5 Truths (and 5 Tips) about Working Out on Vacation

A pair of tanned feet floating in the blue-green waters of the Caribbean.
Enjoying the water around St. John, USVI, is one of my favorite beach workouts.

Ah, summer.

One of life’s greatest pleasures is checking out from the daily grind and spending quality time at the beach. I’ve been very lucky this year, hopping from one vacation to the next: fishing on the Texas coast and enjoying the good life on St. John, USVI. By the time summer ends, I’ll have had a good month of relaxing by the sea.

Which can wreck some workout havoc. After all, I’m getting ready for a fall destination –crossing the Grand Canyon — and it’s important that I’m in good enough shape to savor every step of this bucket-list trip.

As I’ve kicked back with friends and family, passing my days in the bliss brought on by sun, surf, and sand, I’ve learned a few things about working out while vacationing.

Hard Truths about Vacation Workouts

Man enjoying hummus, edamame, and cocktail.
A wonderful beachside snack in Tel Aviv: hummus and edamame (plus a beverage or two).

1. You never exercise as much as you intend to. I set off with grand plans to run, swim, walk, or exercise almost every day. Ha! The truth is, I’ve fit in about half of what I intended. It’s easy to plan but difficult to execute. That’s because vacation is all about relaxation, and it’s hard to maintain mental focus (your mind, after all, needs recovery, too). This truth, however, doesn’t give carte blanche on throwing in the workout towel. Go ahead, plan those workouts. But, rather than beat yourself up for days missed, celebrate each and every time you get out there. You did it!

2. Forget intensity. Go back to No. 1– that mental focus just isn’t there. Add to it jet lag, a new location, time changes, unfamiliar foods (see No. 3), and your body is simply not performing at its premium. Celebrate the level of activity achieved and accept your best effort for this particular time.

3. Optimal nutrition goes out the window. Whatever alcohol I’m drinking on vacation is by definition more than I’d consume at home. While I’m working hard to eat healthily, it is often problematic to stick to what’s good for me when dining with a group. Rather than venture into orthorexia, focus on making the best choices in the moment.

4. You’ll have to make yourself do it. I don’t care how important the goal, vacation activities are hard to trump. I love lounging around in the morning with my sweetie. My body wants to sleep in. It’s fun to leisurely hang out with friends. The very worst part of exercising on vacation is deciding when to do it and then actually setting to it. Once started, I love a travel workout (and I always feel better for doing it). Just know that taking the first step is 90 percent of the battle.

5. It’s just not that important. Ultimately, I have many days to work out and few days for travel. Why am I here in the first place? To relax and recharge. If the goal is so important that I’m stressing about workouts and causing major disruption to everyone’s schedule, then shame on me for scheduling a trip at that time. Relax, let it go, and chalk missed workouts up to necessary recovery.

5 Tips for Vacation Workout Success

woman in ocean next to two jet skis
We took a jet ski tour around Bora Bora during our anniversary trip in 2014.

6. Go light on gear. You only need the basics. Remember — you’re likely only hitting half of the workouts planned. Make the activity simple and leave the gadgets at home. You’re more apt to actually execute when there’s less to fuss about.

7. Pack some electrolyte replacement. Sun + alcohol + sweat = dehydration. Life feels a lot better when you remember to replace those lost electrolytes, which can be as simple as throwing a Gatorade in the beach cooler.

8. Be good natured. Think about others when aiming for exercise. Don’t be a jerk about strictly following your schedule. Take a day or so to see how everyone interacts — you’ll find a workout time that naturally fits within the vacation’s rhythm, I guarantee.

9. Think time rather than specific mileage or exercise. My workouts were more successful when I relinquished control and accepted what I was able to do rather than what I’d planned on doing. Consider where you are in relation to what movement you need (and suddenly, that steep, 1-mile trek to the main road becomes a perfect spot for hill repeats).

10. Adapt and improvise. Back to No. 9. Make your location a resource for fitness. Find ways to slip a workout into the day’s activity. I brought open-water goggles and a swim cap along in the beach bag, allowing me to swim while friends snorkeled. Now that’s what I call a win-win.

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

0 thoughts on “5 Truths (and 5 Tips) about Working Out on Vacation

  1. good tips. I always bring workout gear and just go run without worrying about how long or how often. i also regard walking all over an entire city as a workout.

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