Taking Fitness on Vacation
For many of us, “vacation” conjures images of lounging poolside with banana daiquiri in hand, the only physical exertion coming from turning the pages of the latest best-seller. As pleasant as that sounds, returning to real life can cause an even bigger sense of dread than it usually does when you’ve done what most folks on vacation do: indulge, and then indulge some more. Along with the t-shirts and souvenir snowglobes in your bags, you lug back an extra five pounds and a guilty conscience, vowing to get back on the wagon. Starting next week. You swear.But getting some R&R doesn’t mean you have to check your healthy habits like so much luggage at the gate. There are a few ways you can make exercise and wellness part of your vacation, if not the centerpiece.
Plan your trip around activities you love or have always wanted to try.
Instead of booking an all-inclusive cruise with sundae bar and bottomless mai tais, you could plan a vacay that has fitness as its focus. Early-morning boot camp may not sound like everyone’s idea of a vacation, but snorkeling the islands or Costa Rican surf camp have a pretty nice ring to them and will keep you active. Not looking to get wet? Treat yourself to a shiatsu-inspired state of zen (the affordable Sewall House yoga retreat in Maine gets great reviews) or throw your sneaks in a rucksack and head for the hills for some self-guided exploration, like walking from inn to inn along the English coast. Or pick a central spot and tackle the adventures around you at your own pace. New York’s Lake Placid is a great hub for hikers, with easy access to the Adirondack High Peaks for advanced trekkers and tons of easier trails for families and beginners. We love the rustically luxe Lake Placid Lodge, where guests are encouraged to swim, kayak, snowshoe, fly fish and mountain bike to their heart’s content. Or just set up a tent and get DIY about it.
Photo uploaded to Flickr by
Tony the Misfit, some rights
Bring your routine with you.
If you have a regular running or walking routine, there’s no reason to leave it behind. It’s a great way to explore a new place and is a lot more inspiring than your typical hotel gym. You can research routes ahead of time on sites like mapmyrun.com, which offers detailed routes in locales from Beverly Hills to Bangkok.
Eating well is part of any healthy routine too, and a hard one to maintain when your options are hotel breakfast buffets and dining out nightly. Wherever you go, consider renting a house or condo and cooking for yourself. Not only is it more budget-friendly, you can also eat what you want when you want it, and it’s a great excuse to check out local markets and interesting native ingredients. (Breadfruit, anyone?)
Find cool ways to incorporate some activity into your vacation.
Or maybe you’re planning a vacation that doesn’t exactly scream “exercise.” You can still find fun ways to make sure you keep moving. Heading to wine country? Try biking it instead of driving. Australia’s Barossa Valley is beautiful countryside with fantastic wines and without too many buzz-killing hills. You can book a full-fledged bike tour or map out a day trip of your own. California’s renowned Sonoma Valley also makes for great pedal-pushing. Wine Country Bikes will set you up for a self-guided tour or an organized group trek around the vineyards.
Photo uploaded to Flickr by
devinleedrew, some rights reserved.
If you’re heading to urban environs, try walking to the sites instead of taking a tour bus or taxi. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land and familiarize yourself with different neighborhoods. And it can’t be said too many times: a good pair of walking shoes is key. Parisian women may strut in their stilettos, but your dogs will be barking after wandering cobblestone streets in search of that bistro Lonely Planet raved about.
If you have the family in tow, you can find some fun ways to keep the kiddos moving too. Many cities have kid-friendly (or even kid-centric) tours, like London’s Harry Potter walking tour or Washington, D.C.’s Bike and Roll Tours, which leads family-oriented biking tours around the monuments. And if all else fails, there’s always the hotel pool.
By fitting some fitness into your vacation, chances are you’ll come home feeling more balanced, more healthy and more relaxed than when you left. Which is what vacation is all about.
Have you taken any vacations that made exercise and wellbeing the highlight? Or do you have any suggestions for keeping your routine while on a trip? We’d love to hear about it.
The New Juggling Act
By Calder Clark, NB Wellness guest editor
The business of being creative pulls me in a thousand different directions. I’m right-brained, I’m left-brained, I’m in logistics, I’m in design, I’m all over the place. Like any entrepreneur, wife, mom, friend and worker bee, I’ve been juggling so much that I’d forgotten exactly what balance is. Until I started listening.
I recently heard a bold lecture by the vivacious Cindy Novotny, a bonafide “Jackie of all trades” whose primary business involves traveling 50 out of 52 weeks per year, speaking to the yous and mes all over the world on the work/life balance and staying motivated. I scrambled to digest every bit of brain food she threw out as I drank in the main message: Your balance is your balance, and if it works for you and your family, then press on! Your neighbor has three housekeepers to your one, and your sister may not espouse your iPhone obsession. Your dad’s not on Twitter, and your best friend hasn’t known a hard day’s work in a decade. So maybe they can’t directly relate, and that’s okay too. Only you can know what your balance feels like.
One of my favorite gems from Cindy’s talk is a choice comment by Rupert Murdoch: “The world is changing so fast that the big will not beat the small; instead, it will be the fast beating the slow.” I felt relief wash over me. So the fact that I live, love, laugh and work at lightning speed may propel me to superstardom? Yes, please!
The new juggling act is yours to design. It may involve breakneck speeds, 4 AM workouts, late-night Skype-ing and a laptop for a bed buddy, and that’s totally kosher if it works with your game plan. As one-legged squats on the Bosu ball make you stronger, so do the lumps and bumps on your journey to balance and wellbeing.
Using Online Communities to Stay on Track
For runners looking for support, MapMyRun.com provides calculators, goals and challenges, training plans and a forum in a hub for people looking to log their runs and connect with others. Entering your city, state or ZIP code lets you view runs recorded, mapped and tagged by other users. The forum offers information and discussion on everything from injuries (“Any other ideas as how to prevent (not “treat”) the side-stitch?”) to playlists (“Like Shakespeare says, “If music be the food of love / run on, run on.” Or something like that.“). Even if you only use the site to keep track of your runs, training becomes easier when you can see your progress on one screen. If running isn’t your thing, the site also offers capabilities for walkers, hikers, cyclists, triathletes and even mountain climbers.
There are great sites to track weight loss, nutrition and exercise while offering you support from others doing the same thing. The decision to take your weight loss journey public can be a big and very personal one. Whatever the reason behind losing weight and getting healthy, you can find support on a site like Sparkpeople or traineo. Both sites allow you to record what you’re eating (and see nutritional analysis based on food labels) and the type and amount of exercise you’re getting. They also feature social networks in the form of forums full of people there for the same reason. As with MapMyRun, a community of people doing the same thing increases the pool of knowledge about a topic. You’ll generally find these environments to be deliberately non-judgemental and a comfortable place to ask any questions, from beginner to advanced. Finding people to talk (or vent) to and compare notes with can help you keep focus, gain a different perspective on your goals or allow you to do those things for someone else. Sparkpeople is free to use, while traineo has a paid option with a free 14-day trial membership if you want to take the site for a test drive.
If you’re looking for a way to track your progress toward a life goal that’s not necessarily fitness or training related (say, learning a new language or bringing more balance to your life) , sites like 43things or Mecanbe offer a more casual way to do that. According to the 43things homepage, currently popular goals run the gamut from “learn French” to “meditate daily,” so these sites are great for a wide range of personal goals. They’re designed to be simple and intuitive, making it easy to set up your goal, check off things that you’ve done to achieve it and comment on others’ progress toward their goals. If you’re looking for reinforcement without a lot of detailed feedback, these sites could be just the ticket. 43things is the more established of the pair, but Mecanbe has a growing community of users.
Taking advantage of the power of others in a virtual support group just might be that extra boost you’re searching for to help you achieve personal fitness or life goals. The cost, level of commitment and amount of privacy are all variables that are within your control. Joining a community may be as big a benefit to someone else as it is to you. And, if you decide that a particular community is not for you, leaving it is as simple as deleting an account. Let us know in the comments about your favorite ways of giving and getting support!
Avoiding Disruptions to Your Routine
Most of us have been there: busy schedules crammed with work, family and social demands leave very little time for those things that we do for ourselves. The rigors of these outside demands make it increasingly difficult to stick to the fitness and exercise routines we establish for ourselves as we work towards a healthier, more-balanced lifestyle.
Sticking with a routine requires a combination of structure and flexibility that allows your schedule to ‘bend, not break.’ When establishing a schedule and routine, keep in mind the following guidelines to ensure that your ‘me time’ is always a promise you can keep.
- Set a clear goal for yourself
A good, achievable routine starts with a clear goal. Before you begin an exercise regimen, sit down and write the clearest, most concise statement you can about what you’re trying to achieve. Avoid ambiguous goals like “get in better shape” that are difficult to measure.
Once you’ve articulated a goal, it’s worth asking yourself whether this is something you want for yourself, or something you’re doing for someone else. Empty goals to which you are not personally committed are nearly impossible to form into good habits.
Finally, store that goal somewhere you can access it regularly. When your habits begin to slip, or your routine is disrupted, you may find it helpful to return to your goal for inspiration.
Photo uploaded to Flickr by A. Blight, some rights reserved.
Develop a rhythm
Our good habits become most-deeply ingrained through repetition. While the best habits may come from doing the same routine in the same place at the same time every day, most people are not suited to that approach to exercise.
Many people find comfort in focusing on a consistent time of day for their fitness routines, which allows them to develop a rhythm while allowing for a variety of workouts and locations.
- Be realistic and adaptive
It’s easy to develop a schedule for a life that’s not your own, in which a fitness routine can be plugged in the open slots in the calendar until everything fits. Life, for most people, is quite different from that. Our schedules are filled with meetings, social and family commitments. Scheduling your fitness routine around the ideal, rather than the real, is a sure-fire way to fail quickly.
To develop a fitness routine that is realistic, consider what you can really ask of yourself. Can you really get in an hour of exercise before work? Will a regular run between work and dinner be sacrificed when you travel, or make plans for a dinner out? Good habits are built on the basis of understanding what you can truly commit to.
Find a friend
Friends, colleagues and family often play an important role in the development of momentum for your fitness routine. The simple act of sharing your goal or plans with someone else helps to deepen the expectations you set for yourself. Often, fear of disappointing others is a stronger motivation than your goals themselves, particularly if you have not yet achieved a fitness goal.
A more involved approach is to invite someone you know to join you in your fitness routine. The knowledge that someone else is sacrificing their own time and energy is often all the motivation you’ll need to get out of bed early, run a little farther, or push a little harder towards your goal.
Potential disruptions to your routine are a constant threat to the development of good habits. The forseen, like holidays and travel, should be accounted for in your schedule. In most cases, these roadblocks require only a little extra planning to accommodate. Visiting friends out-of-town? Do a little advance research to find a track or gym in the area (your local gym or fitness club may offer reciprocal priveleges) and bring a small portable alarm clock that won’t wake up the house.
In developing a routine that sticks, you should also plan for the unforeseen. Consider developing a ‘Plan B’ for your routine — a fallback in the case that events beyond your control prevent you from maintaining your scheduled exercise. Inclement weather? A great opportunity to get in some stretching or practice your yoga poses. Finding ways to adapt your routine, rather than abandoning it, will reinforce your good habits and prevent the adoption of bad ones.
- Minimize opportunities for failure
Experts advise people seeking to eliminate bad habits to avoid patterns that they associate with those habits. The same is true for people attempting to create good habits and routines: eliminate the opportunities for failure.
For people seeking a regular routine, this often means exercising good judgement at the beginning of the routine. Avoid attempts to start your routine during periods with frequent holidays or out-of-town travel. If your routine will keep you primarily outdoors in midday hours, then beginning it during the hottest or coldest times of the year is an almost certain recipe for disruption. Look to begin your routine during a period in which your demands and obstacles are the lightest, and create a foundation for your routine which will carry you through the more demanding periods of your life.