Can travel and fitness be friends?

I’ve been fortunate enough to take a few big trips over the last few months, and look forward to several more this coming year. If you’re like me, one of the coolest parts about travelling is the food! I love trying things unique (or specialized) to certain places. However, this, combined with busy itineraries and distance from your home gym, can be…less than friendly on your waistline. So how to you have a good time on the road without setting your progress back?

BASIC TIPS: Theses are suggestions for those who are newer to fitness, have trouble practicing self control (we’ve all been there!), or are on stricter routines (competition prep, goal timelines, etc.). These can also apply to those who want little or no “make-up work” to do upon returning from vacation.

  1. At mealtime, order “lighter” options: white cheeses, grilled meats, steamed veggies, broth-based soups, etc. are all generally lower calorie options.
  2. It isn’t always possible or desirable to order healthy food. If this is the case, split fried, greasy, fatty, or sugary orders with someone, or opt for a small bite or two. Usually, I end up ordering a grilled something with veggies and my husband will get the house special, deep fried work of art with the upgraded loaded fries. Then we trade a bite of each other’s entrees and I steal a couple fries. It gives me a taste, but doesn’t derail my nutrition goals.
  3. Don’t drink your calories! Opt for water during meals and to keep you hydrated throughout the day. This leaves more room for all the tasty foods you want to try.
  4. Don’t feel obligated to finish everything in front of you. This is a very difficult one for me. Any sort of waste triggers my anxiety and I generally end up taking my food to go if I don’t finish it. However, this is not always a feasible option. If this is the case and you’re ok with it, simply eat until you are satiated (not full to bursting!) and leave the rest.
  5. Find a gym close by, or come prepared with quick, efficient equipmentless workouts. Most places have a few fitness facility options in town (bonus points if you can find something in walking distance). Contact the gym ahead of time to see what their visitor policies are and introduce yourself. Smaller, privately owned gyms are usually very accommodating to visitors and will give you access for the week for a very reasonable fee. Larger gyms will sometimes have free trial passes or visitor passes available on their websites. Visiting new gyms can be really fun and give you the opportunity to meet new people and establish new networks. If options are sparse, get on mapmyrun.com and plot out some running routes (it’ll give you a chance to explore and see the area), or compile a list of at-home style workouts relying on bodyweight or packable equipment. Either way, plan to do your workouts early in the morning or during some downtime on your day.
  6. Find a nearby grocery store and prepare your own healthy, light meals throughout the day. Packing your own food gives you control over what and when you eat, which can ease some dining stress during your vacation. It’s also usually more budget-friendly as well. Most hotels have a mini fridge to help keep perishables fresh, and having access to a full kitchen where you can cook makes this option even easier.
  7. Stay active! Walk everywhere you can, park farther away from your destination, and plan activities that keep you moving. You’ll stay occupied, have more fun and burn more calories to help offset the occasional indulgence. Plus, it’ll help you sleep like a rock.

ADVANCED TIPS: These are geared toward those who have been consistent in exercise and nutrition for a long time, have established solid habits, or who desire more flexibility in their travels.

  1. Accept this may not be a time for progress. Aim to maintain. I track my food 99% of the time at home, and have been doing so for several years. The last year, I’ve taken a break from tracking during vacations and tried to eat mindfully most of the time. I generally opt for higher protein options, try to add veggies wherever possible, and usually give myself license to order whatever the heck I want a time or two. Or three. So far, this has served me very well and given me the mental break I need from tracking.
  2. Have fun and realize that although you may have make-up work to do, it’ll come back fast and won’t cost you much in the long run. I spent this last week in Florida and ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I’m pregnant, not competing and not trying to cut weight/fat for the summer, so this wasn’t a detrimental option for me. I actually came home the same weight as when I left. I was active, I stopped eating when I was full, and I didn’t skip any workouts. I came back a little puffy from water retention and a little gained fat, but most of that has gone away in the past day. ***DISCLAIMER:*** This worked for me because of my current goals and theĀ years I’ve spent building muscle mass and metabolism. And although I gave myself free reign with my food, I’ve also established good habits thought the years and din’t use it as an excuse to eat all junk all the time. My body has taken time to get to this point, so unless you are in a fairly advanced state of fitness, this may not be the ideal option for you.
  3. Practice moderation. I like to follow the “80/20 rule.” Practice good habits 80% of the time, have fun 20% of the time. Again, this takes a significant amount of time to get familiar with. If you are not familiar with what consistent exercise and nutrition looks like, this may not be the best option for you. If you cannot eat one Oreo and be satisfied, this may not be for you. If you do halfhearted workouts most of the time, this may not be for you. To help illustrate this point, 80% of your week is over 5 1/2 days. That means if you spend Monday morning-Friday afternoon on point with nutrition and 100% effort in workouts, Friday night-Sunday night can be spent in a zone of relative comfort; an easier workout here, a treat there. If this doesn’t sound like your routine, keep practicing! You’ll get there if you’re consistent.

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