Two long-overdue flexies!
I haven’t vanished! I’ve only gone out exploring the world- two exciting, and BUSY, weeks spent exploring Australia have me pretty exhausted. Vacation, or, “holiday” is great, but I am ready to be home- mostly because I miss cooking and the cat and my pillow.
But this isn’t a cat blog… I mean, not overtly, anyhow.
As I sit in this fancy airport lounge (seriously, check to see if your credit cards have this perk- American Express lounge is legit- there’s free food and wine and Wi-Fi and cold beverages and nice bathrooms!) I’m 8 weeks and 2 days from my first figure competition of the year. Yes, I chose to have a vacation beginning 10 weeks out from a show. After assessing my body composition, I determined that during vacation I would not be tracking macros, either- only eating mindfully, and keeping in mind, then, that upon returning I would have only 8 weeks to prepare for the show. To some, this would be totally unacceptable- people may question my commitment to doing well in competition.
Dear Judgmental Fun-Suckers:
Fuck off, yeah?
Live a little.
My vacation was amazing! I traveled all over Australia- starting in Sydney where I climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge and took a beer tour, then making my way up to the far North, to Port Douglas and Cairns, where I learned about Aborigines culture, took a gorgeous walk through the oldest rainforest on the planet, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, and white water rafted down the Tulles; then down to Melbourne, where I explored the city under the helpful guidance of someone I’ve been wanting to meet for a long time, but also pet a platypus and checked out the Great Ocean Road from the aerial perspective of an open cockpit biplane. Despite all of these amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, I know many people struggle with the idea of balancing fitness with vacation.
Of course this makes sense, when so much of fitness is about routine! Breaking away from every routine you have in place is unsettling- whether that is weighing your food as you cook, meal prepping, hitting the gym at 3pm to see your gym crush, or taking your Monday yoga class. These routines we have set up are what ensures our outcomes, so it can be a bit anxiety provoking to abandon them. But no promise of shredded abs and bicep veins will stop me from seeing the world!
Different people will find different aspects of vacationing the most difficult to deal with- food, or the gym. Eating out for every meal can take a caloric toll, but keeping a few basic guidelines in mind when ordering can help. You can enjoy yourself without going to be with a bellyache every night, and without worrying that you’ll completely undo any and all work done in previous weeks or months over the course of a week or two, so long as you don’t throw up your hands and say fuck it all and treat your entire vacation as an excuse to binge. You’re only hurting yourself in the long run- treat yourself kindly!
Remember: moderation still exists when you aren’t at home!
Definitely try new foods, particularly if you’re traveling abroad- that’s my favorite part of traveling! Every country has something special to offer when it comes to food, whether an entire cuisine or a few fun new items to try- but stay conscious of your intake, particularly in regards to portions.
Sometimes treat yourself to dessert. Keeping it real, I have dessert more nights on vacation than not. Ok, I have dessert every night at home, but macro-friendly options are easier at home. On vacation, maybe split a fancy pastry with your significant other, have one scoop of gelato rather than two, or choose an exotic local fruit or split a small cheese plate with friends over wine.
Go ahead and have a drink, but consider choosing a glass of wine instead of a fancy blended liquor concoction, or using diet sodas or seltzer water as a mixer.
You are not obligated to eat any or as much as you can of any food that is free or included. That “continental hotel breakfast,” of white toast, gloppy plain instant oatmeal, store-bought banana nut muffins, and Raisin Bran is not mandatory, nor are the shitty cookies served for breakfast on that tour bus.
Remember you don’t have to finish everything put in front of you at every meal- your mom is not going to punish you for leaving food on your plate!
My abs didn’t quite make it through, but they’re only A week or 2 of deficit eating away, if that. Likely I’ll see them start to reappear after a couple of days- travel, especially in the form of a 14 hour trans-Pacific flight, complete with airplane food, is a bitch when it come to water retention.
I ate delicious food- including but not limited to at least two kinds of Tim Tams (not including the Tim Tam gelato), Korean BBQ, Indian, Vietnamese banh mi, a literal kilo of fresh prawns straight off the boat, a few bites of meat pies (not overall a fan, it turns out), candy bars that don’t exist in America (oh god you need to know about Crunchie and Cherry Ripe, Americans!), fresh pineapple and homemade breads, and wine and beer! I don’t regret a single calorie enjoyed over this vacation, even if it means my deficit needs to be a little steeper than it might have otherwise for a few weeks following.
For others, inconsistent gym access, or dealing with crappy hotel gyms is more difficult than managing the food side of things. I want to start with this: a week, or even two, out of the gym will not render you weak and flabby. Will it feel rough getting back into the squat rack upon your return? Yes, almost assuredly, but it will not have a lasting detrimental impact on your overall abilities.
Over the course of my vacation, I entered 4 different gyms- two sparsely equipped hotel gyms, and two amazingly equipped gyms. Each time, I worked with what I had, felt great, and moved on. I do not spend my entire vacation worrying about hitting the gym- though I won’t pretend I don’t look to hit it a couple of times. For me, a good gym session has an immediate mood-boosting ability- my brain and my body thrive on it, and travel gets to be fairly stressful. My approach is to check hotel websites to see what the gym setup looks like, and if I’m using Air B&B, do a quick Google search to see what gyms are available in my area so that if I have an afternoon with nothing scheduled, I can pop in for a quick lift and get back to vacationing. If I’ve taken the trouble and expense to fly (or drive) somewhere, I’m certainly not going to spend a ton of it comfortably within the confines of a gym; I could have stayed home to do that.
In the absence of my regular gym time, I try to plan exciting physical adventures throughout my vacations. I’m terrible at relaxing, so this works great for me. Snorkeling and other swimming activities, rock climbing, canyoning and abseiling, hiking, climbing tall things, and white water rafting and kayaking have all been favorite adventures of mine, not to mention miles and miles (err… kilometers and kilometers…) of walking and bicycling as I explore new cities all help keep me moving on vacation. These types of activities make up the bulk of my travel experiences, and I plan most of my other things around them.
In addition to making sure I hit the gym a couple of times, I always travel with a set of resistance bands and a mini-band, so that I can do a quick full-body workout anywhere! My husband and I will do circuits, each of us contributing ideas and challenging one another. We try not to spend too long on this- usually we go pretty hard for about 20-40 minutes, and then go about our day. Almost invariably, this is the first thing we do when we check in to our first hotel after a flight. I get too wiggly just passively sitting on a plane, and need a shower anyhow, so spending a few minutes getting out some energy and stretching out my cramped muscles is a great start to a vacation!
Vacations should be enjoyed- don’t stress about a week or two off from your normal routine. Stay mindful, be moderate. Have adventures. Try new things. Move your body, challenge yourself. Don’t waste your vacation in the gym when you could be out making amazing memories instead. The gym will be there when you get home, and I promise, you aren’t going to cause long-term damage to your gains/strength/speed/size.
Remember: Fitness should improve your lifestyle, not dictate it. You’re in this for the long haul, and sustainability is the key to that. If you set yourself up to resent fitness, or make it an area of stress to the point where you can’t even enjoy a vacation, how sustainable is it, really?