Summer is almost here, and as they say, summer bods are made in the winter. However, what the saying doesn’t include is that summer bods also need to be maintained during the summer, which includes exercising and eating right even while you are on vacation.
However, most of us don’t take vacations that go from one gym to another—and quite frankly, the gym is something we may want to take a vacation from! But there is something you can do to make staying fit on vacation both fun and fulfilling: Enjoy a fitness destination.
The World is Your Gym
So, which is more fun—using a simulated climber at the local sweat mill, or going out and climbing a real rock? Yes, that’s right, there is nothing as exciting as the real thing, which is why a fitness destination is just the ticket for having the most enjoyment while staying in shape on vacation this summer.
However, just as with any physical activity, having some basic fitness for the event is key to taking your best vacation yet. And, since you have so many variations of fitness vacations to consider, finding one which you like best and preparing your fitness accordingly will ensure that you will get the most from your time away from the office—and the gym!
The Top Five Fitness Vacations and How to Train for Them
1. Take a Bike Tour
Whether you head to California for a wine country ramble or go to Italy to conquer the Dolomites, doing a bike-centric vacation can be just what you need to light up those vacation calories while enjoying the scenery of the open road. And, since most tour companies include the use of a bike and helmet, there is no need for you to invest in the latest and lightest equipment just to stay up with everyone.
However, what you will need to keep up with the front-runners is a fitness base, which you can develop in your spare time during the weeks leading up to your tour. Starting at around 8 weeks before the event, begin taking daily rides on a bike. This can be any bike, so long as it is comfortable, and is sized correctly for you.
Start with a week of 2 or 3 flat, easy, 10-15-mile rides in which you keep a pace that allows you to easily speak in full sentences while riding. The idea here isn’t to go as fast as you can, or to push yourself any harder than around 70 percent of your aerobic capacity. However, you do need to get used to keeping a pedaling cadence of around 80-120 rpm as you ride.
Continue riding in this manner while increasing your weekly mileage by one day per week until you are riding 5-days per week, and then gradually increase your daily mileage by around 2 to 5 miles per day until you are riding a total of 125 miles per week. Remember to consume enough complex carbohydrates and fats to keep from feeling hungry or “bonking,” which is when your muscles run out of glycogen, although not so much that you are overeating and gaining weight. Try carrying bananas, baked sweet potatoes and nuts along with you for fuel—all of which fit nicely in a jersey pocket.
By adhering to this simple training plan, you will stimulate the slow-twitch muscles you will need to make your days in the saddle effortless and enjoyable. Plus, there is something to be said for being able to eat like a teenager and return from your vacation having not gained an ounce!
2. Mountain Bike the Desert
As with getting ready for a road bike vacation, going to an area like Moab, Utah for the ultimate mountain biking vacation requires a fitness base—at least if you would like to maximize the fun.
However, there is more to mountain biking than sitting in the saddle spinning from winery to winery, and such things as off-road bike handling and upper body fitness need to be developed as well.
For this, it is best for you to train specifically on a mountain bike, since doing so is the best way to get you used to climbing, descending and braking on dirt. You should also intersperse your weekly base miles with (ideally) 2 to 3 gym workouts per week, which should include aerobic weight training with lifting reps of 12 to 15, and with a focus on core and shoulder strength. You can also use the gym to help increase your leg strength for the steep climbing you will likely be doing on the trail, and a heavier workout which focuses on the fast-twitch power muscles of the legs should be performed once per week. This can either be combined with your upper body workout or done on a separate “leg-only” day, which is recommended.
Naturally, you will need to add some extra protein to keep up with your increased muscle strength. Aim for around .72 grams of complete protein (contains all 20 essential amino acids—try quinoa for an outstanding vegetarian source) per pound of body weight per day and be sure to hydrate with plenty of water. In fact, skip the sweet, high carbohydrate sports drinks in favor of good old H2O for optimum performance.
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You should also consider adding such foods to your ride as baked sweet potatoes, peanut butter sandwiches, and hard-boiled eggs for additional whole food nutrition.
3. Go Climb a Mountain
Feeling ambitious? Is Kilimanjaro calling you this summer? Or, there is always Mt. Whitney or something else closer to home (and sea level!), should you want to start “small.”
However, no matter your high-altitude destination, you are going to need the legs and the lungs to make it up—not to mention some upper body strength for when the climbing becomes vertical.
Try trail running, which only requires a decent pair of trail shoes, shorts, and the great outdoors to perform. By taking advantage of the diverse terrain often found on single track trails, you can incorporate a natural form of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into your workouts which will help you gain the leg and lung power you will need to make it up the steep pitches of a high mountain.
However, even if you live in a city where there is little or no wilderness nearby, you can also utilize flights of stairs or steep city streets for the workout resistance you need. Even doing wind-sprints in deep beach sand can have strong benefits, although ideally, a vertical workout is best.
Hitting the weights is also a good idea, and 2 to 3 weight training workouts per week that incorporate anaerobic training of 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per upper body and leg region should work nicely; and core strength exercises such as planks or medicine ball workouts should be utilized as well.
Remember, too, that altitude can negatively affect many of us who are used to sea level. If you can acclimate to the thin air of high altitude by spending at least one week at 5,000 feet or more above sea level, you can avoid the potentially devastating effects of altitude sickness, which include nausea, headache, vomiting, and fatigue. You can also acclimate with an altitude mask or tent that simulates the low oxygen of high altitudes while you sleep, although these things aren’t cheap, and may not be the best investment for a one-time climb.
Finally, when you are at altitude, remember to drink LOTS of water, and to consider such blood-building foods as beets, legumes, red meat (such as grass-fed beef), and dark green leafy vegetables. You will also need some high-energy snacks, which can be anything from gorp—a mixture of peanut butter, granola, and dried fruit—to more typical protein bars. Coconut butter can also be used, since it is a rich source of both energy-providing fats, as well as soluble fiber to help aid digestion.
4. Surf the Waves
Not only can a surfing vacation keep you in tip-top physical shape, it can also do wonders to improve your balance and posture, while providing a natural sense of wellbeing from the ocean.
And, you have the opportunity for other activities when you are not surfing, such as snorkeling, body surfing, or open water swimming—all of which will add to your physical conditioning.
Naturally, preparing for a surfing vacation means spending time not only in the weight room, but in the water as well. If you have a beach nearby where it is safe to swim, you are in luck. Getting used to being in the ocean and swimming each day will get you ready for surfing much than anything else, although it isn’t necessary. If you live in an area without access to the ocean, lakes, or rivers, you can also sign up for your community swimming pool where lap swimming will help you build the kind of shoulder strength and lung power you will need for paddling a surfboard through the waves as well as finding your way back to the surface should you get caught in the “spin cycle” of a wave.
You should also use gym workouts that focus on core strength, shoulder strength, and aerobic capacity for your optimum performance on the waves; and balancing exercises such as using a wobble board or doing one-legged squats, which work wonders for your sense of staying upright on a moving surfboard.
For the perfect day, surf in the morning, go spear fishing in the afternoon, and enjoy a high-protein feast of barbecued fish on the beach at night. Add some rice and beans for energy packing complex carbohydrates, and you’re ready to go again tomorrow!
5. Kayak a River
Nothing is quite as thrilling as shooting the rapids in a kayak, or so enjoyable as exploring a shoreline in one. Plus, the workout you will get will have you in some of the best shape of your life!
For your best kayaking vacation, be ready for some intense arm, back, and core-strength workouts, as well as being prepared to hold your breath for up to a minute or longer, especially if you are planning any whitewater kayaking.
And, don’t neglect your legs when preparing for a kayaking vacation, since strong legs can not only help you swim out of trouble should you capsize, but in getting in and out of the kayak and portaging as well.
Try trail running, swimming and weight training during your weeks leading up to vacation time and remember to get as much open water swimming in as you are able. This is because being ready for the choppy water flowing over boulders and other river obstacles will require something other than a serene swimming pool where everything is predictable.
And, don’t forget to bring your fishing gear, since a feast of trout will provide you with plenty of lean protein, as well as some healthy fats for energy. Plus, few things are as satisfying after a hard day of paddling as fresh trout grilled over an open fire––tasty!
Nothing is as enjoyable as spending your summer vacation at a fitness destination, especially if you are in shape and ready to go when you get there. By following a fitness regimen leading up to your vacation which includes strengthening and conditioning your muscles and aerobic capacity for the event, you will be able to get the maximum benefit and enjoyment from your time away from work.
And, by keeping your diet high in proteins and good fats, low in simple carbohydrates, and include plenty of hydration while sticking to whole food sources, you can return from your vacation so lean and trim that others will question whether you had a good time or not!
However, the truth is you will probably have enjoyed more calories during your vacation than they did while gaining weight on theirs—just that you chose wiser calorie options, spent each day burning them off, and had a BLAST doing it!
By Scot Mills