Why I Enjoy and Embrace Exercise When I Vacation


(How to Love Dumbbells in Costa Rica)

I need a break. So do you, right? We all have a desire–no, a duty–to our souls and bodies to rest and recover. The stress that everyday life brings us builds until it’s far too painfully obvious that we would benefit from some time away. I inevitably look forward to getting away, preferably to a tropical spot, and just sitting. Sleeping. Reading. Eating and drinking. Meeting new people. Listening to music. And exercising.

In my over 25 years (that’s hard for me fathom, or admit) as a trainer, whenever my clients tell me they’re planning to travel, my eyes light up! In fact, I’m excited for the prospect of their programs taking a leap forward.

My enthusiasm is frequently met with a sardonic “I’m on vacation–the last thing I want to do is work out!”

My reply, a stone-faced “This is exactly the time to focus on your body.”

We’ve conditioned ourselves to associate exercise with the daily grind of work, household chores, dog-walking, and teeth-brushing. This is exactly what you go on vacation to avoid the responsibility of, right? Unwise and incorrect, I contend! Vacation, or as the more well-heeled like to call it “traveling”, is the time to embrace the wealth of knowledge your body has to offer–if you just take the time to listen.

Usually when I travel, I crave not having a schedule or a long to-do list that tells me when I have to be at this site or that museum. I play my schedule by ear to maximize my cultural intake or historical learning. This allows me to appreciate what I’m seeing, eating, hearing, or drinking on my body or mind’s timetable, as opposed to anxiety based on missing out or having to see everything. Why not have that same approach to exercise when you have the explicit freedom to do so?

To be clear, the following approach is based on a intended-to-be-relaxing beach or mountain-type vacation:

• Instead of scheduling your workout at the crack of dawn, or rushing it before dinner reservations, find a time in the middle of the day when you’re at your most peaceful.

• Don’t have hard workout plans. Keep the firm numbers of reps, sets, and cardio duration at home. Play it by ear.

• Think about what you’re doing at that moment. Don’t focus on what’s upcoming, or what exercises you think you still need to do.

• Slow down. See how long it can take you to perform a set, instead of how quickly you can finish.

I’m sure you can sense a theme here. You will gain a much better appreciation of how your body moves, and what it’s feeling, when you are mindful about and present with your movement.  Take advantage of the lack of structure to notice exactly how things feel, and consequently, exactly how they benefit your long-term physical health. This is a 180-degree difference from the way many of us power through workouts in our normal routines at home.

Then, when you return, don’t be surprised when you have a better sense of what exercises are most beneficial to your body. After all, that is one of your goals, right?