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6 Life Lessons from a Healthy Vacation

We're about to change your idea of a cruise vacation. Throw away the thought of snoozing till noon, eating with wild abandon, and drinking daiquiris until it's time for the midnight buffet. A fun, good-for you getaway is possible. The proof: These three women who have been aboard two of Shape & Men's Fitness Mind & Body cruises, where they kick-started their fitness routines, indulged in the fresh island fare, and still found time just to chill out. Take their lessons along on your next getaway-or simply put them into practice at home. The result: a healthier, rejuvenated version of yourself.

  1. See time off as a well-deserved reward
    Three years ago, Jamie Ciscle, 28, moved from Maryland to Florida. The warm weather inspired her to keep her body bikini-ready year-round: She set a goal to exercise at least five times a week and to eat more local produce. Even when Jamie was logging 80-hour weeks working at a restaurant, she followed through. Early in the morning or during her lunch break, she hit the gym or ran on the beach. "When I read about the cruise, I thought it would be the perfect reward for my new lifestyle-and it wouldn't undo the healthy changes I had made," says Jamie. "Booking vacation time helped me stay on track with my workouts because I wanted to be in the best possible shape for my trip."
  2. Move your body in new ways
    As an occupational therapist, Tasha Perkins, 28, gets a firsthand sense of why healthy living is so important. "I work with stroke and heart-attack patients," she says. "Their conditions might have been prevented if they'd treated their bodies better when they were younger." Her job inspired her to exercise regularly; she would do cardio several times a week on the treadmill and elliptical. But by the time she went on the Shape cruise, she was tired of her routine. "I looked at the schedule of classes and decided to try anything that sounded interesting," she says. "I learned that I'd rather exercise in a group than on my own, and I loved activities that gave me the chance to do new things-like hip-hop dance and kickboxing." She returned home excited to continue challenging herself. "I was so inspired," she says, "that I signed up to do a triathlon this summer with some of my coworkers."
  3. Establish new traditions
    Even the most disciplined women let a few healthy habits slide when they're away from home. "During past vacations I ate and drank a lot and usually didn't exercise," says Kristy Harrison, 30, a group-exercise instructor and personal trainer from Maryland. "I thought the cruise would be a fun way to take a week off and still keep up with my workouts." She was surprised to discover she actually exercised more while she was at sea. "I couldn't believe how energized I was, working out amid such beautiful scenery," says Kristy. "I went sightseeing every afternoon and danced every night, but I still set my alarm for the early-morning classes-you can have fun on vacation and put your health first."

  1. Seek out fresh, healthy food
    "When I first thought about a cruise, buffets came to mind," says Tasha. Although there were plenty of all-youcan- eat meals on the Shape cruise, she found herself reaching for the foods that weren't battered and fried. "Being in the fresh air and spending so much time in a bathing suit drew me to the fruits and vegetables," she says. Later in the week, when she attended a nutrition lecture called "Eat to Win," she got another shot of motivation. "I was fascinated by the science behind eating well," she says. "It's one thing to hear that blueberries are good for you, but I'm more inspired to eat them now that I know that their antioxidants will strengthen my body and help ward off disease." Back home, Tasha challenges herself to make smart choices. "Instead of aiming for the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day," she says, "I go for eight-or even 10."
  2. Learn how to free your mind
    "Before I left for the cruise, I was feeling down because I wasn't dating much, and I was stressed because of my long work hours," says Kristy. She didn't expect that trying new fitness classes would transform her outlook, but it did just that. During Body Groove- a class that combines yoga, dance, and meditation to the beat of live drums-she discovered that working out can be a means of letting go. "We stood in a circle on the ship's deck, and the instructor said, 'Take all the bad stuff in your mind and just throw it away,' " says Kristy. "I know it sounds corny, but I did it-I left my worries about my personal life and work right there on the deck, and I really did feel freer afterward." And because there were no mirrors, she says she "just moved," instead of focusing on how she looked. Kristy took these practices home. "Now, when I start to feel stressed or anxious, I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and remember how free I felt, dancing, meditating, and just feeling comfortable in my skin," she says. "It reminds me of my strength and the importance of putting my health first."
  3. Make fitness a family affair
    After Jamie returned from her first cruise, she knew she wanted her entire family to go on the next one. "My mom worked out when she had time, but I thought the trip would help her take her fitness routine to the next level," says Jamie. "My dad has high cholesterol; I wanted him to learn how the right foods can help." Onboard, the Ciscles urged one another to try new classes- Jamie's mom enjoyed sunrise Tai Chi, and though her dad protested at first, he loved Body Groove. "The one who may have learned the most is my 24-year-old brother, Sheridan," says Jamie. "At lunch after a nutrition lecture, I looked over and saw him loading his plate with fruits and vegetables. He'd always been a french-fry addict- I couldn't believe it!" After the cruise, the Ciscle family have continued- and even built upon-their new habits. "My mom exercises with a personal trainer three times a week and has lost 25 pounds," says Jamie. "And my parents are both eating several small meals a day-and a lot more fish, chicken, brown rice, and baked sweet potatoes-which has helped my dad drop 10 pounds." Now when Jamie calls home, she talks with her family about their workouts and new, healthy recipes, and her mom and dad are the ones pushing everyone to train hard for their next family vacation.

 

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