Got some upcoming holiday plans? If you're looking to unplug while sticking to some of your regular healthy habits, keep these expert tips in mind.
You get to decide how you vacation. Beyond allotting time for a good book or a fancy dinner, it’s up to you what you unplug from and for how long. The ability to choose what makes you happy and do only that is the best part of a vacation. This may seem controversial but for most people, I don't think they should worry [about keeping up],” suggests registered nutritionist, Daniel Clarke.
“Unless you have a really specific goal in the near future, such as training for a bodybuilding competition (which means you're probably not going on holiday anyway), then you can't really be unsuccessful. A week or two is not going to completely throw your progress out the window.”
While it’s okay not to pressure yourself into keeping up your healthier habits if what you need is a full break, it’s also true that you may want that exact kind of vacation. A 2020 study found that there’s a direct correlation between happiness and physical activity, so it’s no surprise that some may find joy in keeping healthy habits going.
Below we tapped a few more experts to share their best healthy holiday tips (if that’s what you want for your vacation), plus a 20-minute exercise routine that’s doable anywhere.
Before you start working out on vacation, take stock of your surroundings and work with them instead of against them. The easiest place to start is usually with cardio, especially if you’re in a warm place that allows you to go outside for a workout or two.
You also won’t have to give up too much of your time in exchange for a high-reward workout. According to a 2023 study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, an 11-minute cardio workout per day can still help you lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other ailments.
David Gershkovich, physical therapist and clinical director of Riser Physical Medicine, suggests combining a few forms of cardio you enjoy the most. Jogging in place, jumping jacks, high knees, and burpees all come recommended.
A resistance band is also a handy piece of equipment to bring with you on vacation. Inexpensive, light, and easy to stow away in the corner of your suitcase, they work great for added resistance on a range of bodyweight exercises.
Clarke piggybacks on how to make the most of all your next vacation has to offer.
“If you're lucky enough to be going somewhere warmer, then try out local and seasonal fruits and vegetables,” encourages Clarke. “For the minority with an allergy or intolerance, it might be a good idea to find a couple of restaurants near you that you know can cater to your needs to give you peace of mind. If you follow a particular diet, such as a plant-based diet, then doing some prior research can also be helpful to avoid pitfalls like getting chicken when you asked for a vegetarian meal.”
To help you stay on track (especially if you’re training for a competition or marathon), Clarke also recommends eating at regular meal times when possible, packing familiar snacks with you, and bringing along some Huel Powder, if you feel like you will struggle to hit your protein target.
Keeping to regular meal times can be especially helpful because it will help regulate your circadian rhythm, which determines your body’s internal clock and has a direct effect on your daytime energy levels and sleep hygiene, according to studies.
If your goal is to have a more complete, regimented workout while you’re away, Gershkovich pulled together a 20-minute workout that will not disappoint.
“If you have 20 minutes and want to get a well-rounded workout, the most efficient approach is to create a functional movement flow that incorporates the four most important movements of life — squat, hinge, push, and pull,” explains Gershkovich.
Sets and reps: Perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of air squats
Technique: Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Tense your abdominal muscles while bending at the knees as if you were sitting on a chair. Each rep is completed once you straighten your legs back up and return to your starting position.
Pro-tip: If you want to add resistance, hold any weighted item or bag close to your body and squat. This exercise is a great way to work all of the lower body muscles efficiently.
Sets and reps: Perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
Technique: You’ll check the box on a completed rep when you bring your body back to its starting position after you’ve (1) Placed your feet hip distance apart and added a bend to your knees (2) Kept your back straight as you bent at the waist (3) Tighten your glutes as you lower your torso until you’re parallel to the floor (4) Returned to your starting position.
Pro-tip: The goal is to let your hips and lower body do all the work while sticking your butt out as you lower your torso. This exercise works on lower leg strength and stability and it also helps lengthen the muscles of the hind leg.
Sets and reps: 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
Technique: While on the ground, place your hands under your shoulders and your feet hip distance apart. Lower your body until you're almost touching the floor, and then push back up.
Pro-tip: Push-ups with modifications (on your knees instead of propped on your feet or with your feet on a chair or wall) also count! This exercise works the front of your upper body and engages your core.
Sets and reps: 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
Technique: The best way to pull up with no equipment is with the Prone W exercise. Here’s how you bring Prone W to your hotel room — lie on the floor on your stomach, arms out to a W position, and pull the shoulder blades down and back.
Pro-tip: This drill strengthens the muscle around your upper and mid back and is also great for postural training.
No matter where you’re headed next, take an audit of where you are (physically and emotionally) and what will help you fill your cup.
“While staying committed to your fitness goals is important, being flexible and enjoying your trip is also essential,” explains Dr. Haley Perlus, a sports and performance psychologist. “Don't berate yourself if you miss a workout or have a ‘cheat meal.’” And heck, don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t feel like working out or eating healthy at all.
Adding movement and nutritious meals to your vacation isn’t about piling on stress; instead, it’s about offering yourself joy in an even more beautiful place.
Words: Vivian Nunez
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