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While the goal of any vacation should be to enjoy the experience as much as possible, you’ll likely feel better if you’re able to incorporate physical activity into your travel plans. “It can feel great to connect with your body after sitting on a long flight, or an energizing way to get your day started,” says Alex Weissner, an RRCA-certified run coach and co-founder of bRUNch Running. “Plus, you won't be completely out of your routine or have lost strength when you transition back to life at home.”
Yet spending part of the day trapped in a tiny hotel gym when you could be out exploring can sound entirely unappealing. Fortunately, there are many other ways to stay active while on vacation—ones that can make your trip even more fun. To get a few ideas, we spoke to five fitness professionals who gave us some of their insider secrets.
1. Walk everywhere you can
Walking is one of the easiest, yet most effective ways to be active and enjoy your travels in just about any destination, says Whitney Hoover, a certified personal trainer and the founder of WH Body Refinery.
“By exploring a new town by foot, you can really get a feel for the city and might find a cute shop or destination around the corner you would have missed in a car,” she says. “And if I'm somewhere with beautiful views and nature, I'll of course plan a hike for one day.” Organized walking tours are also a great way to get your steps in while learning about the local culture and sights.
Before a long travel day in particular, you can stretch your legs and get the blood flowing with a purposeful stroll. “Mindfully walking in the mornings to start your day is a great way to exercise and set an intention,” says Heather Carroll, a certified personal trainer and the owner of A Balanced Life Training. “Make sure your shoulders are over your ribs and ribs are over your hips. Focus on your breath and the core activating to breathe out.”
2. Try a new boutique fitness class
Even if your fitness budget is limited when you’re at home, when you’re on vacation, consider splurging on a special boutique fitness class. Treating yourself to a new workout can be fun. “Check out the city's best yoga studio or try a workout you don't have available in your hometown,” says Hoover.
3. Sign up for an active course
Daniel Richter, a certified personal trainer and the CEO of StrengthLog, says you can make exercise an enjoyable part of your travels by signing up for a workshop in something fun like beach volleyball, diving, surfing, or tennis.
“You will learn something new or learn more about something you're already interested in, and meet new people along the way,” he says. “Plan ahead and see what is available where you are going.” Check out local schools and workshops, plus options on Tripadvisor and Airbnb Experiences.
4. Rent bikes
Hopping on a bike is a great way to get around and explore a new place. “Not only will that bring you closer to the new environment and the people compared to sitting behind a car glass, but your daily activity will skyrocket,” says Richter. “Just make sure to pack proper shoes.” If you prefer something more structured, look up options for a bike tour.
5. Take a “traincation”
Instead of fitting your exercise into your vacation, you can also build your vacation around physical activity! Richter likes to make exercise the centerpiece of his travels. “There's no limit to how ambitious you can get here: The aspiring yogi might travel to India, the Thai fighter might visit a training camp in Thailand, and the bodybuilding enthusiast might visit gyms where the greatest bodybuilders have trained,” he shares.
6. Get in the water
Take advantage of natural water if you happen to be somewhere with a lake or beach: Go for a swim, or rent a paddle board or kayak. “You'll get your heart rate up and get a mental health boost from time in nature,” says Hoover. Or, see if you can book a hotel with a pool where you can swim laps.
If you’re a runner, you can make your vacation turf your new running grounds. “Starting your morning in a new place with a run or walk allows you to see a place during the quiet hours, from a different perspective, and helps you become familiar with a city,” says Weissner. “When booking a hotel for travel, I always start by locating parks and trails.”
Her recommendation? “Do not plan your route because then you will become obsessed with looking at street names instead of taking in the new landscape in front of you. Pick your direction and go.” (Just be sure to bring your phone with you so you can find your way back!) Weissner often starts with a straightforward out-and-back run on her first day when she's still getting her bearings. "But while I am running, I make it a point to look for coffee shops that I will pass on my way back,” she says.
Most major cities today also offer running tours. Or, you can plan your trip around a destination race. “There are road and trail races all over the world, and these events are the ideal way to start a vacation,” Weissner says.
8. Choose your hotel wisely
If you feel more comfortable working out in a gym, Richter suggests doing some research before you book your accommodations. “Hotel gyms come in all shapes and sizes, but with a little bit of digging, you should be able to sniff out the good ones,” he explains. Or, you can book a place that's close to a gym that sells day passes. Just make sure the hours will work for your travel schedule.
9. Pack some small props—or just head outside with a workout in mind
Carroll says another way to get workouts in during your travels is to bring a few packable items. A flat resistance band, for instance, will fold up and weigh nothing, she says. A small Pilates ball can also be deflated and easily packed into a suitcase.
“You can get a full-body workout in a small space—or take it outside on a deck or the earth!” says Carroll.
Or, if you don’t have any extra room in your bag, just download a fitness app with live or on-demand streaming workouts. Roxie Jones, an NASM-certified personal trainer on the Alo Moves platform, says many of these workouts require no equipment and you can choose from sessions as short as 5 minutes or up to 60 minutes or more on most platforms.
Jones is also a big fan of AMRAP workouts (as many reps as possible) using bodyweight exercises. “AMRAPs involve a lot of work in a short amount of time, plus the sweat feels good when I'm out of a routine,” she says. “These workouts can easily be done on the balcony of your hotel, poolside, or my personal favorite, right on the beach—and being able to hop right into the pool or ocean after a heart pumping, sweaty workout really makes it worthwhile!”
Follow along with this HIIT cardio workout on the go:
10. Make active choices
Jones points out that simple tweaks can help you get activity in without feeling like you’re stuck doing a workout instead of enjoying your trip. “Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the beach instead of riding the shuttle, swim a few laps instead of floating on the raft,” she advises. “Any movement is good movement on vacation! Keeping your joints mobile can keep you feeling good.”
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