Maintaining your fitness while on vacation

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I’m currently having a great time on vacation with my wife. I’m not worried about getting workouts in. I’m not even being consistent at tracking what I’m eating. I’m focused on other things.

This might sound strange but this approach is the best way for me to get the most for my fitness while on vacation. Let me explain why.

Relationships are a key element of your health

Instead of worrying about my diet and exercise, I’m focused on the relationship with my wife. My relationship to her is more important to me than working out or getting enough protein. 

You’re probably thinking that I’m either crazy for throwing health out of the window or not telling you the whole story, but let me explain why my relationship is more important than my diet or strength. 

First, and this probably goes without saying, that given the choice between my health and my wife, is pick my wife every single time. So I have no problem dedicating a couple weeks of vacation to her. 

But there’s an aspect to health in my decision as well. The single greatest factor in your longevity is not diet or exercise it is the quantity and depth of your close and significant relationships. We’re social creatures and need to have people that we can confide in, people we can share are highs and lows with, people we can help make their lives better and that make our lives better. 

We’re in Italy for just under 2 weeks and so far it’s been a blast. I’ve lived in Italy for 6 years of my life and it’s been so much fun to take Kayla around and show her all the amazing sites, food, and people. Even better than the sites or food has been being with her 24/7. She’s my favorite person. 

Lots of good food and no gym

We’ve been enjoying typical Italian food: pizza, bread, cheese, pastries, gelato, panini, pasta, etc. All these foods are high in carbs and low in protein and left unchecked for 14 days, could erase a couple months of work on your fat loss efforts and work in the gym.

So how am I balancing these two opposing goals? Wanting to focus on my relationship and still wanting to maintain the progress that I have made in the kitchen and gym with minimal effort.

Before I answer that, I want to make something clear. The most important thing to note here is that I’m not just saying “forget it!” and not doing anything to help me maintain my health and fitness. I am being careful to not overindulge and to stay active. But at the same time I realize that I’m on vacation and want to enjoy my time here.

Dealing with the change in diet

Italy is famous for their food. We have loved all the freshly baked bread, mozzarella di buffala, pecorino, prosciutto crudo, pizza napoletana, arancini and pasta all’amatriciana we have been able to eat. 

While eating everything we want to, we don’t eat huge amounts of food. We’re careful about not settling for something now when we already have plans later for something else we really want. Like always, I make sure to enjoy each bite of food. 

Dealing with no gym

There’s several things that we’re doing to combat not having gym access. 

First, I do go through some basic exercise routines. In the morning I do a simple bodyweight routine with exercises like split squats, shoulder dislocates, and pushups. In the evening while we unwind and talk about the things we did I go through a simple mobility routine. 

Second, we’re walking a lot, an average of 18,000 steps or just over 7 miles each day according to my phone. Most of the time this is with a 15-20 pound bag on each of our backs.

We’re averaging about 18,000 steps per day.

Non-exercise activity (NEAT), like walking, is one of the bigger contributors to your total daily energy expenditure, just behind your normal body functions. So with the high amount of vigorous walking we are doing, we’re burning a significant amount of calories which has allowed us to not worry too much about how much we are eating.

On days where we haven’t walked as much as others I make sure to eat smaller portions while still enjoying every bite.

Take the long view

Everything will be alright.

Realize that the point of your vacation is not to have your exercise routine and diet as your top priority. Is it worth getting frustrated and potentially ruining a vacation, with the fact that you have undone some work in the gym while traveling? Not if you have health and fitness as a long term priority in your life because your vacation is just a blip.

Take the time you are on vacation to strengthen the relationship with those who you’re traveling with. That’s the biggest thing that will move the needle for your health while you’re away from home.

You’ll get back home and be back in the swing of things before you know it. Be kind to yourself and don’t sweat the small stuff.