I am just coming back after a week-long ‘vacation’ … and I have a marathon in THREE WEEKS! I learned about and signed up for the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Marathon just before vacation, and at that point it was still June, and the race was at the end of July, so I looked at it as weeks away. It wasn’t until we got back from vacation that I really thought about it – and realized that my next marathon is only 10 weeks after the first. Plenty of time to make sure I’m ready, but not a lot of time to make changes and corrections!
I quickly realized that my vacation was across what should have been the peak of my final training period, but I didn’t panic too much. Why? First off, I work to maintain ‘half-marathon readiness’, meaning that if someone told me about a cool half this weekend, I could say ‘sure’ and put in a decent showing. Also, I had planned to ‘take my workout’ on vacation with me.
How does that actually work? Well, unless you are traveling alone or only with others on the training regimen, it isn’t easy. Our vacation was split between getting our son to his pre-trip rehearsals for a music tour of Europe (he is playing and singing all over the place during July) and waiting to send him off, followed by a few days helping my brother move his stuff out of his former house into his apartment while waiting for closings on the old family house (you can guess the reason) and his new townhouse.
Here are five tips to help you enjoy your vacation while maintaining your health and fitness goals:
1. Set Realistic Expectations: When I travel for work, I often get in two runs per day, something I almost never do at home because I’d rather spend the evenings with my family. Likewise, traveling with a family likely means less time for exercise because you are engaged in vacation activities. I planned runs for every other day, and communicated that with my family.
2. Remember Diet is Part of Fitness: It is easy on vacation to enjoy loads of fried foods and alcohol, but not balance them off with healthier meals and smaller portions. Most hotels offer a complimentary breakfast, which are largely sugar-coated carb-fests with minimal (and often canned) fruit. We hit the local market and filled our fridge with real fruit, Greek yogurt, and water. We also hit the local deli for baked goods – hey, if you are spending those calories at least make them taste good and fill them with real ingredients. By getting a shared portion of fries and a side salad with lunch, and making reasonable choices at dinner, we all felt better throughout the trip.
3. Communicate and Follow-Through: Our first few days were in a hotel – and I was the only runner. As I said, I planned to run every other day, but one day everyone else wanted to sleep in. I still got up, dealt with the dogs and ran, but it was much more disruptive than at home. But no one was overly annoyed because it was agreed upon in advance and I didn’t wake anyone up until I returned. Again, setting expectations, discussing them with your travel partners (in my case, my wife), and checking in throughout the trip are critical to everyone being happy.
4. Take a Hike/Walk: We took a day trip to New York City while our older son was rehearing, a jaunt to the Jersey shore with my brother on the 4th of July, and browsed through the local outlet mall one rainy afternoon with a few hours to kill. In all of these cases we did loads of walking – in New York we used the train more to save time than to avoid walking, and roaming the outlets and boardwalk was a load of fun. Also, we had our dogs who needed to be walked a couple of times a day – another opportunity! Remember to keep hydrated, and to communicate – late in the afternoon in New York I saw my wife and son wilting and suggested we take the train. At first they said no, but soon relented – I try to be very aware that I am trained for endurance, so walking for hours is no big deal to me.
Another favorite is biking – when we rent a cottage we always bring our bikes and find the local bakery and make it a morning trip each day. Great fun and great exercise.
5. Build Your Plan Around Your Vacation: This might seem like a no-brainer, but I have seen too many people get stressed about the potential impact of vacation. These people take two or three days off a week and relax their diet on weekends. So imagining that, the five days of actual vacation are suddenly not so huge. I planned an every other day routine, which worked very well for me – it was more off-time than usual, but somewhere between long dog walks, NYC, Jersey Shore, and logging boxes and furniture in 90+ temperatures my body felt pretty well worked over by the time we got home.
And speaking of coming home, make sure you are realistic with your expectations starting back after vacation. We were coming home late on Friday after a morning of heavy lifting and moving – so I knew I’d take Saturday off to get unpacked and clean around the house. Had I planned a run, I’d have been frustrated. But come Sunday morning I was back out for a long run, greeted by brewing coffee when I returned home!
Finally, remember that the purpose of vacation is to relax, refresh and recharge yourself – make sure that whatever you do fits into that philosophy, and enjoy!