Practical fitness strategies for holidaying or when on-the-go

Okay so you've probably read the page on 'how to stay in shape on vacation.'

You know that 1-2 weeks out is no time to start with a ground-breaking fitness program. You probably already have your hands (and head) full – winding things up at work, planning, booking and arranging your upcoming holiday activities.

But don't worry, what I'm about to suggest doesn't involve too much time or thinking – and it may just enable you to survive the holiday season with less weight-gain than you might have experienced. 

In essence, we're talking about damage-limitation, not physical transformation

After all, 'tis the season to be jolly, not to be spent focusing loads of time, energy and resources trying to get into shape.

Same goes for general travel and business trips.

With that, the strategies below are meant to help you get through till the new year (or 'safely' through your business trip). And then you can fully unleash your enthusiasm to really turn things around – if that's what you ultimately have in mind.

Eating

It's impossible to get 'fat' overnight. Remember that it's also not what you consume now-and-then that causes weight-gain – but what you do habitually. In the long run, consistency in eating whole unprocessed foods 'most' of the time – is key. As with the sensible way, I employ a ratio of 80-20 (whole unprocessed food – rich/processed variety). 

Of course on holiday, nobody wants to 'waste' time fretting about nutritional profiles, 'healthy' substitute meals or diets.

Your best bet (to make the most of the festivities – without foregoing all the scrumptious goodies on offer while not overdoing things) is to:

  1. Try and be mindful of portion sizes, especially of the richer food varieties;
  2. Savour your meals. While chewing your food, really focus on the flavors, the aromas so you can internalize the whole experience and enjoy it to the full.
    (Following this tip, will help you to feel satiated at the end of the meal – so that you avoid the tendency to overeat. You don't want to be gulping your food down with your mind elsewhere – so that you end up feeling 'stuffed.')
  3. Be sensible on those 'special' days where westerners – in particular – usually go all-out. Try giving yourself some calorie-credit for the main get-together meals around the 25th, 26th, 31st of December, and the 1st of January. Keep other meals on those particular days simple.

Bottom line: use common sense. You can't eat a full English breakfast in the morning, a burger and fries for lunch, ice-cream in the afternoon and pizza for dinner plus a couple of customary beers (or comparable meals/drinks), and expect you waist not to grow. Especially if you don't work out.

So try limiting your rich or higher-volume eating to one daily meal. If you'll be staying in a place where a buffet-style breakfast is standard – and you love breakfast – then try not to overdo it at lunch or dinner.

It's a bit of give and take. If lasagna or moussaka is your weakness, by all means have a second portion. But be conscious of compensating a little at the next mealtime.

And that's pretty much it.

There's certainly no calorie-counting!

Exercise

On the other page I talked about 'types' of holidays. A week's skiing versus spending the same duration with family can make a huge difference to your daily calorie expenditure.

If your holiday-trip is not a physical one, I'd urge you to include some physical activity if and when amenities allow. The best and quickest way to gain weight, is to be eating 'holiday' food each and every day while lounging around.

cardio

Depending on your condition, aim to include walking (preferably running) 3-4 times a week for at least half an hour. I promise you, this is an excellent damage-limitation strategy. Equally important: do your muscular anatomy (and metabolism) the favor of performing some strength training too.

strength (resistance) training

I hear sighing.

No, you don't have to join a gym. You also don't have to spend more than a few minutes at a time. The 6 resistance exercises (see below) can literally be done anywhere – and will more than do the trick to toning and conditioning. 

Aim for at least 2 sessions per week, performing 1 set of 10-15 reps per exercise. Using strict form and slow-moderate speed repetitions, these techniques high-intensity, which means fewer exercise sets and shorter workout time. (An explainer video follows.)

  1. Push-up
  2. Pull-up
  3. Deadlift
  4. Squat
  5. Calf-raise
  6. Plank

If you are an absolute beginner, consider using the regression forms of each exercise (where applicable). These 'easier' versions are suitable for exercisers who are still shy in one or more of the: strength, balance, stability, coordination, skill and flexibility departments.

(Depending on your particular condition, I would highly suggest doing 2-3 minutes of walking or running in-place to get your body primed.)

Note: with specific reference to less-experienced folks (like Al), I've focused on the more basic movements here. There are of course many advanced techniques and moves (done with machines and free weights) that can be thrown into the mix. However, if you're new or still learning about physical exercise, this list is more than sufficient.

More important than anything else – is to enjoy your vacation (or have a successful business trip).

But just imagine how much more you'll enjoy it – and how much prouder you'd be with yourself – if you took your health and fitness along with you and came back to approach the next phase of your life like a champion – or a new year without that usual dread of yet another resolution to lose weight.

You'll already be halfway there.

Remember – if you have any questions – I'm here to help.