Vacations are great. They're a chance to visit new places, spend time with loved ones, and take a break from the daily grind. While I would never consider the dailySpark "the daily grind," (I truly LOVE my job!) it is nice to get away from real life from time to time.
I recently had the opportunity to spend 10 days in Guatemala with a wonderful nonprofit, Cooperative for Education. I try to travel internationally at least once a year, but sometimes it makes sticking to my healthy habits a bit tricky.
This trip was a success in more ways than one. Not only did I recharge my batteries, see amazing places and learn about a wonderfully rich culture, but I also managed to work in exercise every day and stick to my healthy eating habits. Unlike some other vacations, this time I didn't come home dreading the scale and feeling bloated and lazy.
How did I do it? NEAT, exercising control at the hotel buffets, and sticking with many of Coach Nicole's Habits of Fit People.
My trip was long, packed with activities and involved hours and hours of sitting on buses and planes. I knew I had to plan ahead to stay on track. I started by packing my bag before I left: 2 pairs of yoga pants, a sweat-wicking sleeveless top, a hooded sweatshirt for chilly mornings, socks, running shoes and a sports bra (I could hand wash clothes and hang them to dry).
Day One: My trip started when I left for the airport at 3:45 in the afternoon. I was traveling from a city 90 minutes from my home (the flight was much cheaper!), but bad weather meant I had to turn around and drive 90 minutes home through rush hour. I was in a time crunch, so instead of taking that day as a rest day, I ran for 10 minutes from the airport to the long-term parking lot, then raced another 10 minutes through Airport No. 2 to reach my gate. I still had plenty of time, so I spent 15 minutes pacing to work off my nerves from the stressful car ride.
Fitness minutes: 35 (cardio)
Day Two: I arrived early the next morning, groggy and tired. I took it a bit easy: 15 minutes of yoga to loosen muscles that were constricted to an airplane seat for five hours and a 15 minute walk around the "Zona Viva," where my hotel was located.
Fitness minutes: 30 (cardio, flexibility)
Day Three: We arrived at Lago de Atitlan, a beautiful ringed by volcanoes. I spent the day walking through the city of Panajachel and hiking along the beach. I also played a funny beach ball game called "Quetzal Ball" for an hour. (It involved lots of jumping up to smack a beach ball while counting in Spanish.)
Fitness minutes: 120 of moderate walking (not cardio, but still good for my body!); 60 minutes of moderate swimming and jumping around in the water (cardio)
This is the lake we jumped in! No photos of me in it as I knew the camera might not survive a dunk in the lake.
Day Four: I'm not a runner. I usually take three Spinning classes a week and do yoga most days. However, I can run, so when it's running or nothing, I run. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. and met three others in the hotel lobby, flashlight in one hand and water bottle in the other. We ran 1 1/2 miles, then celebrated by jumping in Lake Atitlan and watching the sun rise. I walked most of the 1 1/2 miles back because my soaked yoga pants had stiffened my muscles.
Fitness minutes: 30 minutes (cardio)
Day Five: We switched hotels and headed to the city of Quetzaltenango (Xela). Our day was full, and while I spent a good bit of time walking outside and playing in the schoolyard with kids, I really only got about 10 minutes of yoga and my thrice-weekly pushups routine in before I collapsed into bed! Running the previous day had worn me out.
Fitness Minutes: 20 (cardio, strength and stretching)
Day Six: I felt slightly better the next day. I again arose early, with the promise of a beautiful view of the valley and the city of Huehuetenango. I joined the other runners on the trip but soon realized I was not ready to run hills. I hiked with the others up a steep hill (through a place called Dog Alley because of all the loose, barking, but harmless dogs) and eventually crested the hills. My reward was a beautiful sunrise and a nice, leisurely job back down! (That's the main photo you see!)
Fitness minutes: 45 (cardio, plus stretching after the run)
View from the end of the run!
Day Seven: I needed another rest day after that "mountain" run. I slept in and did about 20 minutes of body weight strength exercises (lunges, squats, pushups, planks and triceps dips) before breakfast.
Fitness minutes: 20 (strength)
Day Eight: After a week full of good deeds and visits to Guatemalan schools, we headed to Antigua for a bit of R&R. Many of the people on our trip decided to go out dancing. For a solid three hours, a handful of us danced and danced. We were sweaty and tired, but those fitness minutes counted! (I will admit to having two rum cocktails and about 10 glasses of club soda during those three hours!) I always forget that dancing is cardio. I'm going to start getting my gal pals together for monthly dance nights. It's a GREAT workout!
Fitness minutes: 180 (cardio and 10 minutes of stretching when I got home)
Day Nine: After that marathon night of dancing, my body was happily sore. (Don't you love the feeling of being just a tiny bit sore and tired after a good workout? You're not in pain, but your body reminds you what it is capable of achieving!) I lounged by the pool for a while, then swam laps for about 15 minutes and did pushups and dips in the pool.
Fitness minutes: 25 (cardio and strength)
Day Ten: I spent the day wandering around Antigua and preparing to leave. Aside from some moderate walking, I didn't really do much.
Fitness minutes: 120 minutes of moderate walking (not cardio, just activity minutes!)
Day Eleven: My wonderful trip ended, but a long day of airports awaited me. Nervous about arriving home for my connections in time, I spent 15 minutes pacing the San Salvador airport (airport 2 of 4 for the day!).
Fitness minutes: 15 (cardio)
Total: 460 minutes of exercise, including three strength workouts and four stretching sessions!
When I left on vacation, I worried about breaking my routine. However, I stuck to my good habits even though I was away from home. At the hotel buffets, I filled half my plate with vegetables, sipped broth-based vegetable soup with dinner, and treated myself to large plates of local tropical fruit each day. I ate regular snacks throughout the day so I wouldn't overeat at meals, and I limited my alcohol intake (people seem to drink more on vacation, I've noticed).
I never once set foot in a gym (though many of our hotels had them), but I managed to get in strength, cardio, and stretching. I had some great exercise experiences, and I came home feeling great!
How do you stick to your healthy eating and exercise habits while on vacation?
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