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Take A Vacation From Work, Not From Your Work-Out

When I told my co-workers I was excited to work out during my vacation, I was met with shock! But a break from work doesn't need to mean a break from exercise. Understanding workouts as an obligation or as drudgery just sets one up for failure both during our daily lives, and on vacation. We should all "re-frame" how we understand workouts during our everyday life.
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smiling girl jogging with two...
smiling girl jogging with two...

Vacationing in the country is one of my favorite things. I love the fresh(er) air, the absence of crowds and the relatively peaceful environment. Most importantly, I love the freedom to run and bike in beautiful scenery without time constraints.

During the countdown to my latest trip, I expressed to my clients my excitement regarding training while on vacation. (Those who know me, know that I am somewhat prone to overzealousness and loquaciousness whenever I am excited about upcoming life events.)

A vast majority of my clients gave me a "what, are you crazy?" look. Their attitude towards my excitement showed me that they had no desire to work out on their vacations. To them, vacation was about escaping the dreaded "to do" list, of which working out was a constituent part.

Most clients expressed an interested in getting fit for vacation, but had little interest in staying fit on vacation. Some expressed a desire for the perfect 10 minute maintenance vacation workout. Most acknowledged they should work-out on vacation, but almost none of them have a desire or yearning to train on vacation.

These conversations were the impetus for an extensive inner dialogue. After much thought, the conclusion I came to was this: the ways in which we frame our daily exercise and eating habits inform how we understand what a workout is, and this in turn impacts how we will view exercising while on vacation. Understanding workouts as an obligation or as drudgery just sets one up for failure both during our daily lives, and on vacation.

We should all "re-frame" how we understand workouts during our everyday life.

We have to stop thinking of staying active and being healthy on a vacation as simply a matter of finding the perfect "vacation workout." We are emphasizing the wrong piece of the workout puzzle.

This conclusion may sound obvious. It is hardly a novel or earth shattering idea. It is however, something good to be reminded of. I suggest we all take a moment to brainstorm ways in which we can re-conceptualize our own personal workout experiences, with the intention of changing our attitude towards exercise. This change will make it easier to stay active on a daily basis as well as on vacation.

Possible ways to "re-frame" your exercise experiences would be:

1. When possible, make your workouts something you actually enjoy so they feel less like a chore. If you like your workout, you are more likely to stick with it over the long term and incorporate into the fabric of your vacation.

For example, join a soccer or ultimate Frisbee team. The friendly competition of being part of a team will help you want to practice the sport on vacation. When you are on vacation, grab your family or friends and throw a Frisbee or kick a soccer ball around.

2. Don't just make your workouts about accomplishing aesthetic goals. Focusing on the aesthetic will only give you one barometer of success; only one reason to continue to work-out. If you make the connection between moving and being more energized, sleeping better and having fun, you will have more reasons to workout.

3. Unless you are an athlete training for a specific competition, stop thinking that your workouts have to take place within structured spaces like the gym. Gyms can be time consuming to get to, and during the summer months it can be depressing to be indoors. Instead, incorporate activity into your daily life. Bike to and from work; grab a friend and walk on your lunch break; join a sports team; do some gardening. Just move for 30 minutes a day. This can be especially useful on vacation. Don't feel like you have to go to the gym to get exercise. Try a new sport like surfing, go sightseeing on a bike or on a walking tour of the city.

4. Move away from an "all or nothing" approach to exercise and healthy eating. It can be counterproductive to think of "real life" as a time when you need to be perfect, and vacation as a time when you can be "bad." Perfection is never possible, so even during real life you are setting yourself up for failure. Try using the 80 / 20 rule. As long as you are good 80 per cent of the time you can still enjoy the foods you consider "bad" 20 per cent of the time. Allow yourself to be human. I tell my clients, that perfection is what you expect from machines, and, thankfully, we are not robots. Be as healthy as you can, as often as you can, but allow yourself to enjoy life.

The final takeaway is that you should try not to label one food or activity as "bad" or "good." Instead, re-frame "enjoyment" so that it includes more diverse activities then just watching TV and consuming food. If exercise becomes something you actually enjoy, or in my case love, you are much more likely to stick with it over the long term!