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Taking a vacation from fitness

A week or two away from the gym won’t have a major impact on your fitness level, but vacation-related weight gain and waning motivation can make returning to a workout routine more difficult, says Michelle Miller, clinical professor in the Department of Kinesiology in Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.


“Physiologically, you can stop exercising for up to about 10 days and you should still be able to pick up where you left off,” says Miller. “But what actually happens is that people come back from being on a trip and don’t want vacation to be over. The real hurdle is not that you’ve lost your fitness base but that you don’t want to get back to reality.”


In addition to the mental challenge of resuming a routine, bringing home a few extra pounds can slow you down, Miller says. “I hear from people who come back from cruises that they gained five pounds in a week.” Sudden weight gain can derail workouts by causing people to feel discouraged as well as physically uncomfortable, she says.

Miller advises planning ahead to give your fitness commitment more staying power than your tan. “Be sure your motivation goes beyond wanting to look good on the beach, or you won’t have a reason to resume your workouts. Before your trip, decide and prioritize what you will need to do to transition back to your normal routine,” she says. “Above all, recognize that vacation is vacation and at some point it has to end.”

Keep moving — even on holiday
While vacations are meant to be relaxing, there are times when they can border on lethargic. Hours of lying in the sun, sitting in restaurants, late-night partying and sleeping in late hardly qualify as aerobic activity. A few small changes while on the road, however, can help you get your body moving and burning some of those extra calories that inevitably will be consumed.

Annie Eakin, assistant director of aquatics for the University’s Division of Recreational Sports, says that every little effort helps, and offers these tips:

  • “Instead of lying by the pool, get in it and move around. Aqua jogging is an easy activity that will exercise nearly the entire body and get your heart rate up,” Eakin says. Lap swimmers can check out websites such as to see if any lap pools are near their vacation locale.
  • Activities such as snorkeling, skiing or taking the kids somewhere that requires walking — like the zoo, a museum or a theme park — can be a fun calorie-burner.
  • For indoor workouts, book a room in a hotel that has an exercise room — most do. If that won’t work, most gyms throughout the country offer day passes. The YMCA, which is an international workout facility, sells day passes for $8 to $10, and it can be found in almost every city in America.

    Out of the country and there’s no gym? No problem. If you’re in a foreign land, there’s no better way to get to know the area than by getting off the bus or out of the taxi and start walking. Whether visiting Florence or Paris or London, being on your feet will keep you fit while allowing you to really appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of the city.

    Whether your travels take you near or far, the bottom line is that it’s essential to keep your body active — even for a short time each day — because the extra movement will help keep you energized for travel. Says Eakin, “Even the smallest amount of activity can boost your metabolism and energy level.”

    After all — what’s the point of going somewhere if you don’t have enough energy to enjoy it?

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