Fitting Fitness Into a Fantastic Vacation

Ahhh summer!  We’re in the thick of it now and many are getting ready to embark on much anticipated getaways.  Yes, there are fitness-centric vacations for fitness geeks like me.  (Someday I’ll fulfill my dream of hiking, biking, eating and drinking my way through the Provence region of France.)  But that’s not what this post is about.  This is the 2015 installment of my annual reminder to take fitness with you on every vacation.  No matter where you’re going or how long you plan to be there, your vacation will be so much more fulfilling if you take with you the philosophy of fitness – eating nutritious, delicious foods and being active at least a little bit every day.

Here are the highlights of the previous posts on this topic with some visual aids:

Eating on Vacation

Yes, it’s fun to indulge while we’re on vacation when we are unburdened of food shopping and meal prep.  But we shouldn’t make the mistake of believing indulgence is defined only as cocktails, gigantic portions of meat and decadent desserts.  Every region has its unique in-season produce, livestock or seafood and artisanal specialties that taste better there than anywhere else on the planet.  Certainly better than you can get back home.  The best way to immerse yourself in a culture is through the food of that region.

Looking back at previous vacations, I don’t remember any specific desserts at fancy restaurants or cocktails at beachside bars.  I know I’ve had many – they’re just not very memorable.  But here’s a list of foods I do remember, quite vividly, from vacations past:

  • Venice: Peaches the size of navel oranges, dripping with juicy goodness purchased from an old woman at a canal-side cart.  And gelato for breakfast – yup, you read that right!
  • Paris: Baguette, gouda and grapes fresh from the bakery, fromagerie and fruit stand, respectively, and consumed on a park bench while gazing at the Seine – the best lunch I ever had.
  • Ipswich, MA: If you like clams and never had an Ipswich clam from Massachusetts, you need to fix that.
  • Sonoma & Napa Counties, CA: Figs, olive oil and (of course!) wine and pretty much any produce item from that region.  A food lovers dream.
  • Scotland: Salmon.  Just being in Scotland in July is a slice of heaven but, if Scotland were actually heaven, salmon is what they would serve.
  • Vermont: Extra sharp aged cheddar, the perfect snack after a Green Mountain hike.
  • And the bounties of the shores of Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin:
Sunset on Lake Superior

Sunset on Lake Superior

This is the view from my post-run stretching spot on Madeline Island, WI.  We make the trek with our kids from NY nearly every year. And what a trek it is – it’s remote and not easy to get to. But so worth it for its quiet, simplicity and beauty. Imagine a yoga class with these views? I’ve done it, it’s better than you can imagine. It’s also home to some yummy treats. The raspberries and blackberries are like candy.  Wild rice is in abundance.  Nearby are small, family-owned bison and dairy farms.  And, did I mention the fish?

The other healthy reality is these local culinary gems are minimally processed and are as close to farm-to-table as you can get.  There’s no junk in this food.  So nosh on it liberally and you won’t miss the cocktails, slabs of meat and decadent desserts you no longer have room to consume.  After all, you can get those at home anyway.

Exercising on Vacation

Sure, you can workout in the hotel or resort gym.  But you probably won’t want to and, really, what value is it to take time from your vacation to do the same workout you’d do at home in a place that even looks the same?

Again, take advantage of what’s different about a place you’re visiting.  Use your feet as your transportation whenever you can.  It’s a lot less hassle and stress than trying to find a parking space or maneuvering through an unfamiliar public transportation system.  You’ll see and experience so much more this way.

Rent a bike and meander about town.  Explore your adventurous side, try parasailing or paddleboard yoga.  Take scuba or surfing lessons.  Maybe try snorkeling or roller blading.  Take a family hike.  I promise, there will still be plenty of time left to relax by the pool or nap in the hammock.  But, if you move at least a little every day, you will sleep better at night and feel more refreshed and energized during the day.

Some of my favorite active vacation memories: walking miles through Rome, Venice and Paris with my husband on our honeymoon; walking miles through Disney World with my husband and kids (twice and counting); hiking in the Berkshires; kayaking on Lake Superior; biking through Martha’s Vineyard; jogging barefoot on the beach in Gloucester, MA; yoga classes on the shores of Madeline Island, WI (see above) and this in my favorite U.S. city:

Beacon Hill from bridge of the Charles River, Boston

Beacon Hill from bridge over the Charles River, Boston

I snapped this pic while cooling-down after a jog along the Charles River in Boston. The photo doesn’t do this lovely city justice. Boston, in its entirety, is literally an outdoor historical museum. It begs to be explored on foot. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile marked path that reveals 16 of the most important sites and events in US history. A separate marked trail retraces Paul Revere’s ride. Not to mention historical Fenway Park, Boston Common & Public Gardens. The city is compact, it’s possible to see it all using only the power of your feet.  Oh, and the food is great too!

As long as you abandon the idea that bringing healthy eating and exercise with you on vacation means deprivation and sweating it out in a stuffy, bland gym you can begin to see all the things it could be.

Think back, maybe you have some special regional food memories from vacations past.  How about some memories of a new place explored in a uniquely active way?  Remember how those experiences made the vacation that much more memorable and enjoyable?

Take that perspective with you on your next trip.  Have an open mind and be prepared to have the best vacation of your life.  Just don’t forget to pack your sneakers.

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