APU Health & Fitness Original

How to Stick with Healthy Habits during Summer Travel

By Adrienne Herrenbruck, Ph.D, ACSM-EP
Faculty Member, Sports and Health Sciences

Summer is in full swing, and the world is back to full steam ahead on trips and vacations!

With the more flexible summer schedule, most individuals and families find themselves on the road more often, traveling to see friends and family or having a nice getaway. But travel can also have a negative side effect: these trips can pose a fairly large barrier to your healthy habits.

Whether you’re nervous that you’ll skip your workouts or you worry that one too many poolside beverages will have you back to the drawing board on your nutrition, you’re not alone. There is a decent amount of anxiety among my personal training clients when it comes to travel and sticking to healthy habits. 

But here’s the deal: vacation is supposed to be fun! So how do you stick to healthy habits during vacation or work trips, so you’re not coming home feeling like there’s an uphill battle to get back to normal with your diet and workouts?

The answer can really be condensed to two ideas: plan what you can and don’t worry about the rest. Often, my clients will be very stressed that they can’t plan their food or workouts.

However, there are usually quite a few healthy habits that they can follow while away from home. Here are five of my favorite healthy habits that have been helpful for many clients.

Related link: 3 Physical Activities for Reducing and Managing Your Stress

#1: Eat Your Protein First

One of the biggest fears when traveling is the lack of control around whatever food is available. Whether you prefer to eat according to a specific food plan (such as paleo or keto) or a given quantity (such as calories, macros, or Weight Watchers points), it’s pretty much impossible to plan ahead for all of the food you’ll consume when on vacation.

Here’s an easy hack: Always eat the protein first. 

Imagine, for example, you’re at an Italian restaurant. Don’t worry – you can have the bread and olive oil, but wait until after you’ve had some of your chicken parm. Similarly, skip the tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant until after you’ve had some of your fajitas.

This hack is great for two reasons: you get full faster, and you don’t skimp on protein. If you’re getting enough protein from your meals, you will likely be much more satisfied more quickly. It’s often tough to get good sources of protein at every meal while you’re on the road, so eating it first will help you get closer to an average daily target.

#2: Drink Water

Drinking water is a no-brainer because of course we need to drink water, no matter where we are. However, keeping up with a certain water goal while on vacation has two advantages: it keeps you hydrated and keeps you from drinking other calorie-filled beverages.

Try to drink an amount (in ounces) that is at least half of your body’s weight in pounds. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, aim to consume at least 100 ounces of water a day.

#3: Make Physical Activity Fun

When you’re traveling, plan a fun, exercise-based activity for your group. For me, hiking the local trails is fun – it’s a great way to explore the area and be active.

My goal with physical movement on vacation is to get the most out of my trip. Sometimes this exercise is a quick workout in the hotel gym, but more often it includes incorporating other types of enjoyable movement – walking, hiking or swimming – into my day. 

When we can equate being active with having fun and relaxing, we’ve really hit the jackpot. I mean, long walks on the beach are a thing for a reason.

And if you’re working on building muscle and afraid you will lose your muscle mass while you’re on the road, don’t worry. A recent study found that to maintain our muscle mass and strength, we only need to do about 1/9th of the work we did to build it.

Our bodies are incredible. Take a week off from weightlifting (consider it a well-deserved rest period between workouts), and get back to it later.

#4: Try New Local Gyms

While my preference on vacation is to explore and be active doing unique activities other than a formal workout, it’s also super fun to try a new gym or exercise class while I’m traveling. If you really love to work out, trying out a local gym one or two times while you’re away can be extremely rewarding.

At these local gyms, I suggest trying a new workout using whatever unique equipment that gym may have. Maybe the gym has a sled you can push around or an exercise class that isn’t offered in your area.

Many gyms will give you a week’s pass for a relatively low price. It’s worth your time to check out local gym possibilities before you get to your destination.

Related link: Oxidative Stress: Protect Your Body with Exercise and Diet

#5: Set Fun Goals

We are all unique, and everyone has their own ideas of what constitutes a “fun” healthy habit. Consider a goal you can set that seems doable and realistic, but also enhances your vacation.

For me, this tip works best when I set clear, objective goals (such as drinking 60 ounces of water every day). Subjective goals (such as trying not to overeat at meals) are harder to accomplish.

For this habit, you create your own unique goals. One goal that has been successful for my clients is as simple as “I will have one plate of food at dinner.” Another is, “I’ll get in 7,000 steps every day – no excuses!” 

Again, these goals are objective and clear. They take away the ambiguity while still allowing for an enjoyable vacation experience.

While all these goals may seem trivial, they help you to build a healthier lifestyle overall. Remember, every small action helps to prove that you are a healthy person who lives a healthy lifestyle.

Believe you can follow healthy habits and follow through with your simple goals. Consistently being intentional about your health is what leads to a lifelong healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Herrenbruck is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sports & Health Sciences. She earned her Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kentucky and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Her research interests focus on skeletal muscle physiology, and she has a passion for discussing the convergence of science and healthy living.

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