Nina and Christian Elliot plan ahead to incorporate a healthy diet and exercise into family vacations with their children Naomi, 8, Caleb, 6, Noah, 2, and Cohen, 7 months.
Photo courtesy of Christian Elliot
Listening to Christian Elliot describe part of a recent vacation that he took with his wife, Nina, you might think he was attending a fitness bootcamp.
“We woke up early, got in a jog and I did push-ups on a step, lunges on a dirt road,” said Christian Elliot. “As long as you have gravity … you can exercise.”
While August vacations offer a chance to renew and rejuvenate, carving out time to exercise and creating opportunities for nutritious food are keys to maintaining a healthy lifestyle while on holiday.
“The biggest thing about eating healthy and exercising on vacation is planning ahead,” said Elliot, a personal trainer and founder of TRUE Health and Wholeness in Arlington. “People plan their vacation in pretty good detail, but they fail to plan where and how they’re going to work out.”
Part of that planning includes bringing packable equipment and appropriate clothing for exercise. “Pack [resistance] bands for strengthening exercises, and a jump rope is a great way to get cardio. Those are lightweight and easy to pack,” said Catie Brocker, NP-C, MSN, director of the Student Health Center at Marymount University in Arlington. “Whatever you do, keep it simple and fun. If we make it too complicated it might not work.”
GETTING ACTIVE with family and friends is one way that Brocker made exercise enjoyable during a recent vacation. “I led a bodyweight circuit for my family every morning when I was on a beach vacation recently,” she said. “We were staying on the beach and we would wake up each morning and do a workout.”
Part of the appeal of bodyweight exercises is that they can be done virtually anywhere and require no equipment. Brocker recommends 60-second exercise intervals with 15 seconds of rest between each set.
“I do an upper body exercise, a lower body exercise, sit ups and some type of cardio,” she said. “For example, push ups, squats, jumping jacks and a sit up. There are fitness and workout apps out there that you can use if you feel intimidated by creating your own bodyweight circuit. If you write out a few exercises before you leave for vacation, you’re far more likely to do it.”
From swimming laps in a hotel pool to walking laps around an airport terminal while waiting for a flight, there are many ways to get creative with exercise.
“Hotels usually either have a gym … and the concierge can tell you about nearby trails for hiking or walking,” said Brocker.
In addition to planning to exercise while on vacation, packing a small, portable stash of fruit, vegetables or trail mix can quell hunger while sightseeing or waiting at the airport. “Stop by the grocery store and pick up healthier snacks,” said Brocker. “Go-to foods for me are nuts or dried fruit. They’re great when going through security.”
For those who, like the Elliots, will be traveling with children, child-friendly snacks are a must. “We have to manage their low blood sugar with quick energy hits,” said Elliot. “Our kids love the grass-fed beef sticks or beef jerky.”
“You can’t deprive yourself and say’ I’m not going to have ice cream at all’,” said Janet Zalman, founder of the Zalman Nutrition Group. “You can say, 'I’m going to have ice cream one or two times, but I’m not going to eat the supersize, I’ll have a kiddie size.'”
It’s also a good idea to choose restaurants and peruse menus at your destination before leaving on vacation. “Research your options,” said Brocker, “Like anything else you do, you have to plan and research it so that you can be an informed consumer.”
Finally, if you decide to splurge on a favorite food, make it count. “When you go off the rails and eat high calories food, make sure it’s fabulous,” Zalman. “Most people cheat out of convenience, but if you’re going to cheat, cheat high.”