Exercise, Enliven, Experience

If someone were to ask me what my top two greatest passions in life are, I would say travel and fitness. I honestly cannot remember a vacation where I wasn’t incorporating exercise as part of the experience. This is probably why I disagree when people say that fitness is all genetics. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a trip with people and they have said “wow, I wish I had your genes”, meanwhile I am exercising every day.

I definitely understand that vacations are a time to unwind and relax, but this doesn’t mean that you have to abandon all of your fitness goals or your fitness regimen. Truthfully, incorporating fitness into my travels has provided me with some of the best travel experiences I have ever had. If you look at fitness as a chore, you’re kind of setting yourself up for challenges. Maybe it is in our terminology. Working out has the word “work” in it and and that is perhaps part of the problem, since for most of us vacationing is a time to escape work. The reality is that if staying fit matters to you, you can do this from any place on the planet. Furthermore, you can make it one of the best parts of your experience.

Hiking at Wadi Rum, in Jordan

Traveling can actually provide an incredible time to shake up your routine and exercise in a different way. Any fitness expert will tell you that changing things up is essential for being healthy and fit. Going to the same gym at the same time and doing similar exercises can only be a little bit monotonous, but they can make one plateau in terms of their fitness gains. When you’re traveling, exercising is often a very different experience than what you have back home. It is healthy for your body and especially your muscles to change up your routine.

It can also provide a way to get more out of your travel experience at various destinations. For instance, on our Zoom Vacations tour to Vietnam and Cambodia when we are in Da Nang (famous for its “China Beach”) one of my favorite things to do is to take a long run on the beach in the early morning. Now, to be clear, I am not really a runner…at all. In fact, I often find it a bit boring and I just don’t love it very much. However, on China Beach, I find it fascinating, especially in the early morning right after sunrise. I see people practicing tai chi on the beach. I see fisherman taking their traditional boats out for a day of fishing. Sometimes I will see things like massive jellyfish that have washed up on the shore. And yes, sometimes I will even see hot dudes running right there with me.

Here is a pro tip fitness fiends. If you are staying somewhere where you are near a beach, take a jog in the early morning or dusk (provided that it is a safe destination) and you will see such a vibrant component of the destination. Running on the beach is also an excellent workout as it trains your leg muscles so differently than running on a treadmill, path, or sidewalk. But don’t let the idea of running stop you from exercising. I have a friend who is otherwise healthy but has asthma, and running for him becomes difficult after a while. Instead, he takes brisk walks while he is traveling, and receives great fitness benefits while doing so.

Running on the beach in Zanzibar

Another destination where running on the beach is an absolute thing is in Rio de Janeiro. But, Rio bumps it up a notch. When I am in Rio de Janeiro, there is an outdoor beach in Ipanema where you can exercise with gorgeous ocean waves crashing below you. Back to the hot dudes thing, there are always plenty of them there exercising as well. They are all locals for the most part, and being alongside them takes me away from the feeling of being a tourist, and places me there in the real life as a local.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a tourist, and I absolutely love great hotels and all of the things that come with it, but getting a real feel for the authentic community is where my heart is. Perhaps nowhere combines this kind of authenticity with a very positive tourist experience as much as the hiking that can be found within the city of Cape Town. Whether you are hiking Lions Head Mountain, Table Mountain, or Devil’s Peak, you will see countless locals as well as tourists right there hiking with you, and when you get to the tops of these peaks, the view of stunning Cape Town is absolutely unparalleled. Plus, you have a feeling of accomplishment that you got there yourself without a funicular or cable car. Of course, on a Zoom Vacations tour we won’t make you hike up Table Mountain, unless you want to, that is!

People also make the erroneous assumption that exercising at a hotel won’t be as good as the gym back home. Honestly, I have had some of my best workouts at hotel gyms. Yes, sometimes you have to be creative, but that same creativity challenges your muscle memory and creates growth. Actually, I have stayed in some hotels where the gym is so good that it rivals my gym at home. For Instance, the hotel gym for our hotel in Beijing is spectacular and is on the 80th floor overlooking the entire city. That same gym also plays such good music. The only problem is that during my workout I am often distracted by my constant Shazamming so that I can capture, record and remember that great music later.

These are just a few examples of how exercising during your vacation can be rewarding, but there is so much more to it than that.

Do you know what feels great after a vacation? It is that feeling that you had an incredible experience and recharged and rejuvenated yourself. Do you know what doesn’t feel good, is that feeling a lot of people have that they gained 10 pounds on their vacation. Vacations ideally should help someone feel better, not worse.

I wish I could help more people not have an adverse relationship to exercise while on vacation. I wish I could help more people see how they can truly make it a positive part of the experience, and an element that helps them dive into the destination even further, not a laborious task that takes them away from it.

When you exercise during your vacation, it allows you to:

1. Eat pretty much whatever you want, without concern about gaining weight that you don’t want.
2. Try whatever specialty cocktail you want, without care.
3. Sleep better because science has shown us that consistent exercise aids in sleep.
4. Stay happier and positive during your travels because exercise releases endorphins.
5. Piggybacking on number four, these endorphins can also relieve symptoms of pain. I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of having less body pain while I am traveling.
6. Take care of your heart. Cardio is great for your heart, and even though you may be on vacation, your heart isn’t. It’s working 24-7.
7. Meet people you may not have met otherwise. Every time I exercise while on vacation, I always meet fellow tourists as well as locals, whether it’s in the hotel gym or on the beach.
8. Try new exercises that you can incorporate back home. There have been so many times that I have been traveling and had to YouTube a fitness idea, and then liked it so much that I started doing it at home. For instance, there is a “Madonna arms” workout on YouTube that I am obsessed with.
9. Explore more of a destination than you would have otherwise. Some places you just have to access by foot and not by car.
10. Get the most out of your travels. Sometimes fitness is cleverly disguised as exciting and fun activities. Examples include snorkeling, hiking, walking through a city, whitewater rafting, exploring ruins, kayaking the fjords of Norway, bicycling to a castle in Scotland, practicing yoga in its birthplace, India, etc.

The key to all of this is to eliminate the word “work” in your working out. Like many things in life, it is all about perception. Something I always tell people is reframe exercise in your mind as another way to experience even more while you were traveling, not as a “have-to” obligation. Along with that comes not feeling bad or guilty on the days that you do not exercise. The whole point is to considerate as something that enhances your experience, and I really will.

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