Saturday, February 25, 2012


After just flying in from a phenomenal weekend in Milwaukee at the Metabolic Training Certification convention, I realize how difficult it is to maintain optimal health when traveling or on vacation. As an emotional/boredom/comfort eater, up until recently I have always let my health and fitness regress when on the road. I guess it’s just really easy to tell yourself “forget it. I’ve been really good, now it’s time to kill it and let loose!” At least that’s how it’s been for me for the longest time. And I know firsthand as a boot camp instructor how many other fitness enthusiasts out there battle the dangers that travel can pose to one’s midsection.

I’m not joking with you- After a weekend of indulging on some good Milwaukee food, I decided to hit up the pool at the Aloft Hotel, and was digusted with how I looked. Nothing is worse than feeling sluggish, bloated, and body-bulging in all the wrong places! It makes you truly motivated to be a more lean traveler. So, today I am going to share my top 10 travel fitness tips to help you maintain your overall health, performance, and body composition when away from the structure of home:

1.) Commit to Performing Short 10-20 Minute Maintenance Workouts First Thing In The Morning Each Week

Time is not an excuse. We all have at least 10-20 minutes to crank it before we start our day. Trust me on this- this brief workout first thing in the morning will set the tone for the rest of your day. Besides being your energy pill to attack the day with vigor, this workout can serve as some damage control if you to decide to indulge in some foods that deviate from your nutrition plan. But they key is to do it first thing in the morning because I personally guarantee you that’s the only time you can count on getting it done when enjoying the sights and sounds of vacation.

2.) Use Body Weight and Resistance Band Exercises That You Can Do Anywhere

All you’ll need is your body and one resistance band to get the job done. During maintenance weeks for our clients, I highly recommend them using mostly body weight based exercises with the exception of some resistance band exercises to get that pulling component in since it is often very difficult to access body weight rows and pull-ups when on the road.

Body weight based exercises allow for some much needed rest and de-loading for the muscles and joints, in addition to the fact that they can go through customs when you are vacationing!

3.) Build Your Own Vacation Workouts for Fun

Let’s face it- working out with intensity can get old real fast! So, if you are in it to be fit for the long run, you better find a way to mix things up as often as possible with your workouts to keep yourself motivated.

Travel allows for all of this and more as you can typically access a host of unique training locations and equipment! Maybe hit the beach and alternate between intervals of sprints and body weight strength exercises so that you can burn fat and get some Vitamin D in at the same time. Or hit up the local park and do a playground style workout using benches, monkey bars, etc. Let your mind wander and most importantly have fun deviating from the typical structure of your at home workouts!

4.) Bring Portable Fat-Burning Snacks

This may very well be the most important tip of all. At home, we all choose the foods that are most convenient, affordable, and accessible, which is why meal planning and preparation is so critical to being lean year round. This becomes especially important when traveling because the food choices can often be even worse for your body and being unfamiliar with your surroundings means you can’t always lean on the trusty fallback options that you can at home.

Over the years, I have built a list of go-to lean traveler foods that have been absolutely critical to maintaining my fitness and here they are:

- Mixed raw nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, etc.)

- String cheese

- Protein Powder and/or Amino Acids

- Organic Deli Meat (unsweetened, low in salt)

- Fruit and Raw Veggies

Use these fat-burning, muscle-building foods to stay full and leave less room for all of the other junk food options that surround us all on a daily basis.

5.) Perform 30-60 Minutes of Daily Activity

It is very important to avoid letting a vacation become a time of sloth and laziness. Rather, the lean traveler looks to be active whenever possible when on vacation to keep his or her body in check.

Look to walk as much as possible, sign up for local trips and excursions, and engage in some recreational sports with your travel buddies. Almost all of us naturally increase our caloric intake on vacation, so it is critical to intentionally maintain or increase our activity levels to offset the potential weigh gaining hazards that come with travel eating.

6.) Perform Daily Corrective Stretching and Self-Massage

We tend to pay less attention to the small details that keep our bodies safe and pain-free year round when on the road. It is critical to still do some daily flexibility work and foam rolling to keep your muscles, and thus your joints, healthy.

You can always bring a half foam roller, a tennis ball, and/or a rolling pin in your suitcase for all of your self-massage needs. Try to get in at least 5-10 minutes of some combination of rolling and stretching both first thing in the morning and before bed for best results.

7.) Don’t Worry About Being Perfect All of the Time

My boot campers train with me for 3 weeks at a time with a short 1 week transition period throughout the year. In total, they are in full boot camp mode for 37 out of the 52 weeks each year.

What I try to instill in my campers is perfection during those 37 weeks that we are together to allow for the desired flexibility during the 15 weeks that we are not. In other words, my clients move to maintenance mode during off weeks allotting themselves 1-2 free meals per week, performing a few short maintenance workouts each week, and focusing more on improving flexibility and tissue quality.

This works great because typically our scheduled off weeks fall in line with traditional vacation times and/or holidays- times when people want to indulge in life’s guilt pleasures and enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation. Bottom line, perfection most of the year allows for the desired flexibility at the times when you want it the most!

8.) Plan Your Reward Meals in Advance

Let’s not forget that you don’t need to be perfect and eat like a saint when on vacation. After all, the occasional indulgences are a part of living the good life- especially those treats that are unique to certain travel hot spots. But, it is key to at least plan and prepare for them. In other words, we have found most people can allot themselves 1-2 free meals per week and still maintain their results.

A free meal, or as some call it a reward meal, is basically a meal that deviates from ideal nutritional guidelines, but in moderation. This means that you eat the same healthy foods that you typically eat plus any other foods you may desire until you are satisfied, but not stuffed!

By planning out your 1 or 2 free meals in advance and eating well at all other non-free meals you will best put yourself in a position to maintain your frame.

9.) Limit Alcohol and Empty Liquid Calories

This is always the hardest tip to sell because of how indispensable alcohol can be for some people who want to have a good time and wind down while traveling. The reality is alcohol not only stops fat burning in its tracks, but it actually promotes fat storage. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions and opens the door to host of junk food cravings that will further set you back.

Plus, many alcoholic drinks contain high calorie sugary mixes that further tip the proverbial scale in the wrong direction so to speak. Consuming 2-3 alcoholic beverages per day could easily result in an extra 500 calories per day that would in theory result in at least one pound of fat gained in a week’s time just from booze alone.

In general, limit, if not eliminate, empty liquid calories since they provide no nutritional value. Rather, enjoy whole foods that actually give your body some nutrients and fill you up. If you must, try to limit alcohol consumption to 1 drink at most per day and at best 1-2 drinks (or ideally less) per week while on the road.

10.) Bring Your Supplements

Not to beat a dead horse here, but again, just because you are away from home doesn’t mean that you should abandon all of those healthy habits you have worked so hard to establish.

I always take my daily multi-vitamin and fish oil supplements with me so that I can keep taking them every morning religiously like I always do. I also bring protein powder and/or amino acid formulas so that I always have access to some high quality protein every 2-4 hours to best keep all of my hard earned lean muscle mass. This is especially important when traveling to any locations around the world that do not have as much animal protein (which contains essential amino acids) in their diets.

These 10 travel fitness tips will without a doubt allow you to “travel light” so that you can come back from your trip with souvenirs in some other form than blubber and cellulite ;)

Jeff McDaniel
FastFit Training & Fitness

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