It is easy for healthy lifestyles to go to the wayside when you are travelling, especially if you are on vacation. But it is possible to have a good time, enjoy local cuisine and get in some exercise without depriving yourself of a true vacation.
Here’s how to combine pleasure with wellness when you are on the road.
Is it the biggest deal to gain a few kilograms on vacation?
Gaining a few kilograms over the course of a one-week vacation because you do not want to bother with watching what you eat or trying to exercise is not detrimental to your overall health.
But it might leave you feeling irritable and low on energy either because your eating is imbalanced or you are not getting those feel-good endorphins from exercise.
On the other hand, if you do end up picking up some extra weight, you can likely drop it within a week or two when you are back home, provided that you are vigilant about jumping right back into a healthy eating and exercise routine.
How do I deal with a food allergy or other dietary restrictions in a country where I don’t know the language?
Food allergies are non-negotiable. Travel with a food allergy ID card that clearly indicates your allergies both in English and the language of the country in which you plan to travel.
And do your homework before you travel. Often, the hotel concierge or a travel agent will have a good sense of restaurants that offer variety or accommodations for food allergies. Always pack snacks in case you find yourself with limited options.
Dietary restrictions can be handled in a similar way by carrying cards that clearly indicate the foods you cannot or choose not to eat. Pictures can help bridge a language gap.
What if I still get sick while travelling?
Eating well and staying active aside, it is just as important to prioritise your physical health when you are travelling. Packing a first-aid kit is a smart idea in case you get hit with a stomach bug or the flu or have a scrape or fall.
The first-aid kit should include:
•Bandages of varying sizes
•An antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin
•A fever and pain reducer
•A motion sickness remedy
•Medicine for allergic reactions
•Stomach ache medicine
•Cold and flu relief medication
•Rehydration tablets in case of diarrhoea
My travel companions are making it hard to stay healthy. What can I do?
Communication is key with your travel companions, so it is best to clearly state your intentions to follow a healthy diet and squeeze in some exercise before heading off on your trip. They may be on a free-for-all eating regimen, but that does not mean you have to be.
While you should allow yourself to enjoy treats, do so on your own terms and let your travel companions know what works best for you.
Schedule “me time” into your day to exercise or unwind. It is definitely okay to ask your friends or family to be understanding and flexible, but do not forget to have fun.
My schedule is packed all day. How do I make time to exercise?
Take 10 minutes first thing in the morning to do one of the workouts outlined below. If you plan to work out later in the day, chances are that you will likely be too busy, or having too much fun to actually find the time.
Alternatively, if you make your day an active one by taking a walking or bike tour, you should not have to feel guilty about skipping a workout.
High-intensity workouts are effective for a number of reasons: Obviously you save time because they are so short, and when you work really hard for short bursts of time, you burn a lot of calories. And since they are short, they feel manageable for people who do not necessarily love exercising.
Try these three options for short, no-equipment-needed workouts and individual exercises that you can do anywhere.
The 10-minute high-intensity do anywhere workout Stairs
Walk to a staircase inside your hotel that is not too busy and do the following:
Walk up and down one flight for one minute as a warm-up. Run up the stairs as quickly as possible for two to three flights. Walk back down.
Do as many push-ups as you can, lowering yourself as close to the floor as possible. Repeat five times.
Walk to an area like a carpark (watch out for cars, of course) or a park outside and look for a strip that looks like it is about half the length of a football field. (If you need to measure, you can walk with long steps, about 1m in length, and count to 50.) Then run as fast as you can for one length, and walk or jog back to the start. Repeat three times.
Do 30 seconds of plank.
Repeat the above two exercises five times.
This can be done anywhere – from your living room or a small hotel room. The only equipment it requires is a resistance band.
If you want to sneak in your activity without carving out time for a dedicated workout, here are some ideas for exercises that can fit into any busy itinerary.
Commit to walking up a flight of stairs two steps at a time for a total of 20 reps. You can do this all at once or spread it out during the day.
When you use the toilet, add 10 extra reps of sitting down and standing up.
When you stand at a crosswalk, waiting for the light, stand on one leg for 10 seconds and switch to the other leg.
When you are sitting in a car but are not driving, raise your legs towards the sky one at a time, alternating sides at a fast pace to activate your core.
WHAT TO PACK
You do not need to stuff your suitcase with workout gear to stay active. One pair of sneakers and a set of workout clothes will do.
If you are doing 10-minute workouts, you are not apt to get overly sweaty and can likely reuse your gear, but bring along some portable laundry detergent in case you want to wash your clothes in the bathroom sink.
If walking tours and biking are a big part of your itinerary, you will need comfortable clothes but may not need actual workout wear. Sneakers, however, are always good to have, and you can even find fashionable ones that double as walking shoes.
Dealing with jet lag
Make sure to get enough sleep. You may be dealing with jet lag, but Dr Charles Czeisler, director of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said that one effective way to acclimatise to a different time zone is to take a walk in daylight. A short daytime nap also helps.
You can also adjust to a new time zone in advance of your trip. It is ideal to start this new routine a week before your trip, but a few days ahead will help too.
Do not forget to drink plenty of water. This simple tip helps with everything from dehydration to constipation to overcoming jet lag. Since you are likely to get busier as the day goes on and may forget to drink, try starting your day by drinking about two cups of water.
There is no better and more enjoyable way to get in some exercise on your getaway than by combining sightseeing with physical activity.
A growing number of destinations around the world have bike-share programmes that visitors can take advantage of.
Bikes are a fantastic way to explore a city and allow riders to access side streets and other areas that larger vehicles cannot get to. Use a bike to ride around town and get a sense of the place. You can also rely on these two-wheelers as your primary mode of transport and ride yours to drop-off locations that are near sights you want to visit.
Instead of taking a bus or car tour, try a walking tour. Almost every city around the world offers a range of walking tours whether you are interested in history, culture, drinking, food or architecture. You can also look at guidebooks or travel sites for suggested walking tours, and pick a different one for each day. If you are game for a longer excursion, combine two or more of these in a single day.
Engage your travel companions in creating a walking tour. Everyone can give his top five picks of places to check out, and you can plan a tour that allows you to get to as many of these as possible in one day. Another approach is to create a series of walking tours where each day is dedicated to hitting sites that one person chooses.
Sticking to a balanced diet does not have to be a challenge, no matter what kind of trip you are on.
Travel with food
Before you arrive at your destination, there is the journey to get there. You need fuel for these trips, whether you are driving, flying or taking the train, and since healthy food can be scarce and expensive when you are away from home, it is a good idea to pack your own.
Unexpected delays – all too common nowadays if you are flying – throw even more of a curveball into your intentions to eat sensibly.
Take a portable, collapsible cooler and fill it with healthy snacks and meals. In general, out of consideration to your fellow travellers, it is a good idea to skip toting foods with strong odours such as stinky cheeses, tuna salad and dishes with raw onions or garlic.
Healthy snacks on the go
Here are some options for things to take with you. Note that if you are flying, there might be limitations on what kind of fruit can be taken into other countries and be prepared for security to check out your haul.
•Whole fruits such as apples, pears, plums, nectarines and bananas
•Unsalted nuts and seeds such as pumpkin seeds, pistachios, cashews or pecans
•Toasted garbanzo beans
•Crudite with a side of hummus or yogurt dip
Fast food and buying on the road
Of course, it is not always possible to pack your own meals and snacks, but you still need to eat. Fast-food restaurants abound at airports and at highway rest stops, and they are not off-limits so long as you are smart about what you order.
Smart picks include a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato (hold the mayo) and a side salad. If you enjoy hamburgers, order a single patty, and top it with extra lettuce and tomatoes. Can’t resist french fries? Order the smallest size and eat half.
Several fast-food chains offer fruit-topped oatmeal and yogurt parfaits that make for satisfying and tasty snacks. (They may be higher in sugar and should be considered a treat.)
A growing number of airports have vastly improved their healthy food options in recent years. Look for items like hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, Greek yogurt, turkey jerky, packaged nuts, seaweed chips, packaged olives, individual hummus and guacamole packs, and green leaf salads with grilled chicken.
At your destination
It is not unusual to be off your typical eating schedule when you are on vacation and not following your daily routine. That said, eating regularly and trying to get in three balanced meals a day will set you up for staying healthy and feeling energetic throughout your trip.
Start your day right with a healthy breakfast; it will get increasingly harder to resist temptation when afternoon and evening set in so you are better off getting in a balanced meal early on.
If you are renting a home or staying in a hotel room with a kitchen, hit a supermarket to buy breakfast items such as fruit, unsweetened yogurt, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, avocado, nut butter, sprouted grain bread and eggs.
You will save money overall because breakfast out is usually expensive and you will be eating well at the same time.
Another piece of advice with this morning meal: Do not skimp with the goal of saving up to splurge later in the day. You are more likely to overdo the unhealthy foods if you are hungry, so make sure it is substantial enough to tide you over until lunch.
Lunch and dinner
Food is a great way to experience the local culture. Go for lean proteins (a grilled or baked local fish perhaps) and salads and vegetables using produce that your destination is known for (think Italian tomatoes). This approach will leave you plenty of room for treats.
You can and should treat yourself during your trip – after all, that is a highlight of any vacation.
WHAT’S WORTH IT?
To be worthwhile, any indulgences should be unique to your destination. Also, try to stick to one such splurge a day.
The alcohol factor
Calories from alcohol are essentially empty and add up fast without filling you up. In addition, alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to overeating.
That is not to say that you cannot enjoy some booze. Drink at either lunch or dinner, but not both. If you do want to partake during both meals for a few days of your trip, balance those out by an equal number of non-drinking days.
The most waist-friendly sips include a glass of wine (red, white, rose or sparkling are all okay), and spirits such as tequila or vodka on their own with a twist of citrus.
Either avoid sugary mixed drinks such as margaritas or rum and Coke or count them as your daily indulgence.
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