Have you ever come back from vacation feeling like absolute death? (Cancun 2011, I’m talking to you). Hey, it happens to the best of us – we finally get a few precious days away from the office and instantly spiral into a black hole of #treatyoself food choices and workouts that consist primarily of heavy margarita pitcher-lifting.
But the thing is, you don’t need to quarantine yourself in a yoga detox retreat to have a healthy-ish vacation. I just spent two weeks traveling around Thailand, and although I had my fair share of piña coladas and Pad Thai (so. good.), I didn’t completely fall off the wellness wagon. Here are my top tips for balancing fun and fitness while traveling.
Pack your gear. You won’t work out if you don’t have anything to work out in. Period. So bring your sneakers, socks and at least one workout outfit (you can always do laundry if needed). Bonus points for totable equipment like resistance bands or fitness DVDs.
Get creative. No one wants to be stuck in a stuffy hotel fitness center when it’s sunny and gorgeous outside. So think outside the gym. Check out fitness classes in the area, sprint a nearby set of stairs, or do a few planks by the pool (when no one’s around, obvi). In Thailand I grabbed two 5-pounders from the weight room and took them down to the beach for an interval workout. Hey, whatever works!
Make sightseeing active. There are tons of ways to experience a new culture and work up a sweat at the same time. I’ve climbed a volcano in Greece, snorkeled in Costa Rica, kayaked in Thailand, hiked through the desert in Israel and biked the Bali countryside. City-bound? Scaling the steps at tourist destinations like the Eiffel Tower, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Duomo totally counts.
Run! Going for a jog, whether it’s on sand or cobblestone, is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and discover a new place while getting your heart rate up. If you’re alone, stick to populated areas during daylight and make sure you have some kind of map handy. Love, Mom.
Avoid airplane food. It’s terrible for you and is guaranteed to taste sick (and not in the good way). Instead, eat before you travel and pack snacks for the flight (think kale chips, Kind bars, apple slices, protein balls, almond butter and banana sandwiches on wheat bread). If you have a layover, grab a real meal at the airport.
Eat a healthy breakfast. You’ll start the day energized, and make sure that at least a third of your meals on the trip are healthy. Most hotels and resorts have decent breakfast options like eggs, wheat toast, healthy cereals, yogurt and fruit. Renting a place? Even better – you can pick up your own healthy items at a grocery or corner store.
Limit sugary and frozen drinks. They’re full of calories and won’t even get you that buzzed. Sure, a few daiquiris are fine. But for your long-term strategy (this is a marathon, not a sprint, people), stick to simple low-sugar cocktails, wine, champagne or light beer.
Splurge wisely. Go ahead, indulge...and enjoy it! This is vacation, after all. But choose local delicacies over standard fatty fare you can find at home. When in Rome, go for homemade pastas and red wine, not cheeseburgers. In Paris, savor fresh-baked croissants and baguettes, not French fries. You get the idea.
The bottom line? It’s totally fine – even emotionally necessary – to kick back, relax, and loosen your belt a notch while on vacation. But you’ll make the most of your time off if you feel energetic, healthy and happy. And it'll definitely lessen those dreaded back-to-work blues once you return to reality.