Travel is in my blood. The thrill of visiting a new city, of discovering other cultures and taking in all the local sights, changes me in a beautiful way. Some days, I get the opportunity to travel for work. Most other times, it’s simply an escape to a postcard-worthy destination.
While travel days are some of my fondest pastimes, they seem to run smack-dab into the middle of a training season… every single time. The outcome? Goals: derailed. Nutrition: seen better days.
I used to believe the moment a vacation or travel day began my training could also take a sabbatical. While it sounds good in theory, it wasn’t doing me any benefit when I returned home with muscles that had grown complacent over the week(s). What I learned over years of trial and error is that with a little practice and willingness to step outside of my comfort zone, all while keeping my goals in mind, I could still indulge in travel without wreaking havoc on my fitness.
For me, it began with nutrition. I am a foodie at heart. I love trying new flavors, experiencing gastronomical delights made in kitchens from other countries that make my mouth sing at the first bite. I used to use travel as an excuse to eat all the food, much more than necessary. Usually, when we returned home from a vacation, I could easily expect the scale to have tipped upward a bit. It would take a good week or so to get my body and belly back to its normal intake of proper fueling. But, with a little bit of practice, I began utilizing the rule of pushing the plate away when I was satisfied. I slowly began listening to my body’s hunger and fullness cues, equally enjoying the food without it coming back to haunt me later. I noticed that I could easily partake in the delicious delights every country had to offer without guilt, excess weight gain, or buyer’s remorse.
After I managed to get the nutrition in check, I made sure to keep a focus on exactly what my goals were. Was I training for a particular upcoming race? Was I working at building muscle, or was I simply maintaining a healthy routine of exercise to keep my body functioning at its peak? One year, I was training for my very first half-marathon. I knew without a laser focus on my goal, which was simply to cross the finish line after 13.1 miles, that I would neglect my training as we traveled and regret every second of it during the race. I distinctly remember leaving the hotel one bitterly cold morning and running circles around the parking lot because the treadmill in the hotel had been occupied. The result was I smashed my first half-marathon like a champion.
As the years progressed, my training goals increased, as did my travel plans. I was traveling more frequently for pleasure and for work. I knew that if every time I took off via airplane or cruise ship I neglected my training, I would never reach any of the goals I had set for myself. Instead, I got creative. I used stairs, I discovered new hotel gyms, I walked more than I ever would have dreamed, I completed rounds of push-ups and sit-ups in the room of my cabin. While my exact training execution looked a bit different than it would have been while at home, I stopped using travel as an excuse to be lazy.
Over time, this resulted in combining both travel and fitness. I began planning racecations: travel with a planned race/event thrown in the mix. Enjoying this newfound way to explore the world, this also turned into hiking while on vacation, bike riding from the hotel to scenic destinations, snorkeling, and even choosing to walk to a landmark instead of taking the easily accessible train or bus.
Soon, the idea of travel and vacation meant more than just a reason to kick up my heels and relax. While there are moments of rest and rejuvenation, I began to explore and discover new places. What I learned was that a love of fitness and travel don’t have to start and stop with each other. Instead, they can easily go hand in hand, creating the most beautiful memories of all.