Summer brings lazy days on the beach, trips to favorite recreation spots and general rest and relaxation.
But if you work hard to maintain your fitness throughout the year, taking it too easy can reverse those hard-earned results and make it tough to get back into a routine once you return home.
Fortunately, keeping fit while traveling is easy if you know a few tricks.
Why Continuing to Exercise is Vital
Taking a few extra days off won't make a huge difference in your fitness level, although the length of your vacation stay determines the amount of fitness decline.
The key concept to understand is that mitochondria, the tiny energy generators within your body's cells, have a three-week half-life…in essence, they're replaced by a new fleet after three weeks.
Although fitness takes a nosedive at this three-week point, you'll likely notice a difference well before then. Cardiovascular conditioning diminishes much faster than muscular strength.
In addition to the time spent away from exercise, your starting fitness level and the length of time you've been working out determines how quickly you lose benefits. If you've only started exercising, say, for less than six months, your fitness level will dwindle faster than someone who's been working out for longer.
“Although you may not notice a huge difference visually (such as muscle tone), changes occur at the cellular level,” says exercise physiologist Andrew Wolf.
Adjusting Your Workouts to Account for Travel
To help prevent some of this loss, plan on increasing your training sessions before you go away. For example, if you usually work out three times a week, increase your sessions to five times weekly for a couple of weeks before your trip.
You can keep both cardiovascular and strength losses while traveling to a minimum by exercising at least every third day.
You should maintain at least two-thirds of your normal aerobic exercise time while keeping the same intensity; for example, if you normally jog for 45 minutes, you can cut back to 15 minutes without slacking off on the effort you expend.
Finally, do your strength-training program at least once a week, using your usual resistance levels.
Vacation Workouts to Keep in Shape
Maintaining a level of cardiovascular fitness requires only a pair of walking or running shoes.
“The good news is you can walk or run nearly anywhere,” says Gregory Cloutier, MPH, exercise physiologist with the Exercise Science Laboratory at Northeastern University in Boston. “Or if you're lucky the hotel will have a gym.”
Call in advance or look online to seek out nearby health clubs and ask about their guest policy. Some hotels provide passes to nearby gyms.
The easiest plan for working out: Bring your fitnesswear and plan on doing cardio without machines or bodyweight exercises in the privacy of your hotel room, on the beach, or in the hotel's outdoor open spaces.
Complete two or three sets of the bodyweight exercises below, combined with 15 to 20 minutes of a cardio option and some yoga or stretching. Adjust to your fitness level by decreasing reps or completing fewer sets.
These exercises will help you maintain aerobic fitness.
Hotel stairwells present a good cardio option (try this first thing in the morning when there's less stairwell foot traffic). Use caution if you're not accustomed to this type of workout, as stair running can be intense.
Try this simple stair workout: Warm up by walking up and down for three to four minutes. Then try sprinting (or fast walking, depending on your fitness level) up a flight, and then walking down. For a greater challenge run up two flights and walk down. For variety try walking up two steps at a time and then walking down.
No stairwell? Pack a jump rope, which weighs only ounces and takes up little space in a suitcase. “Or you could even just pretend to jump rope by jumping in place,” says Cloutier. Make sure you're on the first floor or take your jump rope outside to avoid disturbing other guests.
Running or Walking
If you enjoy running or walking outdoors, ask the hotel concierge about safe paths you can take. And always let someone know where you'll be and what time you expect to return, especially if you're in a foreign country.
The most enjoyable cardio workout? “Walking tours,” says Wolf. Do an internet search or ask the concierge for recommendations.
These exercises use resistance from your own bodyweight and don't require machines or equipment.
This exercise works your legs and glutes.
1. Stand with your heels planted shoulder-width apart.
2. Engage your core while keeping your chest up and neck in a neutral position. Then bend your knees while pushing your hips back, creating a sitting motion. Raise your arms in front of you so that they are parallel to the floor as you complete the motion.
3. Pause and briefly rest in the position as your thighs become parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position by pushing up through your heels. Repeat 20 times.
Pushups strengthen your chest and arms.
1. Kneel down on all fours with your hands about shoulder-width. Lean forward until your shoulders are directly over your hands.
2. Extend your feet behind you, toes pointed forward, keeping your body in a straight line and your core engaged.
3. Push up, keeping your head aligned with your spine, then slowly lower yourself until your chin or chest touches the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
This is another great leg exercise.
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, head up, hands on hips.
2. Step forward with one foot into a lunge position and lower yourself to the floor until both legs are at a 90° angle.
3. Push back with your forward leg and step forward with the opposite leg; continue alternating. Try for 10 to 15 reps.
Planks work your core, abs, and back.
1. Get onto your hands and knees, then position your forearms on the ground, elbows directly under shoulders. You can either place your palms on the ground or keep your hands in fists.
2. Stretch your legs out behind you. Then get up onto your toes, keeping your body in a straight line from head to toes. Keep your hips level and look at the space between your hands.
3. Engage your core by pulling your navel up and keeping your shoulder blades back and together, towards your midline. Keep your weight evenly distributed from bottom to top and side to side. Don’t forget to breathe.
4. Lower your body back to the ground once you can no longer hold proper form. Eventually, you’ll want to be able to hold the plank position for a full minute.
Reverse crunches work your abs and lower abs.
1. Lie on the floor with your head in front of a sturdy chair. Reach overhead and grasp a chair leg.
2. Bend your knees and bring them up towards your chest, focusing on squeezing and engaging your lower abs.
3. Slowly lower and repeat, focusing on form rather than speed. Try for 10 to 15 reps.
This is a great back-body exercise, working your back, shoulders and glutes.
1. Lay flat on your stomach on the mat, arms stretched out in front with palms facing each other. Slightly turn out your toes and keep your legs hip-width. Relax your head.
2. Contract your ab muscles and lift one arm, hold it briefly, and lower back to position without moving your head or lower body. Alternate arms for 20 reps.
3. Increase the difficulty by lifting the opposite leg at the same time as your arm, avoiding any rotation.
Mountain climbers get your heart rate up and work your glutes, hips and legs1. Get into a plank position (hands and toes on the floor, hands under shoulders, arms extended, straight spine) and pull your right knee into your chest.
2. Push the same knee out and bring your other knee in.
3. Keep rotating sides and focus on bringing your knees in and out as far and as fast as you can for 15 to 20 reps.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.