I’ve given this blog a go quite a few times over the last few weeks, and each time I deleted everything I had written until a fresh white digital page was before me, curser blinking with too many thoughts and too little words. I’d close my laptop, and move onto a different activity (most likely meal prep). Flash back to the week leading up to my trip. I was so excited for the journey of a lifetime, but I was also anxious about leaving the routine I had put so much time and sweat into (see related: irrational and negative occasional yet powerful fear of regression). Packing my small but mighty carry-on, I remember thinking about this blog and how I would be able to write about my vacation as the ultimate fit-trip. Spoiler alert: that is not what you’re going to read. What you’re going to read is how my vacation was the ultimate trip. Period. It’s been one month since I landed on American soil after 15 – let me say that again, fifteen – days eating traveling my way through Western Europe, and I finally feel that I have the clarity to communicate everything I want to write about the life of a self proclaimed fiercely dedicated fit chick on vacation.
Blame it on the jet lag or the post-travel blues, but I latched onto my vacation in a series of stages – from positive to negative and everything in between.
I’ll call the first stage, for lack of a better term, the “YOLO” stage. “You only live once – and baby I. am. living!” It was my mantra since our plane hit the ground in London Town. I was still saying it while strutting to my fave sushi place – and digging into three rolls – immediately upon arrival, and I meant it. This trip was the most incredible experience of my life thus far (ICYMI: I left a #TIUgirl and returned a #TIUbride!), and I was totally okay with being out of my routine because separating myself from the gym and MyFitnessPal brought me all of these amazing memories, and also because I knew I’d get right back to my lifestyle – it was a part of me. Stage One was blissful.
Stage Two caught me by surprise, and it came in swinging. Where Stage One was the boy next door, Stage Two was the dangerously irresistable biker dude. Phase Two was Resentment. I stepped onto the treadmill and powered up my Pandora for my first official workout upon my return and with heavy legs all I could think was, “Dang, cardio is HARDIO, girl!” Monday’s #amwo wasn’t any easier. I had to drop set my weights through moves that I powered through previously and I watched as my heart rate struggled to recover on my MyZone tracker app. In hindsight, I know this didn’t make we weak, and it should have been expected. I was asking a lot of my body to react as if my two-week gallivant never happened, and I certainly didn’t prime it for a quick recovery. That same day I had to hop, jump, and wriggle into a pair of pants that were roomy prior to my departure. I felt… frustrated. And I got into the bad habit of blaming my vacation. Feeling uncomfortable in my clothing was at one time a normalcy for me, but over the course of 11+ months my lifestyle developed into a new normal, and I felt so very far from it. Like the 3,908 miles from Philadelphia to Barcelona kind of far.
Snap out of it, Al. Sorry to get so heavy on you there. I was weighing myself down with negative vibes, and I caught myself before I got in too deep. It took a long hard look in the mirror, but I broke up with Resentment and started seeing Stage Three, Acceptance. I was in the swing of things – planning meals, meeting my macro goals (while happily munching on untracked treats, #almondlife), and doing work in the gym when I saw the damn light. Let me be clear: no ab definition, no matter how ripped and shredded and rippling, is worth missing out on – or, even worse, fearing – life. Hell, the whole reason I began this fitness journey was so that I could enjoy my life at my happiest and healthiest. My vacation wasn’t a permanent state, it didn’t define my habits, and it didn’t set me back. Instead it filled me up, expanded my horizons, and made me so incredibly grateful. I accepted the physical and mental – mostly mental – effects of my vacation and we are on great terms to this day. I love you, vacation!
Acceptance and I had gotten serious and I was ready to take it to the next level – Stage Four: Action. With the Tone It Up Bikini Series (the place where this whole journey began) nearing closer, I decided to set a new and improved goal and work towards it with razor sharp focus. All of these unexpected post-vacation emotions had me feeling lost, and I knew I needed a little kick in the booty to reignite my fire. I met with my dietician and we determined a plan that I immediately put into action. For me, establishing a clear intention was the key to moving forward.
And now we meet here, at Stage Five: Clarity. Four weeks later, and I’m able to clearly define and understand each complex emotion I felt following LAV (Life After Vacation). Better yet, I’m able to classify them into stages, reflect on them, and use them as tools as I continue on my heath and fitness journey (because I’m in it for the long haul, y’all).
And without further ado, since I can not write without including some sort of list, I present to you a round up of tips sprinkled with words of wisdom and IRL accounts of my experience:
- Determine a *realistic* plan. I encourage you to start thinking about your trip a few weeks prior to take-off and develop a key word: realistic plan for how your travels will align with your healthy lifestyle. Do your accommodations and schedule allow you to cook for yourself? Can you vow to make walking your primary mode of transportation? Will you be able to exercise? What are the go-to healthy spots in the area for locals?
I made my goals Instagram-official with a photo and caption: “Work out every other day, Healthiest choices 80/20, Enjoy every moment of guilt free balance.” Looking back, it was a huge commitment. My goals would come to be affected by countless things beyond my control and that mentally made me feel like I was failing at achieving them. Now I realize my goals were a little vague and a lot ambitious given the variables of my specific vacation. It was a lesson in setting goals that prime you for success, not (perceived) failure.
- Fight Back Snack Attack. Two things became apparent to me during my trip. 1. I can’t control what appears on the menu in front me when I stumble into a corner cafe in Paris (anyone remember my Steak Frites story?) 2. I can, however, exercise more control over snacks and grab-n-go meals. While my fiancé (!!!) stopped more than once – a day – along our walks for sugary street-side snacks (from crepes to stroopwaffles to gelato), I would dip into the nearest grocery store for a bag of roasted almonds or a piece of fresh fruit (seriously, Europe has amazing grab-n-go options). I found that snacks were the best way to keep up the practice of intentional choices and balance out my main meals.
- Order up! Depending on your destination, anything from cultural courtesies to language barriers can lead to a waiter presenting you with an unexpected plate. While in France, my fiancé and I stopped at a super-real-deal-French eatery for a late lunch where I ordered the salmon with a side of zucchini, beaming with nutrition-nerd excitement. When the dish arrived to our table, the salmon was wrapped with a gorgeously fried, golden brown crepe. Needless to say, it was not the picture of health I imagined, though I should mention, it was probably one of my top 5 meals abroad. My consolation here was simply and powerfully this: I tried. I made the sincere effort to order a healthy item off of a menu I could hardly read (4 years of AP French where you at?!). In every restaurant I went to (it felt like thousands), never once did I order with the mentality that I was going to throw all of my dietary preferences and nutritional values down the drain. At one point, I asked my fiancé, “What do you think my healthy to unhealthy ratio is?” and he replied that my unwavering attempts and dedicated menu translating chalked up to a 90/10 split, but in reality I was probably evening out at 50/50. That, my friends, is something that was hard to accept at the time, but that today, I am proud of. **mentally erases previously mentioned 80/20 goal from Instagram caption and replaces with something much more realistic** Although it didn’t always work out as planned, my consistency and dedication gave me a sense of comfort and pride.
- Pack n’ Pin. Stow some of your favorite healthy snacks in your carry-on (I reserved a space for RX Bars, Square Organics, and almonds) and, if room allows, squeeze some portable fitness gear into your luggage (think sliders, resistance bands, or a jump rope!) Once the goods are packed, you gotta use ‘em. I turned to Pinterest to download do-anywhere, anytime body weight + HIIT workouts directly to my phone. Online sources like ToneItUp.com and Mission-360.com have tons of videos and printables, from heart-rate pumpin’ to sore leg stretching. The options are endless and a fun way to try a new routine 🙂
Overall, whether it’s a 3-day weekend getaway or a month-long trip around the world, vacation is to be enjoyed! Trust me, as someone who dedicates a very large portion of my life to health and fitness, I know it’s easier said than done, but my best advice is to go with the flow. A healthy lifestyle is your foundation, and it will always be there supporting you, no matter where you are in the world. TL;DR Vacations are literally intended to be a break from our routines, so let go and let live!