I’m no stranger to the vacation mindset. When I started my first job out of college, I began to view any time off from work as my time—a break from real-life obligation. Although I led an active lifestyle, I found it difficult to work out while traveling. I wanted to dissociate from everything that had become part of the daily slog of my new, grown-up life, which often resulted in my feeling self-conscious, sluggish, and unbalanced on return from my time off. Not really what one hopes for from a vacation, right?
So, when I began to plan an extended trip to Europe this summer, I started to think about not just how I wanted to feel while I was on the trip but how I wanted to feel when I got back. I didn’t want to regret long dinners al fresco or indulging in local wine and desserts. I wanted this time to be relaxing but also rejuvenating. I wanted to have the opposite of a vacation hangover: I wanted a vacation afterglow. That’s exactly what travel should be.
And then it hit me: We take vacations to temporarily abdicate our responsibilities. We take vacations to get a little taste of the freedom we experienced as kids. And healthy, happy kids eat ice cream when they want, they eat pasta when they want, and they play when they want—which is often. From swimming to tree-climbing to a good ol’ foot race, kids move for pleasure—for the unrestrained joy of it. When did we lose that joy? And why? I wanted to know what would happen if I decided to approach exercising on vacation from the mindset of a child, so I promised myself that, during this trip to Europe, I’d do exactly that.
It turns out exercise improves your mood more than that margarita ever could. “The link between exercise and happiness is pretty strong,” says Michael Otto, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Boston University. And we’re not just talking about those quick hits of endorphins you get after a good run. Those endorphins decrease anxiety over time as well. It’s no wonder kids are so gleeful all the time, huh?
Don’t do anything stressful or too difficult
When you’re on vacation, the thought of an intense workout won’t sound fun. From personal experience, it’s a lot harder to find motivation to workout when you aren’t excited about the workout. So, choose one that is a bit on the easier side and you’ll be much more likely to actually do it. Do some sets of body weight exercises, go for a jog, or even just stretch and foam roll. I find it’s best to not do anything with a timer, as that can make you feel stressed. You’re on vacation, it’s okay to relax and take it easy.
Don’t try to stick to your workout program
This tip comes from Women’s Health Magazine. If you follow a workout guide like BBG, Shred it to Shred it, or Tone It Up, it might be difficult to keep going with it while on vacation. You might not have the equipment or time to do the next scheduled workout, which makes it very tempting to just skip working out altogether. Rather than doing that, don’t stress about keeping up with your program and do a different type of workout instead. Being on vacation is great opportunity to take a break from your regular routine and try different workouts. Do some yoga, try the elliptical, or go for a run around the city you’re visiting. Pick something that is easily accessible and fits into your schedule.
Sign up for a workout class
Visiting a new city is a great opportunity for trying out local fitness studios. You can always find a fitness class that you’ve never tried before. When I was in Boston, I was determined to make it to at least one Soul Cycle class since there aren’t any studios in Denver. To my surprise, my family agreed to try it with me, so we all went one morning together. It ended up being a great experience and it was a fun way to get our sweat in for the day.
Get your friends or family to do it with you
Having your friends or family join you for a workout is a fool-proof way to get your physical activity in for the day, reports wsj.com. When I was in Boston, I convinced my sister and brother to go to the gym with me most mornings. It made it a lot easier for me to stay committed knowing that I had a few workout buddies to do it with me. Since we all went to the gym together, I didn’t feel torn between choosing the gym and spending time with family. We made it a point not to plan any early sight-seeing or activities, leaving us plenty of time in the mornings to get our workouts in before heading out for the day.
Schedule your workouts
Planning out time to do your workouts is possibly the most important part about staying active while on vacation. Honestly, the only way to make this work is to carve out a specific time to get your workout done. If you don’t, you’ll get caught up in the day’s activities and never get to it. When I was in Boston, I knew that I would be out and about exploring the city most days and wouldn’t return to the hotel until late each night. So, the only reasonable time for me to workout would be first thing in the morning. Knowing this, I went to bed each night with the intention of waking up a little earlier than needed to have time to workout.