Tips for Healthy Traveling
Yes, You Can Stay Fit on Vacation
The most common “out” that I hear people give themselves regarding health and fitness (outside of the holidays) is travel. People typically lose progress when they take a trip, and the narrative usually sounds something like this…
- “I couldn’t diet on vacation!”
- “I had to try ________ (fill in the blank with amazing local food/beverage)!”
- “I didn’t have a gym.”
The common theme is the fear of missing out, and of being too mercurial with fitness and health habits.
However, I think that these motives reveal something deeper than simply letting loose. I want to turn this reasoning upside-down and ask a more probing question:
Do you feel like you’re depriving yourself (or over-exercising) on a regular basis?
This is truly the root of the issue. If, when you travel, you give yourself permission to enjoy food and eat what you want and relax and it’s tons of fun… why aren’t you doing that in your normal life?
The problem with viewing “normal life” as indefinite restriction and hard exercise in order to reach goals is that it promotes an all-or-nothing approach. It creates an atmosphere that communicates: “In order to attain/maintain my goal weight, I have to make constant sacrifices.”
Then, in this mindset, a vacation or holiday is the perfect opportunity to truly go crazy and binge, torpedoing health goals and creating a feeling of guilt and self-sabotage upon return.
It’s important to address that fundamental mindset issue before attempting to maintain fitness and health habits on a vacation, so that you can avoid the yo-yo diet cycle of restriction, binging, and remorse.
The solution? Allow yourself to eat normal, well-balanced, moderately-portioned, whole-foods-based, nutrient-rich meals that taste good… all the time. Adjust your mindset that exercise is not punishment for eating, and that calories are not a golf score where you’re aiming for zero. Then, in that context, a vacation or business trip is simply a manageable (and actually fun) challenge to your normal routine, rather than an opportunity to go absolutely wild.
Some Simple Tricks
I recently returned from a two-week-long trip to Italy and France with my husband, and it was incredible! (Check out my Instagram for the amazing pics!!) At the end of the trip, we both remarked that our pants were fitting a little looser. Considering that we are both in excellent physical shape, this is quite an accomplishment, especially since neither of us were consciously attempting to eat “lightly”!
However, the magic is that we don’t have to count calories or deprive ourselves, because we have a set of tools and tricks that we have built up over the years as a health-conscious couple. Here are a few of my favorite things to do on vacation to maintain my fitness while still enjoying food with freedom and fun:
Bring one pair of shoes that you can walk at least 10 miles in, and then walk… a lot.
They don’t even have to be athletic shoes! It may sound extreme, but if you’ve ever been to any unfamiliar metropolitan center and are in decent shape, you know that you can easily walk yourself to exhaustion without realizing how far you’ve gone. We were in Venice for one day on this trip, and on that day we walked over THIRTEEN MILES. Yes, we walked a full half marathon in a city that is only a little larger than Central Park.
Fortunately, because I live in NYC, I am armed with several pairs of shoes that can go the distance. Converse are at the top of my list!
The benefit is that walking is wonderful exercise. Even though it’s not intense and won’t help you with your strength gains, it’s an important component of health and wellness. And yes, it burns calories.
Get to know the local grocery stores.
Wherever you are staying, there is surely some kind of convenience store, if not a full grocery store. Even for a short trip, it’s worth it to stock up on the following items:
- Greek yogurt
- Fruit and berries
- Bread and peanut butter
- Mixed nuts and dried fruit
And if you are staying in an apartment or a hotel with a kitchenette (and your trip is longer), I would add to the list:
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- Cooked meat
It’s so important when you travel that you do not have to eat out at every meal. Your caloric balance will be much more reasonable if you eat at least one meal a day at your place of residence. Plus, shopping at a local grocery store is an excellent way to get to know the culture better, especially if you are traveling abroad!
Eat when you’re hungry.
Michael developed a great mantra on the trip (his hilarious delivery is missing here):
When is the right time to eat? Now. What is the right thing to eat? Whatever you have.
We are both notorious for mood crashes when food runs out, so we always made sure to pack snacks and water, and eat whenever possible. The long-term benefit of this is that when you are generally well-fed, you are less desperate for any food option that puts calories in your belly. You make better choices when presented with food options, and you can hold out longer for a better restaurant.
Train your glutes.
In terms of formal exercise, no-weight chair workouts are realistic and extremely helpful in pretty much any type of accommodations. I advise skipping intense workouts that will make you sore, in favor of simple and effective glute workouts like the following:
- Box squats – 15 x 3
- One-leg squats – 15 each side x 3
- Warrior III – 15 each side x 3
- Alternating reverse lunges – 15 each side x 3
- Plank – 60 seconds x 3
- Side Plank – 30 seconds each side x 3
- Bridges – 20 x 3
Glute workouts help to manage excess sitting from flights and train/bus rides, and compound movements like squats also use larger muscles and recruit more energy from your body’s stores.
Do you have any great travel suggestions for fitness and health? Share them in the comments section!