Working on that perfect beach bod? Hoping to look your best for all the pictures you plan to take on your trip? Or just looking to get in a nice sweat while on vacation? Many of us have been there at some point or another. The gym has been my outlet for many years, so fitness is one of my favorite topics for discussion. And it’s hard not to talk about wellness when exploring fitness. I’m going to touch on heightened body image concerns leading up to a trip, ideas of how to incorporate fitness and wellness into your travels, and conclude with some comments on another one of my favorite topics…food!
You are not alone if you feel that you have a bit too much “fluff” around the middle or the thighs. Usually hidden under work clothes or baggy sweats at home, these areas become vividly exposed if you end up in a hot destination with a pool or a beach. I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t tried to shed a few pounds before spring break or their long awaited vacation to ultimately feel better in their swimwear. However, many New Year’s resolutioners and quick-fix gym goers find themselves unsuccessful with weight loss and give up shortly after. Changing your body image must be a commitment and something you start working on months in advance if you hope to see a real difference. I can almost guarantee that starting a workout routine three weeks before your trip will leave you feeling defeated. So, start early, don’t get hooked on a diet that you don’t intend on sticking to long term, and prove to yourself what you are capable of!
Also, for those who are happy with their body, good for you (no sarcasm)! There is a big stigma about body image, and always having to look perfect, or what is conveyed to us through media as the perfect body type. What’s important is to be happy with yourself. This could mean finding clothes that make you feel better about your body, embracing your personality and everything you bring to the table, or maybe truly wanting to change your body to physically feel better or put more emphasis on your health.
Now, this IS a travel blog, so I am changing directions a bit to discuss ways to focus on fitness and wellness while away. Hotels are the easiest go-to for a gym away from home. You can maintain your workout schedule, whether that incorporates weights or cardio, first thing in the morning or in the evening after finishing your daily activities. Personally, I like morning workouts because they get you out of bed and you feel accomplished before the day even begins! Also, when traveling, the evening hours often hold many cultural experiences like eating out or engaging the nightlife, so chances are an evening workout will get written off. If you don’t end up in a hotel, free weights are hard to come by unless you are extreme and seek out a day pass at a local gym. Alternatively, taking a nice jog, whether strenuous or leisurely, through the city of your choosing can be a great way to knock out a ton of sight-seeing in a short amount of time. That way you can spend more quality time during the day on sites that take longer to explore. All of this said, while you may hate to sacrifice your daily gym ritual, remember that you ARE on vacation. Be sure to get the most out of your destination without a workout infringing too much on your limited-time opportunity!
Physical fitness is such a grand, easy topic to talk about, but make sure you are giving your body and mind the time they need during the day too. Those whom you choose to travel with will affect how you handle your travel and how you interpret your experience after leaving. We hope it is all positive experiences, but that may not always be the case! Many of us do solo travel or travel with a friend or significant other. These trips are usually the easiest. At most, you are working together with one other individual and their opinion on how to navigate a city, what to eat, etc. If you happen to travel in larger packs, I can imagine how the stress levels from the trip may increase exponentially. Everyone has their opinions, everyone wants to do different things at different times, and maybe not everyone is staying in the same place. This could turn into a logistics nightmare! Ensure that you are in the right state of mind going into the trip, and while on the trip. Give yourself some time at the start and end of each day to find a quiet space where you can be alone for a few minutes or take a short walk by yourself when you get the chance. And no matter how hectic the situation may get, remember to breathe. Coming from someone who focuses so hard that I stop breathing and end up holding my breath subconsciously, doing something as simple as taking a few deep breaths can completely reverse your mood. Also, you are on vacation, so consider keeping an open mind and going with the flow of things. Maybe you don’t want to eat at a certain restaurant, but everything on your trip is likely brand new to you, so why not try it out? You may be pleasantly surprised on what you find when things do not go the way you planned.
Lastly, the food you put in your body has a HUGE impact on how you feel, your weight, and your focus. Be sure to take care of your body. If your goal is to lose that weight before hitting the beach, understand that your diet (no, not a fad diet, but literally just what you chose to eat) plays a larger role in weight loss than cardio workouts do. Check out the short and sweet answer on the age old diet versus exercise question from Dr. Hensrud at the Mayo Clinic. Be prepared to cut out most of your bad eating habits if you want to slim down. Also, if you are adamant about exercise, please make sure you are eating enough and giving your body what it needs! This is important when traveling because not only might you complete a workout during your day, but chances are you will be burning even more energy hiking across a city or exploring, so be prepared for a higher caloric intake whether that means packing more snacks or stopping for a large meal. I am a huge foodie, and love to try everything and anything I can while on a trip. Try not to be so acutely focused on your food intake that you miss out on trying some uncommon international food (yes, this includes dessert!). Be comfortable enough with yourself to eat lots of new, sometimes unhealthy, foods while enjoying your travels and getting the most out of them.
So, determine your stance on your body image and whether you are content or wish to change something. If change is in your foreseeable future, be prepared to commit yourself for the long run to maintain that change. If you need that adrenaline rush while away, consider a sleeping situation with easy access to the equipment or space you require, or try taking a run to check off some of your sight seeing while freeing up your itinerary later in the day. And last but not least, don’t forget to eat! This isn’t me ranting to you about not eating enough, but reminding you not to be afraid to try new cuisine, and eat smart on your trip! An extra danish, a special beer, or foreign smorgasbord isn’t going to kill you. You may not be back for a while, so be sure to get the full experience!
*Free for interpretation in terms of travel itself, a weight loss journey, or really any change in life.