A few years ago, my wife and I took our honeymoon to Hawaii. As you can see, I had an awesome time:
Running was last on my to-do list (and my wife would have killed me if I was running 80+ miles per week during our trip) but as soon as we returned, I was still in excellent shape.
In fact, I was fit enough to jump right into aggressive marathon training that resulted in my 2:39:32 marathon PR at the Philadelphia Marathon.
When most athletes let their fitness plummet during a vacation, how do you balance staying in good shape with early cocktail hours, day trips, and family commitments?
This question, and my experience, led me to write a free report called How to Stay Fit on Vacation. It’s available to download for Strength Running email readers (Sign up here to get your copy) but today I want to give you a preview of the lessons I learned.
You can use these principles to dramatically cut your overall mileage, reduce your strength training, and worry less about training – while still staying in great running shape.
Introduction to How to Stay Fit on Vacation
I honeymooned for 12 days on the Big Island and Maui in Hawaii. My new wife and I did it all: snorkeling coral reefs, paddle boarding, hiking to 400 foot waterfalls through bamboo forests, hiking over a hardened lava lake, and drinking fruity cocktails at the pool (don’t tell my guy friends).
It was a whirlwind of activity and awesomeness. With the six hour time difference and all of the sights and activities we wanted to experience during this once-in-a-lifetime vacation, it was exhausting.
Usually it was difficult to run or fit in a strength workout. After all, when are you supposed to train when you leave your hotel at 3:15am to watch the sunrise from the largest dormant volcano in the world?
Despite all of the sight-seeing, I managed to stay in good shape and ready to start training at a high level for the Philadelphia Marathon. I took a lot of days off and rarely ran more than 5 miles (I usually average about 10), but I still feel fast.
As I was running on the Big Island at the start of my honeymoon, I was thinking about how to best stay in shape, spend time with Meaghan, and enjoy my vacation without worrying about running too often. This was a honeymoon, after all.
I developed a rough plan for myself that focused on a few key principles that I want to share with you. You can use this guide to help you stay fit on your next vacation without being the annoying fitness freak that alienates your family.
After all, taking a vacation should be relaxing. It should be fun. You should spend time with your family or friends, not with the treadmill or your favorite core workout.
If I was running 10 miles every day, I know that Meaghan would be upset. And who wants an angry wife? (I’m learning how to be a great husband already!) Normally she calls me a “core whore” but not during the honeymoon.
Taking a break from hard training can give you the energy you need to come back and train hard, refocus on a new goal, or just give you a serious motivation boost. Now that my honeymoon is over, I’m ready to dominate. I want to crush this marathon. My motivation is at an all-time high and I credit my vacation for giving me time to relax and refocus. Your vacation can do the same for you.
This guide can show you how. I’ve heard from a lot of runners that vacations throw them off their schedules, they abandon all common sense when it comes to running, and they gain a lot of weight. It doesn’t have to be that way! It’s not that difficult to maintain your running fitness and limit the weight gain. I’ll provide some simple workouts you can do to stay in shape and explain three important principles you need to know to succeed.
There are also a few diet guidelines throughout this guide. I’m not a nutrition expert, but it’s a hobby of mine and I can give you some common sense strategies for limiting your weight gain on vacation. If you’re really into nutrition and optimizing your diet, I highly recommend:
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
- In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
- The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
- The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel
What Do You Want to Accomplish?
As you head into your vacation, you first need to ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Everyone has different goals for a break from the daily grind: spending quality time with family or friends, sight-see national parks, lounge on the beach, or visit theme parks are all common reasons for taking a trip.
If you’re planning a fitness vacation that focuses on sports and getting in good shape, stop here. Close this book, it’s not for you. This guide is for people who want to maintain fitness but don’t want to do much work.
Sounds too good to be true, but if your vacation is only 1-2 weeks you can definitely maintain your fitness level with a fraction of the workload you’re currently used to. Now, let’s be clear: you won’t build any fitness. You’re not going to gain endurance or get faster. But you’ll be at about the same level when you return home.
Once you figure out why you’re on vacation, then that should be your focus. Mercilessly cut out other distractions (like running!) so you can enjoy yourself to the fullest. Whether it’s time with family or riding every roller coaster in a theme park, focus on that.
Some people are addicted to email, television, video games, or working out. If that’s not your primary goal during your trip, then just stop or dramatically reduce your time spent on it. On your vacation, these are simply distractions.
One of my personal goals during my honeymoon was actually to not prioritize running. Even though running is typically one of my top priorities and never gets cut from my day, it was routinely skipped during this vacation.
Since I acknowledged that this was going to happen and planned for it, there was no guilt involved. Let me say that again: if you know something is going to happen, and you planned for it from the beginning, then you won’t feel guilty or upset when it eventually happens.
That strategy is powerful for reducing your anxiety on your vacation. Who wants to be anxious on vacation?
Once you know your goals for your trip, then you’re ready to start planning your training. Running is probably one of your priorities, although it’s likely that it comes after “do nothing at the beach for most of the day” or “ride every roller coaster in the park until I puke.”
Before you leave, you should sketch out a rough outline of how you’d like to train. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and should actually be very vague. Since your plans might change, or you may not actually have any set plans yet, you want to have a fluid training plan in place.
Before we get to several sample training plans, the next section discusses the key principles to follow to get the most out of the limited training you’ll do while on vacation.
The full guide includes:
- My day-to-day vacation training
- Example training weeks for vacations
- Where to run on different types of trips
- How to adjust your training for various vacations (like road trips, theme parks, and more)
- More resources…
You can download the entire guide for free – just click here.
Now, raise your glass to staying fit while still enjoying your vacation cocktails!