By Kevin Cheng
Fitness and travel don’t usually appear in the same sentence. After all, vacations are meant for relaxing, recharging, and indulging in food and experiences that you don’t usually get. Unfortunately, fitness does not take any breaks. A trip for as short as two weeks can lead to muscle and strength loss and decreased aerobic capacity, not to mention noticeable weight and fat gain.
Let’s compute a simple yet very realistic estimate — suppose you are an average, decently physically active human being who burns 2,000 calories per day. During vacation, you burn 300 less calories (e.g. a 30-60 min jog) because you do not exercise as much. You consume a total of roughly 3,000 calories, as your diet now consists of an 800-calorie traditional breakfast of eggs benedict and fried potatoes, a 1,000 calorie must-try local beef burger and strawberry milkshake for lunch, and a fine dining, 3-course dinner of 1,200 calories that is followed by another local must try cheesecake and bubble tea. This does not even account for the occasional bar and pub visits you might make, or the spontaneous late night bites. At this point, you are at a surplus of at least 1,000 calories per day, which translates to a net gain of four pounds of fat for a two-week trip. This will only be offset by twenty hours of jogging when you return from your vacation!
Personally, I think that maintaining your physique and fitness throughout the vacation is much easier than retraining after this crazy trip — plus, why not consistently look good and feel good about yourself?
Here are a few simple tips to keep you in shape while enjoying your well-deserved break:
Walk — And Then Walk Some More
The magical 10,000 steps per day rule has some merits after all. Walking can burn a considerable number of calories (you expend approximately one calorie for every twenty steps you take). Walking up an incline or speeding up will burn even more calories. Aim to take at least 10,000 steps a day while travelling (this roughly translates to five miles). If you do, you can burn up to 500 more calories!
Stay Hydrated With Water
Keeping your body hydrated ensures high metabolism and it maximizes energy expenditure even when you’re at rest. Conversely, dehydration can lead to symptoms such as lightheadedness, muscle cramps, and/or impaired heat dissipation. Presuming that you are walking a lot, aim to drink a glass of water (roughly 250mL) every 30 minutes when you’re physically active (and increase the amount of water you consume if the exercise is intense). Drinking water also contributes to a perception of fullness, which curbs your craving for junk food and sugary drinks. Do not wait until your thirst sensation kicks in as it is not an adequate indicator of water deficit. By the time you feel thirsty, you will already be lightly dehydrated and your performance will be compromised.
Be Mindful Of Your Diet
Remember the example I gave about how much weight you could realistically put on? A substantial portion of this weight comes from the excessive food and drinks you consume when you’re on vacation. Admittedly, controlling the quality of the calories you consume can be difficult — is it still really a vacation if you have to stick with whole wheat bread, brown rice, boiled chicken breast, and fire-grilled salmon? That being said, the quantity of the food can very much be closely managed. Try controlling the amount of food you eat every meal to the following: 1 fruit, 2 fist sizes of leafy greens, 1 fist size of grains or 2 slices of bread, 1 cup of milk or alternatives, and meat of the size of a deck of cards.
If the space and equipment permit, try these exercises that other writers for Inside Fitness recommend in their posts: (a)https://insidefitnessmag.com/2018/11/22/beat-the-cold-this-winter-indoor-activities/; (b) https://insidefitnessmag.com/2018/12/03/8-at-home-workouts-to-win-the-day/.
Otherwise, you can always try my personal (least) favourite: burpees. Commonly rated as one of the most dreadful movements, I recommend to my clients that they stick with burpees if they can only do one exercise for the rest of their lives! This simple move combines strength training and plyometric and aerobic conditioning. Try performing as many burpees as you can in thirty seconds, then take a thirty second rest, and repeat for ten cycles (otherwise known as high intensity interval training). Still too easy? Challenge yourself with one of the following variations: single leg burpee, lunge jump burpee, and/or tuck jump burpee. For your reference, during this ten minute session, you will burn approximately 100 calories, with plenty additional benefits to your heart and metabolic profile.
If You Drink, Try This
Needless to say, alcohol contain lots of empty calories of no nutritional value, with roughly 70 calories per shot of hard liquor and 150 calories per can of beer. Control the amount of alcohol you consume but, if you do end up drinking, take a multi-vitamin supplement before, drink a lot of water, and get a nice long sleep. The effects of a hangover are caused or complicated by vitamin and mineral depletion, dehydration, and sleep deprivation. Taking these simple precautions can minimize the symptoms you feel so that you can be mentally alert and physically active again the next day.
Kevin Cheng is a rehabilitation specialist, personal fitness trainer, biomechanics researcher, and physician-in-training. He specializes in sports and car accident injury rehabilitation, physique and figure training, and powerlifting. He is currently running a volunteer service, “Access Fitness,” to provide by-donation fitness consultation services and program design for the general public in the hopes of gathering funds for fitness equipment for children in rural areas. For more information, please visit accessfitness.org or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.