There’s not much more disheartening than returning home from vacation, especially when you realize after that cruise or European excursion the clothes you worked so hard to fit into before the trip are a little more snug than you’d like. As someone whose family trips have always revolved around grub—all-day beach snacking, bottomless crab legs, margarita pitchers, tables piled with Frogmore stew—I am a firm believer in indulging during that much-needed break. But I’m also a (less firm) believer in maintaining a workout regimen on vacation.
On a recent trip to O’ahu—I returned two weeks ago and am still in mourning for the long, 80-degrees-and-sunny days—I learned a few things about keeping up with a fitness routine without depriving myself of 10am mai tais and double helpings of moco loco and shrimp tempura.
Pack your gear
If you’re already a fitness devotee, this should be a no-brainer. Even if you’re 90 percent sure before the trip that you won’t need (or want) them, throw those running shoes or yoga clothes in your bag anyway. My FitBit and pair of Brooks were nestled right next to the sunscreen and sandals in my carry-on, and pulling them out at the hotel was oddly comforting.
To the races
If you’re a runner visiting a new city, check the area for local foot races. The 5K Costume Fun Run in Laie was certainly no Charlottesville 10 Miler or D.C. Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. But the 40-minute drive up the eastern shore and the 3.1 miles on foot through Brigham Young University Hawaii’s campus got me away from the tourist-riddled resort areas and into the thick of local color. Plus, with only about 60 participants racing, I came in 14th place overall.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in an all-inclusive resort, check the hotel activity schedule for group exercises classes. For cheaper options, venture out to some of the less expensive hotels, which often hold the exact same classes and events, for a fraction of the cost. I’ve also found that a lot of gyms in vacation cities will offer short-term visitor passes for tourists.
Put one foot in front of the other
If you’re vacationing without a car, the fitness solution is pretty simple: walk. My final three days in Hawaii were spent without wheels, forcing me to hoof upwards of six miles a day (and allowing me to feel less guilty about not touching a yoga mat or my running shoes for the rest of the trip). There’s something both exciting and intimate about exploring a new place on foot, seeing everything up close and personal.
Don’t try this at home
Vacation is the perfect opportunity to check some things off your bucket list while also burning some calories. Don’t discount the anaerobic quality and calorie-burning ability of touristy adventures—paddling out into the waves on a surfboard for two hours exhausted arm muscles I didn’t even know I had, and with one wrong turn my gentle little three-mile bike ride became a nine-mile ride and hike up and down two different mountains. The good news was, I didn’t feel a single pang of guilt when I scarfed down a heaping plate of spicy Korean beef and a cocktail the size of my head.