Whenever we head across state or national lines, we ask ourselves the same crucial question:“Will I get a workout in on this vacation?”
Your gut probably says no, and we get it. Burgers and beers are tasty. 8 a.m. jogs are not. But travel and fitness can coexist, and even thrive, if you plan accordingly.
Below, our 10 commandments to staying fit on vacation. Find 20-minute body workouts, the gear you don’t want to forget, and the drink you definitely want to avoid. Time to have your trip, and eat your cake, too.
Start with a run
Most travelers, especially those visiting cities, like to put aside that first day for immediate immersion. They hop on a sightseeing bus or try to figure out the local metro and gobble as many sights as possible as a way to get oriented. We like that process. But we like it even more in a pair of running shoes. Jogging through a city you’ve never seen before is an ultimate exercise hack. You simply won’t have the patience to worry about pain in your legs when you’re galloping by street vendors and thousand-year-old cathedrals. Getting lost is an obvious risk, but finding your way home is part of the fun. And you’ll probably have picked up on lots of desirable off-path spots that weren’t covered in the “36 Hours” feature you skimmed on the flight over.
Have a body workout in your back pocket
If you’re looking for strength training that doesn’t involve running (and we’re assuming you’ve left your cast iron barbells at home), it pays to have a reliable bodyweight workout handy, which you can perform in your room, in the hotel gym, or outside in a park. We endorse the former if you’re on a business trip, the latter if you’re on your own schedule and looking to enjoy the open air. The 20-minute scorcher above comes courtesy of Chris Hemsworth’s trainer Luke Zocchi. Perform each of the five exercises listed, with 30 seconds on then 30 seconds rest. Complete the entire circuit four times. Then go get yourself a beer.
Be a morning person
No matter where you travel, getting up early can only help you. If you’re five or six hours ahead in Europe, pre-9 A.M. wake-ups (at the least) will help you adjust to the local time zone and maximize your vacation. Waking up past noon everyday of a European vacation is great if you’re 20 and beach clubbing in Barthelona, but will really cut into your plans — reservations, museum tours, trains — otherwise. If you’re headed to the West Coast or Hawaii, ride your new early riser superpowers for all their worth. Obviously, waking up sucks. And waking up to immediately sweat is worthy of the Fields of Punishment. But a good session before breakfast will set the tone for the whole day. Find our tips on how to accomplish it here.
Don’t get hammered every night
Key word: every night. Drinking is Travel’s favorite cousin, and you’d be foolish not to let them mingle. Just choose your nights. We wouldn’t recommend working out every single day of your vacation anyway, so try to have your big nights out just before an off-day. As for what to drink/not drink during the week — lay off the sugar! A quick straw poll of IH HQ crowned piña colada as the biggest hangover culprit. That’s due to most vacation drinks blending inordinate amounts of sugar and alcohol. Both cause hydration, and when mixed together they can overwhelm the liver. Hence your wicked hangover. Beers aren’t exactly safe either, so lay off the Double IPAs and opt for a low-calorie beer.
Have fun, get creative
Golf counts. Tennis counts. SUP definitely counts. Whatever has you up and moving on vacation can be jotted down in the exercise column. If you do a bit of research ahead of time, though, you can find fitness opportunities in a range of places. If you’re somewhere with immediate access to nature, always do the local hike. Think the Presidio in San Francisco, Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. If you’re somewhere with a rich history of dancing (Italy, maybe?) take your better half for lessons. Be prepared for the tarantella to be really difficult. And as luxury hotels increasingly become one-stop centers for all aspects of vacation (see: rooftop bars, coffee shops, fresh food markets), you might find some serious fitness connections at your stay. Consider a place like LINE DC, which features the Urban Athletic Club, a strength and conditioning gym with personal trainers, bootcamp-esque classes and access to a number of running routes through the capital, all registered on Strava.
Most savvy travelers book dinner reservations ahead of vacation. But lunch can be a bit tough to plan for, especially for those days where you’re really on the move. That means you’re going to be hungry once you finally sit down to eat, and it’ll be a little too easy to order something caramel brown. Your best defense is to snack frequently, and colorfully. We tagged chef/nutritionist Dan Churchill to help us form a healthy snacking guide a couple months back, and his advice proves paramount while on a trip. Colorful snacking means prioritizing foods more likely to be packed with minerals and vitamins. Don’t worry about getting your wires all crossed with foreign food. Raw nuts, plain yogurt and a smidge of chocolate are pretty darn universal, and will get the job done.
Athleisure is your friend here. Come prepared with a range of versatile wares that can pull double (if not triple) duty throughout the week. If you pack a yoga shirt and running shorts in your luggage, you will feel compelled to put them to use. Plant them right on the top of the rest of your clothing so you don’t forget, not to mention for easy access on that initial sightseeing run! Find threads from our favorite 15 activewear brands here.
Learn how to use a jump rope
Last month, we talked to Cory Calliet, the trainer behind Michael B. Jordan’s physical transformation for Black Panther and Creed 2. Cory’s go-to recommendation for cardio was jumping rope. He told us: “It’s good for the lungs, it keeps you conditioned, it keeps you in shape, and it’s simple stuff.” Simple to pack, especially. We suggest picking up a durable rope, like this model from Ballistyx with steel handles and silicone grips. It weighs less than a pound and will roll up easy in a corner of your duffel. Carve out a little space somewhere (as with the body workout: in the hotel gym, or out in a park/on the beach) and run through the circuit in the video above. It’s basically 15 seconds on/10 seconds off a total of eight times … and you complete the whole sequence four times.
Don’t get down on yourself
You don’t need to set a new PR on your mile time while traveling. This isn’t supposed to be that intense. So if you plan to get up for a morning workout and miss it, or end up half-assing a jump-rope workout, don’t beat yourself up over it. The idea is just to maintain all the progress you’ve made at home, to at least address the toll all those burgers and beers will have on your aging frame. Don’t forget, the sheer nature of spending days on your feet will be a big, positive change in its own right. Consider how many hours of a workday you spend idle, shoulders hunched over a screen. On the topic of work, remember to take care of your mental health on vacation. Detox from the web, take photographs, jot down notes, watch waves. Whatever. It’s all good for the soul.
Just go on a fitness retreat
You could also shove all the above to the side and plan a vacation expressly dedicated to your fitness. Wellness tourism is a rapidly growing travel trend, and you don’t have to look too hard to find luxury compounds dedicated to your health. Check out The Ranch in Malibu, which wakes guests up each day with Tibetan chimes and mountain hikes. Portugal’s Noah Surf House mixes fresh seafood, massive swells and yoga. And then there’s Spain’s famous Sha Wellness Clinic, located in the world’s best microclimate (according to the World Health Organization), which deals in sleep therapy, acupuncture and “brain massages.”
Pages and images from The A-List published with permission from Pan Macmillan Publishers Australia