Tips for enjoying a vacation without ruining your diet/exercise routine

Vacation. One of the sweetest words in the world. It illicits thoughts of relaxing on a beach, exploring a new culture, trying new food/beer, and most importantly, NO WORK! Vacations are great, but a lot of people that are really “in” to fitness seem to have a hard time taking one. Not because they can’t schedule one, but because they either don’t enjoy it (due to self-imposed dietary restrictions) or go way off the rails and feel super guilty about all their choices while on vacation. I recently took a week long vacation where I set out to explore 2 new cities and find good beer/food. Needless to say, I was quite successful! Here are a few tips I’ve learned in order to maintain a healthy (ish) lifestyle while still enjoying everything a vacation has to offer.

Prioritize sleep-  Probably the most important thing. Getting enough, or a little extra while “vacationing hard” is very important. Don’t wake up extra early to get the 20 minutes of cardio in if you have a long day ahead or were out late the night before. It will ruin your day. What I typically do is try to get to bed early the day I arrive at my vacation spot. I’m usually tired from travelling and don’t feel like going out and doing things anyway. If you are meeting friends or family that you haven’t seen in awhile, maybe plan a brunch in the morning to catch up, rather than a late dinner the first day. Also, if your vacation  has you in a totally different time zone, this will help get you adjusted. Go ahead and catch an extra hour or two as well. You’re body will thank you!

Enjoy the local food but be smart about it- Vacations are all about enjoying new food (well, if you are me) but it’s easy to go overboard. Most likely you won’t be doing any cooking for yourself, so when you go out to eat, think about what you are ordering. Try ordering sauces and dressings on the side, that way you can control how much you add to your meal but will still get to enjoy the full flavor of the dish. Personally, I do the same thing with cheese. Cheddar cheese taste the same everywhere, so I don’t need my super special burger smothered in it! Of course, some things you won’t be able to get at home and you’ll want the full experience. I recommend allowing yourself to enjoy 1 full-on cheat meal a day. Just order what sounds good and enjoy it guilt free! I usually reserve that for dessert, since I rarely eat sweets at home and don’t do much baking, but the choice is yours. When there is a specialty bread pudding that I can’t get at home on the menu, or a fresh sweet crepe at a farmers market, I’m gonna enjoy the heck out of it! Now, it is a vacation, so don’t obsess or feel guilty if you eat too much. Enjoy your dang vacation! Just know that there are ways to enjoy your vacation without going too overboard.

Activities and exercise- I always try to keep my workouts consistent, but change them up. I just feel better about the day if I can at least get a light jog or jump rope session in! But you are on vacation, so don’t be boring with your workouts. Go for a run in a new place instead of just at the hotel gym. Find a free fitness class in the area. Some other great ideas are to plan some activities that will get your heart rate up a bit. Are there any local trails to hike, or mountains to climb? How about renting paddle boards and taking a river trip? Options are everywhere! My favorite way to add some extra “exercise” into a vacation is to walk everywhere. Yes, you can Uber around to get places faster, but if it is less then a mile or two, just walk! Walking is great for staying active, but also for exploring parts of a new city that you might miss if you just drive from point A to B. I’ve found some of the best food by just walking around. Little gems are everywhere!

Alcohol– One of my favorite parts of going to a new city is trying the local beer (while totally comparing it, in a snobbish way, to beer from my home town) and finding cool brew pubs. If you dedicate a whole day to exploring the local beer scene and bar-hopping, just remember to keep everything in moderation and don’t drive! If you are gonna go on a bit of a bender (hey, it’s your vacation!) just keep your other calories in check. I recommend sticking to mainly protein for food, and eat good, pure, sources. So don’t go for the greasy chicken wings, but just chicken breast. Also, avoid carbs, like fries or fried food (yes, even pizza) and fat as much as you can. You will be having enough of those via alcohol, especially with some of the higher ABV in those tasty micro-brews! This is where the walking everywhere segment above comes into play. It’ll help with your daily calorie burn and get you some fresh air.  Enjoy good beer, and try new things! Take it easy though, and drink water. Lots of water.

Have fun- Don’t forget, it’s a vacation! Enjoy it! You might eat a bit too much, or not work out as hard, but it will be easy to get back at it when you get home. Now, get out there and have some fun!