[dropcap]If[/dropcap] you are someone who has struggled with weight throughout your life, you probably find it’s virtually impossible to maintain or prevent weight gain when you travel. Even for the fittest people, being away from home or confined in a car or a plane for a long trip can be a major hindrance to training regiments.
Many of us are emotional, comfort or boredom eaters and a trip can oftentimes double or triple your calorie intake. There is also that little voice in your head that repeats “Oh, but I’ve been so good” or “It’s a vacation so it is time to kill it and let loose!”
Even as a fitness professional and personal trainer, I’m victim to the very same mindset and temptations. I know firsthand the dangers that travel can pose to one’s midsection. But as daunting a task as it may seem, there are some simple strategies to maintaining a healthy lifestyle while on the road.
To help, I am sharing my Top 10 Travel Fitness Tips to help you maintain your overall health, performance and body composition when away from the structure of home.
1) Commit to Performing Short 10-20 Minute Maintenance Workouts First Thing In The Morning Each Week
Time is not an excuse. We all have at least 10-20 minutes to crank it before we start our days. Trust me on this. This brief workout first-thing in the morning will set the tone for the rest of your day. Besides being your energy pill to attack the day with vigor, this workout can serve as damage control if you to decide to indulge in foods that deviate from your nutrition plan.
The key is to do the workout first thing in the morning. I guarantee you that’s the only time you can count on getting it accomplished when enjoying the sights and sounds of vacation.
2) Use Bodyweight and Resistance-Band Exercises That You Can Do Anywhere
All you’ll need is your body and one resistance band to get the job done. During maintenance weeks for our clients, we highly recommend using mostly bodyweight-based exercises with the exception of some resistance-band exercises to get the pulling component in. It is often very difficult to access bodyweight rows and pull-ups when on the road.
Bodyweight-based exercises allow for some much needed rest and deloading for the muscles and joints. And, bodyweight can easily go through customs when you are vacationing out of country!
3) Build Your Own Vacation Workouts for Fun
Let’s face it: working out with intensity can get old really quickly! So, if you are in it to be fit for the long run, you better find a way to mix things up as often as possible with your workouts to keep yourself motivated.
Travel allows tons of variety as you can typically access a host of unique training locations and equipment! Maybe hit the beach and alternate between intervals of sprints and body weight strength exercises so that you can burn fat and soak up some Vitamin D at the same time. Or, hit up the local park and do a playground-style workout using benches, monkey bars and other playground equipment. Let your mind wander, and most importantly, have fun deviating from the typical structure of your at-home workouts!
This may very well be the most important tip of all. At home, we all choose the foods that are most convenient, affordable and accessible, which is why meal planning and preparation is so critical to being lean year-round. This becomes especially important on vacation because food choices are often worse on vacation than at home. Being unfamiliar with your surroundings means you can’t always lean on the trusty fallback options that you can at home.
Over the years, I have built a list of go-to lean traveling foods that have been absolutely critical to maintaining my fitness. My go-to list is:
- Mixed raw nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, etc.)
- String cheese
- Protein powder and/or amino acids
- Organic deli meat (unsweetened, low in salt)
- Fruits and raw veggies
Use these fat-burning, muscle-building foods to stay full and leave less room for the other junk food options.
5) Perform 30-60 Minutes of Daily Activity
It is very important to avoid letting a vacation become a time of slothing and laziness. Rather, the lean traveler looks to be active whenever possible when on vacation to keep his or her body in check.
Try to walk as much as possible, sign up for local trips and excursions and engage in some recreational sports with your travel buddies. Almost all of us naturally increase our caloric intake on vacation, so it is critical to intentionally maintain or increase our activity levels to offset the potential weight-gaining hazards that come with travel eating.
We tend to pay less attention to the small details that keep our bodies safe and pain-free year round when on the road. It is critical to still do some daily flexibility work and foam rolling to keep your muscles, and thus your joints, healthy.
You can always bring a half foam roller, a tennis ball, and/or a rolling pin in your suitcase for all of your self-massage needs. Try to get in at least 5-10 minutes of some combination of rolling and stretching both first thing in the morning and before bed for best results.
On the road, we tend to pay less attention to the small details that keep our bodies safe and pain-free year-round. It is critical to still do some daily flexibility and foam rolling exercises to keep your muscles and joints healthy.
You can always bring a half foam roller, a tennis ball, and/or a rolling pin in your suitcase for all of your self-massage needs. For best results, try to get in at least 5-10 minutes of some combination of rolling and stretching first thing in the morning and before bed.
7) Don’t Worry About Being Perfect All of the Time
My boot campers train with me for 4-6 weeks at a time with short 1-3 week transition periods throughout the year. In total, they are in full boot camp mode for 37 out of the 52 weeks each year.
What we try to instill in our campers is perfection during those 37 weeks that we are together to allow for the desired flexibility during the 15 weeks that we are not. In other words, our clients move to maintenance mode during off weeks. In the off weeks, clients give themselves 1-2 guilt-free meals per week, perform a few short maintenance workouts each week and focuse more on improving flexibility and tissue quality.
This works well because our scheduled off weeks typically fall in line with traditional vacation times and holidays—times when people want to indulge in life’s guilt pleasures and enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation. Bottom line, perfection most of the year allows for the desired flexibility at the times when you want it the most!
8) Plan Your Reward Meals in Advance
Let’s not forget that you don’t need to be perfect and eat like a saint when on vacation. After all, the occasional indulgences are a part of living the good life—especially those treats that are unique to certain travel hot spots. But, it is key to at least plan and prepare for them. In other words, we have found that most people can allot themselves 1-2 free meals per week and still maintain their results.
A free meal, or as some call it a reward meal, is basically a meal that deviates from ideal nutritional guidelines, but in moderation. This means that you eat the same healthy foods that you typically eat, plus any other foods you may desire until you are satisfied, but not stuffed!
By planning out your 1 or 2 free meals in advance and eating well at all other non-free meals, you will best put yourself in a position to maintain your frame.
Have a good time and wind down while traveling. The reality is alcohol not only stops fat burning in its tracks, but it actually promotes fat storage. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions and opens the door a to host of junk food cravings that will further set you back.
Plus, many alcoholic drinks contain high-calorie sugary mixes that further tip the scale in the wrong direction, so to speak. Consuming 2-3 alcoholic beverages per day could easily result in an extra 500 calories per day that would in theory result in at least one pound of fat gained in a week’s time just from booze alone.
In general, limit, if not eliminate, empty liquid calories since they provide no nutritional value. Rather, enjoy whole foods that actually give your body some nutrients and fill you up. If you must, try to limit alcohol consumption to a 1-drink-per-day maximum and 1-2 drinks (or ideally less) per week while on the road.
10) Bring Your Supplements
Not to beat a dead horse here, but again, just because you are away from home doesn’t mean that you should abandon all of those healthy habits you have worked so hard to establish.
I always take my daily multi-vitamin and fish oil supplements with me so that I can keep taking them every morning like I always do. I also bring protein powder and/or amino acid formulas so that I always have access to some high quality protein every 2-4 hours to best keep all of my hard-earned lean muscle mass. This is especially important when traveling to locations around the world that do not have as much animal protein (which contains essential amino acids) in their diets.
These Top 10 Travel Fitness Tips will allow you to “travel light” and enjoy doing so!