Vacation Exercise: Thinking Outside the Box

Vacation Exercise

Not sure how much exercise this tour provides, but a beer tour of Indianapolis while pedaling has to provide some cardio.

Do you ever find yourself on an exercise regimen only to be on a trip and skipping out on a week of workouts? Unless you’re training for a marathon or triathlon, skipping four or five days of workouts doesn’t matter. Trust me. It. Does. Not. Matter if you skip several days of exercise as you enjoy a destination. But as a former competitive runner, I do know the importance of getting in some quality vacation exercise. And as a parent, I know how hard it can be to get in vacation exercise while enjoying a destination and watching the little ones. So here are a few ways I’ve managed to break a sweat while traveling. And I’m not talking about 12-ounce curls. I’ve tried all of these alternative ways to get in some vacation exercise.

When traveling on short two- or three-day weekends, I don’t think fitting in a workout is all that vital, especially if you’re able to exercise the day before departure. When I’m in workout mode at home, I try to never skip more than two days straight. I can accept three days of no exercise if I had a great week leading into the trip and a great week coming off it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t at least try to get in a workout in a destination. I often pack workout clothes to hit the hotel treadmill, or maybe go for a quick run. The problem is, those clothes never come out of the suitcase. Here are some ways I get a workout in when we travel, some of which might surprise you. But trust me, even 20 minutes of walking is important to keep the heart pumping.

Enjoy a Bike Tour

Vacation Exercise

When I was in Toronto last year I took a bicycle tour of the Toronto Islands. It was a beautiful day and a great morning out exploring the islands and seeing the Toronto skyline from across Lake Ontario. While there was a bit of stop and go, I felt the ride was a nice workout. The pace was comfortable, but at a fast enough clip at times that I felt I was getting a bit of cardio in. And I thought the ride would be very family friendly as long as the kids know how to ride a bike and go for a couple of hours. Next time you find yourself in a new city, check out a bike tour. It’s a good way to explore a new destination while getting a little workout in.

Run, Don’t Walk

Vacation Exercise

When I was a kid my mom would park in the back of a shopping center parking lot so we could get a little bit more exercise in. The same lesson applies here. When you find yourself in a place where it makes sense to get a quick jog in, do so. The above photo was taken when I was on a bit of a forced run at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris. We found ourselves on the far end of the massive property with our backpack in a locker that was set to close soon. So while Stacey and Colby took their time getting back, I ran back across the large garden to get our backpack. I’m not sure that I would recommend running across the property of one of Europe’s great palaces, but it was enough for me to break a solid sweat.

Carry the Sack

vacation exercise

Just before watching Tottenham Hotspur play Fulham at White Hart Lane in London.

When we spent a few weeks in Europe I carried Colby everywhere. When in Paris, I carried him. When in London, I carried him. And all across Scotland, I carried him. My reasoning was simple. The longer his legs held up meant the later I could stay out each night. And it worked.

vacation exercise

Carrying the “sack” in London’s Portobello Road Market.

I’m not saying it will work for you and your children, but it worked for us. And it helped develop my biceps, not to mention walking long distances with an extra 40 pounds.

And probably the craziest carrying I’ve done was toting Colby up the 500 stairs at the Eiffel Tower. It was really hard. You don’t have to carry a child, but if you encounter an opportunity to take the stairs instead of an elevator then take a walk.

vacation exercise

Walking to dinner in Giverny, France

Go for a Hike

vacation exercise

We’re not outdoorsy people, but when we visited Santa Fe, N.M., in the fall Colby and I had the chance to go for a hike in the mountains above the city. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful way to get out into nature. But you don’t have to travel to an outdoors destination to enjoy a hike. Many cities have parks with walking trails, paths through forests or around lakes, and the new trend of converting rails to trails. Even if it’s just for a quick 10-minute out and back on a trail, start your day on a nearby park’s trail. It’s a great way to get out and enjoy a city like a local.

Dive Right In

vacation exercise

On a beach vacation? The solution to the exercise problem is simple, as you can just dive right into the ocean and swim, play in the surf or even go for a run. I find that playing in the waves is a great workout. Swim out, glide in with the waves, and then run back out into the surf. You’ll feel the burn in your quadriceps. Or, if you don’t feel like diving into the saltwater, hit the pool and swim some laps or go for a run while the kids play in the sand.

Find Alternative Cardio

vacation exercise

When we were in Indianapolis last fall, one of our favorite activities was going for a one-hour ride on a surrey. I had never been on a surrey, but I’m glad we went for the ride. It wasn’t crazy hot that September evening, but we pedaled hard enough that I had to have a shower before going out for dinner. This was a real workout. And it was a blast. I’m not sure how many cities have surreys, but maybe you can come across a paddle boat or maybe even a kayak to rent.

Go Shopping

Vacation exercise

Yes, seriously, go shopping. I don’t feel this is the best form of cardio exercise. But if you buy a few things and have shopping bags to carry it might work as a minor workout. I know if nothing else standing for hours while your wife shops can be very tiring. I feel like I’ve run a half-marathon sometimes when she shops and I, well, watch.

18 thoughts on “Vacation Exercise: Thinking Outside the Box

  1. I did have a reason: one of the elevators was broken so walking up was much quicker. But I knew I should carry him to save his legs. I had just run a half-marathon a couple of weeks before so I was in pretty good shape.

  2. These are great tips! I love bike tours of cities and hiking too, so that’s usually how I get in my exercise. I also always walk around a city instead of taking public transport. Sometimes people think I’m insane, but you find the best spots and off-the-beaten-path places by doing this. Love the photos of you carrying the sack, haha. I like your reasoning too!
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted…Music Monday: All I Want.My Profile

  3. Erin, I can’t carry Colby long distances anymore. Well, I can carry him on my shoulders for a bit but then my back is dead the next day. I can’t imagine parents traveling with more than one kid. I’d probably try to find a way to carry them both if it meant I got to stay out an hour later.

  4. Pola, I don’t dance but that definitely counts as exercise. Not only are you out having a good time in a different destination, you’re working your heart rate too.

  5. Lance, I seen you dance at TBEX, you had moves… Seriously, Dancing is another great way to exercise. Personally, I love to always dive right in as you say, or really paddle out and surf…. But besides all the advice, good advice… my favorite was saying how you can take off a few days and that It. Is. Okay. I can’t take it when people can’t just relax for a few days on holiday…

    stay fit, Craig
    craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) recently posted…Spring Break Cancun, Mexico – Yes, there is a Beautiful BeachMy Profile

  6. Honestly, any sort of movement I get while on trips is more than I get at home since I’m stuck behind a computer most of the time. I would imagine carrying a kid around would be a tremendous calorie burner. I, instead, opt for a massive suitcase and backpack. That does the trick without the whining. 😉

    Great tips, Lance.
    Leah recently posted…Travel for Travel’s SakeMy Profile

  7. Brianna, I was thinking about this post yesterday in New Orleans. I was late meeting my wife and son at a restaurant that was about a mile from where I was at the World War II museum. So I ran to get to them. It wasn’t meant to be exercise, but it certainly counted. I find myself getting in little unintentional workouts like that a lot. Some people would have just walked and been even later but that’s not my style.

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