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Working Out on Vacation Without the Stress!

the back of a long-haired person's head, working out on vacation at the beach with arms outstretched
Fitness Editor
Julia is a qualified fitness trainer. She writes our articles about nutrition and fitness. She also makes free workout plans for our site.

Looking forward to a well-deserved vacation, but worried about your fitness goals? Don’t fret! It’s all about striking the right balance: with these tips, you’ll enjoy working out on vacation and get the recovery time you need! 

Training regularly and reaping its mental and physical rewards can sometimes lead to a dilemma on vacations: the beach, palm trees, and relaxing by the pool are all great. But if you don’t have access to a gym – or you don’t feel like spending your time off work working out – sometimes your fitness routine doesn’t seem so easy to follow.

When you’re on vacation, it’s important to make some compromises between exercise and relaxation. Before you let a guilty conscience spoil your trip, it’s worth taking a moment to figure out what relaxation actually is for you.

If you set up the perfect relaxation conditions, it’s much easier to find the balance between vacation exercise and recovery.

Want to reduce stress when you get back home? Check out these nine tips for a calmer daily routine!

A yellow bike leans against the fence of a wooden boardwalk and ramp down to a light and sandy beach. The ocean beyond looks calm and still. The sky is light blue, and the sun is setting from off-camera, lending long shadows to the ground and a yellow-white glow to the left half of the sky.
©the_burtons

What Relaxation Type is Right for My Vacation?

A long evening with friends, waking up without an alarm clock and eating a hearty breakfast with family, enjoying the sunrise while doing yoga on the beach, jogging through the sleeping city, or weight training while everyone else is still asleep? What is it that really helps you relax?

Here are 4 general types of relaxation to help inspire you. Figure out which resonates with you the most, then book the vacation that’s right for you!

#1 Relax on vacation with rest & wellness

Enjoy meditating in silence and winding down the evening in the sauna? Then maybe relaxing yoga sessions are just what you need to stay fit on vacation. Swimming in the ocean or relaxing walks also help fill up your relaxation reserves.

When you need a mental health break, it can be good to just cut your normal workout short and devote yourself to what feels good without any kind of plan. But if you do feel like working out on vacation, you should go for it!

#2 Relax on vacation with exercise & activity

Just the thought of a whole day in a beach chair drowns you in boredom? If doing nothing during your vacation is not your thing, then you‘re better off hiking, biking, or following a high-intensity workout plan with well-planned recovery time!

With an active vacation, you don’t have to worry about staying fit. Even if your usual workouts don’t fit in your vacation schedule, the other exercise makes up for it and your strength and endurance will come back quickly.

#3 Relax on vacation with socializing & inspiration

Long evenings with friends, walking around cultural treasures, and plenty of socializing are all part of the perfect getaway for you? Then treat yourself to that and incorporate just a few short, compact workouts. A good guideline is 3 workouts per week.

Get some inspiration for short workouts without equipment here:

Stay fit with bodyweight workouts

#4 Relax on vacation with nature & distance

Walking in nature and a digital detox make it easy for you to stay fit on vacation: Hiking and other outdoor sports like climbing or mountain biking automatically burn calories. If you usually do strength training in the gym or a hotel, just move your gym outside. Challenging bodyweight exercises and resistance bands add some variety and intensity to an outdoor exercise routine.

A smiling white woman with a tattoo on her elbow does a sun salutation in the forest: a gentle way of working out on vacation
©Westend61

Why a little exercise on vacation is always worth it

Your dream vacation destination includes a bountiful breakfast buffet with prosecco, a luscious lunch, a 3-course dinner, and cocktails in the evening? Fair enough. But then you really do need a little exercise to burn some of those calories on vacation. Even if you see it as a chore at first: a workout – or rather: exercising – on vacation also plays a significant role in your relaxation!

Exercise promotes relaxation by…

  • reducing stress hormones.
  • releasing happiness hormones post-exercise.
  • increasing your body awareness and well-being.
  • giving you the feeling of having earned a reward.

What Is Recovery Really?

Especially in the context of exercise, recovery is way more than just doing nothing. Recovery is always defined in relation to the strain you want to recover from. Someone who is a full-time project manager or has a related office job will need a different kind of recovery than someone whose job involves physical labor.

Recovery is…

  • a process whose duration and design depend on the strain involved.
  • defined by stress reduction and a change of activity.
  • dependent on what you find stressful.
  • active or passive.

It’s important to not only recover physically, but also mentally. While your body benefits from a balanced diet, restful sleep, etc., your mind also needs a break from the challenges of everyday life. If you stress yourself out by worrying that you’re not active enough on vacation, your mind won’t have time to relax.

By the way: It takes about 2-3 weeks until all the stress hormones in your body actually drop completely. So try to take that much time off at once, at least once a year.

5 Perspectives for More Balance on Vacation

Small changes in perspective make it easy to find the balance between recovery and working out on vacation.

#1 See the change as an opportunity

Travel is a great way to try out something new: mountain biking, mountain climbing, scuba diving, bungee jumping, or trying a new fitness class at the hotel. No matter what you do, new movements help keep you fit and any form of variety in your exercise improves muscle coordination and makes your movements more efficient and smooth.

#2 Rest assured: Your nervous system deserves a full dose of relaxation

Vacation is all about finally recovering completely. When it’s not working, your body recovers twice as much. When exercising on vacation, your motto should be “fun first!” Your usual weight training feels annoying, even on an active vacation? Fine, that’s just the way it is. You’ll find some form of exercise you enjoy!

#3 Ask yourself: What do I really enjoy?

Celebration and excess, or fitness and mindfulness? Of course, there’s a lot of levels between these two extremes. But at the end of the day, the healthier you eat and the better you sleep, the better your body recovers. And let’s face it: who likes to remember eating too much, feeling bloated, and hungover mornings in the hotel room? Instead, put your focus on those activities that are truly restorative for you.

#4 Celebrate the now

Anything goes, but nothing has to! Especially if you’re already pretty fit, you probably have a solid level of body awareness. Use that and see travel as the perfect opportunity to follow your instincts. Your body says it just wants to lie in the sun? Go for it and keep listening to what your body needs.

#5 Don’t take yourself too seriously

How important are your six-pack, best times, and max weights for your happiness really? After a 2-3 week vacation, your muscle and endurance stats usually come back in about the same amount of time back on your workout plan. Even if you let yourself go for a week or a whole trip.

R&R and Exercise on Vacation – 6 Tips

Here are our tips to help you stay fit and relax on vacation!

#1 Fun first

The great thing about vacation is that it follows your own rules. Nothing belongs in your vacation that isn’t fun or doesn’t make you feel awesome. Choose workouts or exercise that you really feel like doing. By the way, forced leisure isn’t the solution either. There’s no ocean that can replace your weights? Then find a hotel with a gym where you can fit in a workout whenever you like.

#2 Find a vacation that suits you

Think about what activity you need when you book, whether it’s an active vacation, all inclusive, or with jogging trails to explore nearby. The most beautiful vacations are useless if you can’t do anything for your fitness or relaxation there.

#3 Turn up the heat on your workouts

HIIT is perfect if you have a craving for a sweaty workout, but don’t want to waste a lot of time on it. Our workouts under 30 minutes offer something for everyone. Tabata is also always a good choice.

#4 Move your workout to the morning

Treat yourself to a morning workout. Breakfast afterwards tastes twice as good, nothing gets in your way, and you don’t have to spend the whole day thinking about the fact that you still have to do your workout. It’s even more fun in a beautiful environment. The beach is still empty in the morning, so you have the opportunity to explore your vacation spot undisturbed and maybe even get to know it from its most beautiful side.

#5 Count all your movements

Swimming in the sea, a walk in the city, or a bike ride: exploring a new country means you’re moving all the time. And all that traveling around adds up. Compare your typical vacation day to your typical work day. If you move more on vacation than you do in your daily life, that’s definitely already a reason to reduce your workouts per week.

#6 Eat healthy

Nutrition has a huge impact on how you feel. Most of the time, the cuisine at your vacation destination offers a variety of healthy options. Make sure every meal has vegetables and that you meet your protein needs. Strike the right balance: Indulge in whatever you feel like, but don’t throw all your principles overboard.

A dark-skinned hand reaches for a package of Vegan Protein Bar. There are 4 stacked pieces of the bars in the foreground of the picture.
©foodspring

Our tip: Snack bars are especially convenient for throwing in your day bag on vacation. It’s the perfect time to give our delicious Vegan Protein Bar a try!

Go Vegan this summer

Conclusion

  • Vacation is for relaxation: taking time off helps you motivate yourself and improve your life in the long run. That’s no reason to have a guilty conscience!
  • See your vacation as a chance to try out new forms of exercise, which keeps you fit and having fun.
  • You don’t have to make progress toward your fitness goals on vacation – just move a little. If you lose a bit of fitness, you’ll make up for it in 2-3 weeks. And the recovery period for your body is definitely worth it.
Article sources
We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Prof. Dr. Kellmann: Erholung ist mehr als Nichtstun. In: Deutsche Zeitschrift für Sportmedizin. 02/2018.

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