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How to keep up a fitness routine during a vacation

So, you have worked hard all year to get fit and stay fit, and now you are in a good routine that works great with your schedule. Then vacation or the holidays come knocking.

Some experts think we should use that as downtime for our bodies to rest and recover. Some think we should stay as active as possible, because when we are off our routine we tend to overindulge with food and drink.

I believe in the latter.

Recently I went on a wonderful cruise to several different countries with lots of great downtime at sea. I did plan to take two days off from any type of exercise, which I did. By the third day, I was ready to get back to it. But what really happens to our bodies when we take time off from our workouts?

When we stop exercising, we can experience significant changes in our bodies. And when we do get back to our routine after a break, it will seem harder.

Whether it’s for vacation, an injury or just pure lack of motivation, we experience de-training or reversibility in our fitness. This may take place in different ways for different people. It depends on your training background, how fit you are, and how long your de-training lasts. But for sure, after two weeks of laying out, changes will start to occur in your body.

For the highly trained athlete, these changes are slower to happen. When we are in a break from fitness, we can start to get a decrease in cardiac output and in total conditioning. Our bodies can lose flexibility and strength as time ticks away.

Good health habits should be practiced no matter if you are on vacation or at home. Vacation is a perfect time to try something very different. It doesn’t have to be a gym or a treadmill. It can be a neighborhood, or stairs, or a hike through a rainforest, or a biking tour. Nowadays, technology makes it easy to find spots where you can run, bike or hike safely and at the same time see parts of the city you may not see otherwise.

By my third day at sea, I set out to fire up my workouts for the duration of the trip. At the end of the third day at sea, I checked my Apple Watch to see my steps and to my surprise I had done 74 flights of stairs and 26,000 steps. Not too shabby for vacation. I really did not even realize I had done 74 flights of steps. I even signed up for a spin class!

Mentally, I felt far less sluggish after these workouts, which is a huge plus. When you are on vacation, you can think of other ways to incorporate moving. And that’s really the goal, to move a lot. It does not have to be a formal type of exercise.

In fact, I would say it’s best to do something fully different from your normal routine while traveling. Think about it. You are on vacation, so you probably have more free time than when you are home working and taking care of family. So why not think outside the box? It is almost like a bonus workout.

This may be your time to branch out and try something new, like a class you have always wanted to try. Or try to see how many flights of stairs you can do in one day. Or find a local 5K route or walking tour that shows the city you are visiting.

Just try not to go 10 steps back while traveling. Keep up the movement. Any activity you do throughout a day will add up. Exercise is cumulative. Pick day trips that are active choices instead of passive ones. 

Vacations or holidays can play havoc with your weight. Planning will help negate some of the overindulging. With several big gathering and eating holidays approaching, plan to get moving while visiting family and friends.

Better yet, plan to get a family member to commit to doing a long walk or run with you every day. It’s also a good way to catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while. This will help keep the extra pounds at bay — and also the guilt!

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer. She is fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.