet breeze replaces the heat of the day, and you work out to the sounds of waves crashing against the cliff below, while pink and orange hues ignite the sky.
In fitness oriented cities like Cape Town, South Africa and New York City, working out in one of the local gyms is one of the best ways to experience part of the city’s life and culture, and it serves as a great place to meet dates—I mean, friends. Then, when you go out to the clubs later, it gives you a great pick up line, “Hey, didn’t I see you at the gym today?” Which definitely works better than “Hey man, my friend thinks you’re hot.”
In natural settings such as Machu Picchu in Peru , you have two options: Mosey around, observing the beauty from a distance, or grab a few bottles of water and head out for a full day hike to “lesser known” areas that the average tourist doesn’t get to see. However, be mindful of the high altitude which will affect your breathing and stamina.
In Central America , one can spend a relaxing day at the Ruins of Tical in Guatemala , or climb to the top of the pyramids and enjoy unbelievable views of the surrounding rainforest, while getting a great workout at the same time. Your Costa Rica vacation can consist solely of sitting on the beach, or you can take advantage of some of the best white-water rafting in the world or enjoy a canopy safari—both excellent forms of exercise.
If your vacation takes you to a tropical beach, it may be hard to fit exercise into a busy sun-bathing schedule, but it will be well worth it. And, one of the best workouts you can have is right there at your feet. Jogging on the beach is much better on your knees than even your fitness center treadmills, and it works your calf muscles in different ways than what you may be used to. Plus, the sand serves as an excellent exfoliate– you emerge from your jog with toned legs, a healthier heart, and sexy toes. Who doesn’t want that?
One of the best and easiest ways that one can take in a bit of exercise while traveling is to do yoga. It can be done virtually anywhere, from a hotel room to a sandy beach, or if you’re into exhibitionist yoga—from the middle of Red Square in Moscow . One can easily perform an hour of yoga positions by following the simple directions from one of the many yoga books out there, such as Rodney Yee’s, “Yoga: The Poetry of the Body.” You will be amazed at how great you will feel afterwards, and you will have increased energy and stamina to enjoy your vacation.
One of the joys of vacationing is experiencing new and wonderful international cuisine. While you shouldn’t deprive yourself of the experience, you should throw some common sense into the mix. If you’re dying for sweets, try consuming them earlier in the day, when you have a full day to burn off the calories. Try everything you want, but take smaller portions. Avoid eating within three hours before bedtime, and if you must eat, have a little protein and stay away from carbs. You’re not going to burn many of those carbs while you sleep, and your body will have no problem storing them for you. Also, avoid sugary drinks, especially late at night.
Turn the challenge into a positive.
Changing your fitness patterns for a short time is one of the best things you can do to overcome plateaus and actually spice up your workouts back home. When you travel, you are often forced to pursue other forms of exercise than what you are used to, and this may actually shock your muscles into growth. It also forces you to be a bit creative, and you may bring back home an innovative new workout in addition to an awesome tan.
Bryan Herb is a former personal trainer and is co-owner of Zoom Vacations®, a US company that creates stylish international private events and gay group vacations to the world’s hottest destinations. Learn more about them at www.zoomvacations.com or call 773.772.9666.