“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul” – Robert Wyland
Oh happiness, it’s vacation time. This week I get to write from my beach chair with my toes in the sand, the sun soaking into my skin, and the ocean air blowing through my hair. My thoughts are rolling in with the waves, and I am enjoying the opportunity to relax, write, and just be still in these moments throughout the week. The beach is so beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing, and it offers just what my body, mind, and soul have been craving: time to recharge, to take a break from my day-to-day responsibilities, and to enjoy time with my family without any distractions.
In the days leading up to our vacation someone asked me if I was going to run or rest. My answer…running is my resting. This moment that I am sitting in right now…the clear blue skies, toes in the sand, cool breeze against my skin, and the relaxing sounds of the waves rolling in…this moment is happiness and relaxation all rolled into one big beach ball. And this is exactly how I feel when I run…happy, relaxed, and at peace with myself (of course add a little exhaustion and sweat, but still, I absolutely love it). Clearly the two are completely different scenarios, but if I could bottle up the way this moment makes me feel sitting here on this beach as well as the way I feel when I am running, both bottles would be overflowing with these same positive emotions. So, running is my resting and yes, I am lacing up my tennis shoes and getting some miles in this week. I have actually been very excited about being able to run on the beach during on this trip!
This question of running or resting got me thinking about other questions often pondered…
Should you exercise on vacation or take a break?
Simply put, what my body needs and what your body needs will not be the same…listen to your body. If the last thing you want to do on vacation is exercise and it would be a forced activity, you should probably take an exercise break. When something is forced, it is likely to be resented, and the ultimate goal is to enjoy exercising as part of your daily life. The saying “consistency is key” holds very true, but I can assure you that recovery is key too. In fact, there is no one single key that unlocks your greatest fitness potential, but rather, a set of many keys that will all need to be utilized at various times. Sometimes your body needs the rest more than anything, and the recovery period will bring you back feeling more refreshed and energized than before. And take it from someone who has worried about this many times already…don’t stress out and worry about losing the gains you have made. It takes longer than a few days or even an entire week to undo all of your hard work. Resting is okay (actually, resting is good!). If it’s time for a break away from your exercise routine, listen to your body and give it what it needs. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy your vacation.
On the other hand, if you want to continue your routine and you look forward to your daily exercise while on vacation, by all means…carry on! Activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, or even just walking around an amusement park all day can make exercising on vacation quite fun, and those daily activities can really add up! As for me, I have found excitement and joy in exercising at a new destination…running on the beach with the sound of the waves crashing as background noise to my music…discovering new routes and seeing new things…reaching for new goals that have left me feeling strong, accomplished, and confident. Throughout the week I have done many things to keep moving in new and exciting ways, however, since I am on vacation I haven’t necessarily planned them ahead of time. If I wake up and feel like running, I run. If I wake up and feel like walking the beach and searching for seashells, I search until my heart is content. If I wake up and feel like pulling the covers over my head and going back to sleep, I do that too. Ah, vacation.
With new places comes new experiences…
One of the things I have been able to do this week was run my first beach 5k. I have participated in many 5k’s up to this point, but this one was definitely the hardest and the hottest! I learned very quickly that beach running is not easy and it is no joke (major kudos to all of the beach runners out there!). The sights and the sounds were breathtaking, but running on that sand definitely took my breath away, fast. Oh, and made my back ache…talk about difficult! But now I can look back and always remember the time I ran my first beach 5k and know that no matter how hard or hot it got, I kept going until I reached the goal. This was my last race in the Disney virtual running shorts series and I was super excited to have wrapped it up at this beautiful location. I love the beach and I love running, combining the two made a perfect memory.
With new places comes new goals…
The day we arrived at Belleair Beach we drove over the Belleair Causeway Bridge and a couple of things stood out to me. First, what a view. The bridge rose 74 feet high and spanned 3,350 feet across the beautiful Intracoastal Waterway. As we reached the peak of the bridge I fell in love with the way the sun was sparkling off of the water, and it was the first moment I felt like I was in paradise. Second, there was a pedestrian lane. Wait, what? Yes! This big, beautiful bridge had a pedestrian lane and sure enough, there were people walking and biking right by us! By the time our car reached the other side I had decided I was going to run the bridge while we were here and I was excited for a new challenge. When we reached our vacation home for the week I was very happy to see that we were only half a mile down the street, making it easily accessible when I was ready to take it on. Late one afternoon (but definitely not late enough!) I ran out of our front door with a goal – to run to and across the entire length of the bridge without stopping. I knew it would be a cardiovascular challenge for me and holy sunshine was I correct. It was quite the challenge with the hardest part being the Florida sun blazing into my body. My face felt like a fireball, but I had a goal that I was determined to meet and I was not stopping. As I reached the top I knew I would make it and my eyes filled with joyful tears. It is in these moments that I am once again flooded by emotion of how far I have come; it’s like my whole journey flashes before my eyes and I am overwhelmed with awe and gratitude. I walked back (because I had never felt so much heat radiating from my body in my life!) and I just enjoyed the beauty of the bridge, the water, the accomplishment, and the moment. Always remind yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to, put time and effort into, and never give up on.
The world is our gym…
Being away from home does throw us off of our routines. You don’t have access to your normal equipment, gym, and your familiar trails and paths. But don’t let that stop you from getting in a good workout…the world really is our gym!!! In addition to running in new places, I am also getting outside and doing push-ups and planks on the beach, running the stairs in front of our condominium, doing laps in the pool, and taking long walks in search of seashells! The best part of each activity has been enjoying the view afterwards…just sitting in the sun staring towards the ocean watching the world just be alive. Some of the best workouts can be done in new places, just be sure to pack your workout clothes (and in my case sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat!), get out there, and go!
How can you stick to a healthy diet while on vacation?
Have I been sticking to my healthy diet while on vacation? Why yes I have. Do I feel like I have missed out on anything by doing so? Absolutely not. I have eaten everything I wanted to this week, basically because the foods that I crave now are healthy foods! Once you ingrain healthy eating into your life, you won’t want the junk foods (Really, you won’t!!). Actually, my experience now is that when I do splurge on fatty foods or load up on too much sugar or carbs, I end up feeling very yuck the next day. Bloated…even nauseous…tired…just plain bad. While being away from home does make it more difficult to stick with your normal snacks, meals, and eating patterns, you can still be successful with a good game plan. Here are some guidelines I try to go by while on vacation:
- Pack some of your everyday snacks or purchase them when you arrive. It is very beneficial to have your go-to foods readily available when you need them, especially if you end up somewhere that doesn’t offer healthy options. I made a trip to the grocery store as soon as we arrived and stocked up on my favorites – fruits, veggies, nuts, cheese sticks, and organic Greek yogurt. One of my favorite beach snacks has been a bowl of fresh cut fruit during the heat of the day. It is so refreshing and delicious!
- Eat in as much as you can. Being able to prepare your own meals gives you full control over what you are eating, and saves a ton of money! We ate in for most all of our meals and there is something to be said for being able to eat in your pajamas while overlooking the ocean as the sun sets…
- It’s very likely that you will dine out at some point while on vacation so do your research ahead of time. As part of vacation planning, one of the things I always do is research local restaurants and look at reviews and menus. This way, I find the best spots in the area, and I have a game plan for what I will be able to order before we go. We have only gone out to dinner once on this vacation, and my grilled chicken with coconut rice and steamed veggies was extremely delicious and nutritious!
- I believe that a healthy diet can include moderate indulgences from time to time and I apply that same mentality while on vacation. I have eaten healthy every day, but I have also enjoyed a couple of indulgences that I don’t regret. The first was a hot cup of coffee that my husband made with a spoonful (okay maybe more) of sugar and heavy whipping cream. Oh, my…it was heavenly. The other was a big, beautiful scoop of salted caramel ice cream on top of a fresh waffle cone which I ate every single bite of…and it was amazing. Part of traveling is definitely eating the local foods. How can you go to Chicago and not get a deep dish pizza? New Orleans and not get beignets? Las Vegas and not eat at a buffet? Walt Disney World and net get a Mickey shaped ice cream bar? The answer is you shouldn’t miss them completely! Just find a balance, plan your days, and watch your portions. You can certainly sample the local fare without overdoing it. Get a cup instead of a bowl, eat one instead of two, share and only eat half. Enjoy the foods in moderation and then keep moving to burn those extra calories!
- Watch what you drink. Vacation time often means an extra adult beverage here and there, but this is a fast road to a lot of extra calories. Ask yourself if you really want to drink your calories for the day and consider having only one or two special drinks during your visit. And while we are on the topic of drinking, always have water on hand and be sure to stay well hydrated! Especially if the temperatures are high and you are engaging in more outdoor activities than normal. In addition to staying hydrated, water makes you feel full and might make you less likely to eat too many local junk foods! Want to spruce up your water and make it even more refreshing? Try adding some lemon, berries, or my personal favorite..cucumber!
As I write this final paragraph, I am back at home and sitting in the comfort of my own home. Looking back, I can say that this vacation accomplished everything I wanted and more…complete relaxation, a lot of family fun, discovering new places, and creating beautiful memories. We all need a healthy dose of vacationing from time to time…to clear our minds, renew our spirit, strengthen our soul, and enjoy life to its fullest with the ones we love. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would enjoy incorporating exercise into a vacation so much, but once it is part of your every day life, it becomes fun, exciting, and something you look forward to no matter where you are. Even on our simple days at home, it turns into an activity that is like a mini-vacation in which you can refresh your mind, body, and soul.
I may be home now and these are now memories, but what sweet memories they are…