From Zumba classes and personal yoga sessions on the beach to waking up an hour earlier to put in some time on the hotel fitness center's treadmill or elliptical, vacationers are making exercise a part of their vacations. "Each one of those pina coladas I'm drinking on my beach chair has a lot of fat and calories, and the resort's buffet is just too enticing," says Maria Alado, frequent vacationer. "If I don't work out, I'm going to feel lethargic during my vacation and go home ten pounds heavier at least."
Coming home from vacation is enough of a downer without tipping the scale and having to work out twice as hard to get back to pre-vacation weight. Getaway relaxation could dissolve quickly, leaving you tired, bloated, and feeling less confident. But the real perks come during vacation:
--You'll feel more energetic during each day, which allows you to take in more of what your vacation spot has to offer. If you're overeating and overdrinking, you could wind up losing energy at 8 p.m., popping medicines to feel better and slowing down your travel companions during outings or at night.
--You'll keep your metabolism revving, which allows you to eat and drink more of what you want, without guilt, since you know you'll work off those calories each day.
--You may avoid gastrointestinal issues during your vacation by keeping your system healthier.
--You'll stay on track with your fitness and diet goals from before your vacation, continuing your weight loss, strength and flexibility gains, and at least not setting yourself back too far. A weight gain of a few pounds after vacation is easier to deal with than a ten-pound setback.
--You may discover a new fitness activity to add to your repertoire. For instance, if you join your travel companions for tennis at the resort, you might find yourself interested in taking tennis lessons or playing for free at your town park as a new, fresh fitness activity to keep your motivation up. Or, you might take a yoga class on the beach and renew your interest in yoga.
--Exercise creates endorphins, the feel-good hormone that boosts your mood, which will help you deal with any stress you experience courtesy of your travel companions or disappointing weather.
Many vacationers say they gain confidence after a workout, which can lead to more satisfying romantic interludes. With exercise in your itinerary, your evening might be spent in seduction, rather than in lethargy.
Clearly, it's smart to get in a few good workouts, and your resort or hotel may offer terrific fitness options for you, such as state-of-the-art fitness machines you don't have access to at home, gorgeous hiking trails for a several-hour challenging hike that delivers you to a breathtaking vista such as a waterfall or an historic church or castle, tennis courts, golf courses, and of course those exciting fitness classes on the beach with a gorgeous view of the ocean.
Many resorts offer a surprising array of fitness activities for free. "We offer a wide range of activities to suit every guest's need, from kayaking to snorkeling, paddleboarding -- and guests get free use of our water sports equipment," says Patrick Kidd, director of sales, Caneel Bay Resort on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. When a resort offers free sporting equipment or use of tennis courts, you'll save a bundle on your vacation. However, some resorts charge heftily for snorkeling gear rentals and paddleboarding, and the expense could keep you on your beach chair instead. So look for a list of freebies on your resort or hotel's list of amenities and activities.
And don't forget the fitness benefits of walking. Snap a pedometer onto your waistband, and your day of walking through an amusement park or around a resort could have you at the suggested 10,000 steps by early afternoon. Just wearing a pedometer could entice you to walk to the main beach rather than hop onto a shuttle bus.
Just be sure to keep safety in mind. Walk or hike only in designated, populated areas, stay out of seedy sections of town and stick to your fitness level. Don't take on an ultra-challenging hike just to get to that waterfall everyone says you have to see. You don't want to strain or overwork your body, ruining your health and comfort for the rest of your stay. Moderation is ideal.
In addition to hiking trails, free activities at your resort (such as at Rosewood Jumby Bay in Antigua,) and watersports, you might pack the two items that give you muscle-building results without adding to your luggage weight: resistance bands and a jump rope. Using both of these tried-and-true fitness items on the beach, or in your hotel room on a rainy afternoon, adds a new flair to your everyday exercises.
And if you take on any challenging class, there's always the resort's spa for a muscle-soothing massage or aromatherapy treatment, a sauna or hot tub soak, an indulgent wind-down from your vacation workout that keeps you in great shape to enjoy your getaway and go home happier.