How to Take a Beach Vacation Without Falling Totally Out of Shape
Your fitness doesn't have to take a break when you do. Craft a trip that involves more than (just!) snoozing on the sand
There are about a million studies proving the mental health benefits of vacations. Having a trip on your calendar gives you something to look forward to, boosts your mood, and creates a break from the mundane stresses of everyday life. (Need more convincing? 4 Reasons Why Adventure Travel Is Worth Your PTO.) But...vacations also keep you away from the good aspects of your everyday life-namely, your fitness routine. And there's nothing more terrifying than hearing that you can lose your health gains after only a week of inactivity. Ack!
But listen, it is possible to stay active on vacation without giving up your hard-earned relaxation time or resorting to the sad, gray hotel basement gym (in fact, loads of hotel chains now boast cool fitness partnerships now). And we're not saying you need to book a wild fitness retreat either-you just need to find a fun way incorporate breaking a sweat into your vacay sched. Because your fitness isn't a part of the drudgery you're on vacation from; it's part of who you are! We're here to help you make sure that happens.
1. Pick a Good Spot
For most of us, the word 'vacation' conjures visions of palm trees and candy-colored tropical drinks with little umbrellas sticking out of them. Not all beaches are created equal, however (that's why we crunched the numbers to find the best beaches for fitness). Instead of just picking any old sandy spot with a temperature above freezing, spend some time researching destinations like Hawaii or Costa Rica, where it's easy (and encouraged) to scuba dive, zipline, kayak, surf, and otherwise keep moving. During a recent long weekend at the JW Marriott Resort and Spa in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, I asked the staff for some more high-energy activities, and they staff were more than happy to book excursions all over the area (they helped me set up horseback riding, surfing, and a hiking/boating/wildlife tour through the national park). It's what they do.
2. Sign Up for Things
Since it is their job to know, check in with the staffers at your resort before and during your stay to see what schedule of activities they offer on site. Most resorts have a whole schedule of free classes, like yoga or Zumba, in addition to site-specific fun like renting kayaka or jetskiing. Aim to sign up for one measly class or sport a day-you'll still have the remaining 23 hours that day to chill on a lounge chair.
3. Benefit from the Simple Activities
You don't have to be active every second with some death-defying activity like hang-gliding (or these thrilling fitness adventures). Take advantage of your tropical surroundings on vacation and keep it simple, with morning walks on the beach. One of my mornings in Costa Rica, I wound up walking for two straight hours along the surf. It was just as calming as sitting around slurping up sugary drinks would (though there was definitely a bit of that later on). And guess what? Your activity tracker still counts those steps, even if they feel like way less of a chore thanks to the killer scenery.
4. Appreciate the View
You know what's more fun than your Saturday morning jog at home? Doing your Saturday morning jog with views of turquoise water and bright green palm trees. Lots of hotels are now embracing exercise trends like spinning or yoga and putting them right out there on the sand, so go ahead and pedal or hit your handstand in the gorgeous surroundings of your resort. (We like these eight hotels for healthy travel.) Talk about a motivating environment!
5. Check Something Off Your Fitness Bucket List
While in Guanacaste, I took a blind leap and signed up for surf lessons before I could change my mind. I had never surfed, I'd never really felt any urge to surf, and I generally hate how stupid I feel when I try a brand-new physical activity (damn you, clip-in shoes at spin classes).
But it was one of the best things I've ever done. It was just me and an instructor and an abandoned patch of beach-no audience!-which allowed me to feel safe enough to fall, which I did repeatedly. I stood up though, for a total of seven trips all the way to the shore, and that feeling was magical. Now I definitely want to try it on my next trip! My resort also offered horseback riding on the beach and other once-in-a-lifetime opportunities; find one that's right for you wherever you're staying.
6. Worry Less About the Food
It's easy to fall into a vacation trap of eating-napping-eating-napping, especially if you go the all-inclusive route and have access to unlimited amounts of food. Try not to worry so much about all that rich food you're shoveling in, though; if you're staying active otherwise, thanks to the tips above, you'll more than likely even out. If not? You can worry about that when you get home. (But watch out for "creeping obesity" on your next vacation.)
7. Focus on Relaxation, Too
Sleeping late and taking naps and getting massages are often the most luxurious aspects of a vacation, but they shouldn't be seen as indulgent. These acts are just as important for your health as swimming. They'll lower your stress levels, loosen your muscles, reduce tension, and improve blood flow. (For more, see Your Brain On: Vacation.) You hear that? Doctor's orders. You simply must get a massage at the hotel spa. It's just one of the many activities that guarantee you'll go back to the office relaxed and refreshed.