Vacations are to be enjoyed, and a little bit of gluttony is probably a good thing, but there’s also something to be said for not loathing yourself as you slump over at your desk the Monday you get back. One common theme you’re going to notice with a lot of these tips is that a tiny bit of preparation makes it a lot easier to make the right choices.
1. Pre-vacation or upon arrival: Plan or sign up for some activities. Surf lessons, scuba diving, hiking excursions. I myself love the vacation hike. I prefer walks to hikes when I’m at home in Texas, but for some reason I turn into Jon Krakauer when I’m on vacation. If you’re the type that has a hard time down-shifting your first couple days, hiking is the perfect way to do it. It gets you out in nature, where you can commune with birds and shit. It also helps get the stiffness out of your legs if you had a long, vodka addled airplane ride in.
2. Day 1, get your ass to a grocery store. Buy some vegetables, buy some fruit. If your hotel has a fridge, by all means, buy some healthy protein of some sort: yogurt, hard boiled eggs, whey protein, etc. I try to eat a healthy breakfast on my balcony every morning. If I eat out, I go to a cafe, instead of the hotel restaurant (stay the hell away from buffets). It feels like I’m absorbing the local flavor, and for whatever reason, I’m less likely to stuff my face in a proper restaurant. Oh, and it costs a lot less.
3. Exercise is key, but not necessarily for the calories burned. I tend to make better nutritional choices if I get a workout in in the morning. It’s more difficult to say, “Oh F*** it all to hell, I’m having eight eclairs,” if you’ve already done something healthy that morning. The key is to find something new and different, and this is how you do it: Find a workout challenge. It doesn’t have to be anything special, but it does need to be novel. For example, if you’ve never run on the beach before, create an agility course in the deep sand. Time yourself on it and do intervals. Then repeat every day while steadily increasing reps or decreasing rest time. The fun thing about this is that you will improve your times, because you’re a novice. Your body and your brain will adapt to the workout over the course of your vacation. Progress is fun. Think about how it was the first month that you ever bench pressed. You probably got stronger every workout. Before long, though, you started berating yourself for hitting plateaus. Then you endured the embarrassment of creatine farts in exchange for a few extra pounds on your max. You can re-create that feeling here (the progress feeling, not the creatine fart feeling).
4. Walk. Let’s be honest with each other here; you’re probably not gonna make it to that beach run every day. Above is the video I took of one of my vacation hill workouts. They were genuine SOB’s, but they were over quickly and I got to pretend that I was an athlete again. Maybe it’ll help motivate you to work out on your vacation in some small way, but know this: I skipped the next day. What I didn’t skip was getting my 10,000 steps. I wear one of those annoyingly ubiquitous Fitbits, and I use the hell out of it. The unexpected byproduct of using the Fitbit is that I’ve seen way more of Houston than I ever did before, and it has transformed the way I view exercise. I find myself going on walks now because I enjoy walking, but I never knew that I enjoyed walking until I started chasing those 10,000 steps per day. Now I’ve worked walking into my daily routine to such an extent that I rarely have to work to fit those steps in. The Fitbit serves mostly as a backup to let me know if I’m slipping into lazier routines. If I go a couple days at sub-10,000, I know I have to change my daily routine.
5. Anyhow, if you’ve got a hundred or so bucks laying around, consider buying a Fitbit before you leave on vacation. You’ll find yourself doing strange things, like strolling on the beach in the moonlight instead of watching Police Academy 3: Back in Training, which was the only DVD that wasn’t scratched all to hell in your rental cottage, and no, there is no internet here.
6. Avoid the sugary alcoholic beverages. I’m looking at you, Pina Colada. Pina Coladas are the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to a tropical vacation. They’re refreshing, they’re sweet, and they’re deceptively strong. The problem is that they’re packing up to 500 calories if you get the mega sized ones. I know your personal trainer told you not to worry about counting calories, but that advice has a threshold. It’s like asking about somebody’s number of sexual partners. You should really try not to care, but if their number is 500 you might want to take some extra precautions. You want to stay super disciplined about getting snockered, stick to straight liquor, maybe with some soda water. The added benefit there is that you may have less of a hangover the next day.
7. Change your vacation expectations. The old saw, “Are you eating to live or living to eat,” applies two-fold when you’re on vacation. I used to spend a whole lot of time on vacation waiting in line to eat, finding places to eat, arguing about where we should eat, and on and on. What a waste of time. You’re in a new place for a week, and you’ve likely spent a good chunk of money to be there. By all means, enjoy the local cuisine, but remember that there are a lot of other things to do as well. If you want to spend time waiting in line at Denny’s, you can do that in your hometown. On vacation, you should spend that time humping your wife on the beach. There will be plenty of time when you get back home to hump her at Denny’s.