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How to stay fit when on vacation

holiday workoutWhen you have a holiday on the horizon, it's an opportunity to look forward to some well-earned rest, relaxation and a bit of down-time. However, a couple of weeks completely devoid of any exercise is a guaranteed way to lose a lot of your hard-earned fitness.

As a rule of thumb, you lose fitness at twice the rate you gain it, so two weeks of no activity will set you back a whole month.

So what is the best way of maintaining your fitness whilst on holiday without detracting from the holiday itself? The solution is a holiday maintenance programme which will keep your fitness levels ticking and still allow your mind and body some quality rest and relaxation. The result is that your batteries are recharged and post holiday, you are raring to get back into your usual fitness routine. Importantly, your fitness won't plummet so you should be able to resume your usual training from where you left off.

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Maintaining your fitness

So what does a fitness maintenance programme involve? It should cover the four primary areas of fitness, namely:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Core
  • Cardiovascular

To get the most out of your holiday and to also permit your body to rebuild, your training should be much lighter than your usual routine; after all, you are on holiday! The idea is that you exercise enough to minimise your fitness losses so that returning to your usual sessions is nice and easy.

By adopting this maintenance strategy, you will find that on your return from holiday, you actually make further improvements because your body has had the opportunity to fully repair; which is when fitness gains occur.

Rest is good!

It is a common myth that training improvements occur when you are actually exercising. When you lift a heavier weight or run faster or further during a training session, you see the result of your gains, not a specific improvement itself. Fitness gains do not occur during your training session, they occur when you are resting. Rest is the time when your body adapts to training loads and becomes stronger. Hence rest is always the most important component of any exercise programme.

You only need minimal equipment to keep your fitness ticking over and additionally, it will only take up a small amount of space in your suitcase.

A basic kit only includes:

  • stability ballOne stability ball
    The stability ball is perfect to carry out core exercises and you can also use it as a bench and seat for upper body exercises. It is compact when deflated and the few minutes that it takes to inflate can be effective as a short cardiovascular workout.
  • pumpOne pump
    Standard bicycle pumps will inflate stability balls, but a better option is a 'faster-blaster' ball pump which is considerably more efficient. Faster-blaster pumps are widely available and are inexpensive.
  • Two empty 1 liter bottles of water
    These bottles are your weights. They can be filled with water, sand or even wet sand to the appropriate level to provide sufficient resistance. If the bottles are too light for your usual training, simply change your repetitions (number of times you complete an exercise movement), change your sets (number of blocks of repetitions) or re-challenge your body with a different exercise altogether.

Optional extras

skipping ropeSkipping rope great for cardiovascular training and coordination.

exercise matLightweight exercise mat for floor-work exercises and stretching.

Exercise chart describing the exercises in your routine.

How much exercise and how often?

As a general rule, if you can complete three short workouts for each week that you are away, you'll remain fit and you'll also be able to enjoy your holiday.

Break down your weekly sessions as follows:

  • Session 1Cardiovascular (CV) and flexibility: Make your CV shorter than usual but ideally at least 20 minutes. Keep the intensity light and finish with 10 minutes of stretching.
  • Session 2Resistance training and core: Complete a short 30-minute workout that utilizes all the main muscle groups.
  • Session 3Cardiovascular and flexibility: Try an alternative CV session from session 1. Options could include swimming, cycling, walking, jogging or perhaps skipping. Finish with the 10-minute flexibility routine.

No one wants to lose fitness, so by packing some 'fitness into your suitcase' and planning a few short and simple sessions into your holiday; you'll return home, rested, invigorated and quite possibly fitter.

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