Updated: Jul 15, 2019
The summer is upon us and you’ve been hitting the gym hard to get that beach body ready and succeeded but what should you do to maintain that whilst you’re away?
Travelling can be a stressful thing for the avid gym goer, myself included. For years I’d built this illusion in my head that if I take a week off from the gym all of my results would disappear and I’d be back to square one. If, like me, you are a gym junkie, the first thing you need to do when travelling is RELAX. I promise you, all your hard work won’t go to waste if you take some time off. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll see a lot of benefit. If you’ve been training hard before your vacation (like many of us do) your body is likely tired and overtrained. This opportunity to recover will be invaluable for future gains. Now I’m not saying don’t do anything at all and completely go off the rails with your diet, that will most definitely leave you in a worse off position but loosening the noose a little bit won’t hurt you like you thought it might.
The first obstacle you will most likely face is the airplane or travelling itself. The excessive amount of sitting if you have to travel a long way can be extremely detrimental to your mobility and leave your body feeling tight and out of shape right off the bat. A good way to battle this is with some light stretches anteriorly (the front of your body) as well as posterior (back side of your body) activation work. This can be done in the airport or on arrival at the hotel.
Nutrition is probably the most challenging part of travel for most people. My advice here is going to differ depending on who you are. If you have been disciplined for a long time and are likely to return to a balanced lifestyle when you return from your trip, chill out. Seriously, it will be fine. Food is so much more than just the physiological effects is has on your body, it has cultural values and should be seen as a pleasure in life (within reason). Take the opportunity to enjoy your food for taste, culture and to socialize, and reap the psychological benefits of doing this. If you’ve been restricting your calories for an extended period of time your body will be grateful for the extra calories and this will reflect in your training when you get back. Now. If you are someone who lacks discipline and good eating habits heading into your trip, be cautious. Don’t fall into the trap (like I have many times) of going completely off the rails just because you’re on vacay. Doing that will be damaging to your progress. I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself, just be smart. If I know Im going to indulge at dinner, I’ll try to offset that by having lighter lunches and breakfasts. I’ve found it extremely useful to put a box of protein bars in my suitcase, whilst not ideal, its a great option to have on hand when in a jam.
Remaining active is one of my favourite ways to limit the damages of all the extra calories I’m consuming. I know I’m unlikely to get proper workouts with heavy weights in whilst I’m away (nor do I really want to) but that doesn’t mean I have to become completely sedentary. One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply find ways to move. If it’s a city break, go explore, if its by the beach, go for a swim, whatever it is just get moving. If I’m lucky enough that my hotel has a gym, I will use it. This isn’t for everyone but personally I feel better and enjoy my day more if can sneak a quick workout in in the morning. Naturally these gyms are not the best equipped gyms in the world but most will have some dumbbells and a cable machine at the very least. If I’m working out in a hotel gym I’ll go off my program and just have some fun with it. I’ll often experiment with ways to make light dumbbells more challenging. I typically favour higher intensity workouts in this setting to make it more challenging and also to try burn more calories in a shorter amount of time to offset all the extra calories I’m taking in.
If like me you are a gym fanatic another thing I like to do when away is a bit of “gym tourism” particularly in larger cities as there are some bad ass gyms out there. One of my favourite takeaways from last years trip to LA was getting the opportunity to train at the Gold Gym Venice Beach aka “The Mecca”. We were even lucky enough to train at the same time as the man himself Arnold. So do your research and find a cool gym to go to whilst you’re away and potentially meet one of your heroes.
One of the more challenging aspects with travel is what to do when you get back. A lot of this will depend on how long you’ve been away for and what you managed to get done. If your trip was less then 5 days then generally speaking your should be able to pick up right where you left off, especially if you managed to stay active. If you went away longer then that I’d suggest backing off the intensity for a week or so to help you get back into it. Travelling is tough on the body, from being stuck on long haul flights, to poor sleep and nutrition, travelling can take its toll and you need to allow your body a chance to recover. If you don’t, the risk of injury and (more likely) illness goes up. If you haven’t been looking after yourself your body is probably under stress, weight training is an additional stress that the body doesn’t need, hence we get sick. This is a great opportunity to focus on some other aspects of your training, focus on mobility and form rather than pushing as much weight as possible.
So if you’re off on a trip most importantly, enjoy yourself. Allowing yourself a mental break from tracking calories and workouts can be just as beneficial as staying active. Enjoy your food (in moderation) and give your body the much deserved recovery it needs.