Physique Wise Guide to Holiday Training

‘Silly Season’ is well and truly upon us & this is the time of year I regularly get asked about how to maintain training over a holiday period. Clients often find it frustrating when they come back from a trip and feel as if they are right back at square one. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. Implementing some simple strategies can help immensely.

Tip #1. Consider the length of your trip: The longer you are away, the more important it will be to consider exercise and nutrition. Trips of a week or less tend not to be too problematic, and can often serve as a much needed break from training. However, anything longer than a week will need some consideration. So firstly, understand how long your trip will be for.

Tip #2. Maintain the Basics: Going on holiday doesn't necessarily mean a total break from routines you have at home. It is usually easy to maintain some nutritional basics such as drinking plenty of water, consuming protein in every meal, getting 3-5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Going on holiday doesn't mean all your usual good routines/habits have to go out the window.

Tip #3. Try Something New:  Holidays often present opportunities to try new activities that you would otherwise not have the opportunity to do. One of the best ways to see a new country is to take long runs and/or walks and go explore. Near the sea? Indulge in some water-sports (surfing, paddle-boarding, scuba diving, swimming, canoeing etc). In the mountains? Try hiking, paragliding, skiiing, snowboarding, mountain biking. Holidays are the perfect chance to try new activities. 

Tip #4: Maintain a Training Program: Contrary to popular belief, I often view holidays as a perfect time to get some good quality training in, for the following reasons: -

  • Better quality workouts due to fewer time demands: Generally speaking, there are far fewer demands on your time when on holiday. This leaves you more time to train than would normally be the case. This means you can really focus on your training and utilise the extra time to your advantage
  • Better conditions for recovery: Holidays generally lead to favourable conditions to recover from workouts. You are generally in a lower stress environment, you sleep longer, sleep deeper, take naps during the day, and eat more calories (naturally!). This provides a great environment to get the most out of your training sessions. Also, I tend to indulge in massages much more frequently on holidays, which also leads to enhanced recovery.
  • Off-Set Damage: If holidays are slightly more indulgent (larger meals, more alcohol etc) then training will at least off-set some of the ‘damage’ done by such activities. Im not preaching here - I always drink more on holidays than I do usually - but at least by training I don’t feel so horrendous about it.

So for these reasons, I often try to persuade clients to maintain their current training programs, or at least a modified version of it, whilst they are away. Training doesn’t need to be as frequent, and the sessions don’t need to be as long. Whilst you are away you can simply focus on maintaining your current condition, which requires far less effort than trying to make progress. If you usually train 5 times per week, you could strip it back to 3 sessions per week. By maintain your training whilst away you won’t come back to the gym feeling like such a novice.

Tip #5: Sandwich Your Trip with Periods of Regimented Dieting & Training: If you want your holiday to serve as more of a break from training and dieting then sandwiching the trip between more focused periods of training and dieting may be a good approach. Utilise the 4 weeks before and the 4 weeks after your trip to be focused on your training & nutrition, allowing you to be able to relax and enjoy your holiday. 

Tip #6: Plan in Advance: If you are planning to train whilst away, do some planning in advance to see what kind of facilities will be available to you. Often good quality gym facilities are hard to come by when travelling. Therefore it is often wise to see what facilities are available to you. Most hotel gyms are very limited so often I prescribe bodyweight workouts that need no equipment, or seek out local gyms in the area that may have a broader range of facilities. So before you leave, know in advance where you plan to train & know what equipment you have available to you.

Tip #7: Take some Provisions: When travelling I like to take a few essentials with me to ensure I can eat and train effectively: -

  • Pack protein bars and nuts to ensure you have something available if food is scarce, or if food options are severely limited.
  • Pack gym gear and appropriate footwear to ensure you can train effectively. The good news is that gym gear is light-weight and easy to pack.
  • Pack Lifting Straps - I often utilise straps on exercises such as Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts and heavy rows.

Tip #8: Ditch the Wheels: Wheeling your suitcases along may be an easy way of transporting your luggage, but picking it up and carrying it will give you a far more effective workout. So why not try carrying your bags - it may make you question the amount of clothes you pack!

Personally, here are some of my favourite holiday exercise habits/routines: -

  • Get it done early: Get your training out of the way first thing in the morning, leaving the rest of the day to do as you wish
  • Halve the volume: So your regular program calls for 4 sets of 8 reps? Cut down the volume and halve the number of sets you perform. This will allow you to maintain you progress without eating into too much of your time
  • Want some fat loss? Engage in full body circuits with minimal rest. For example: -

A1. Body weight Squat Jumps x 10

A2. Body Weight Squats x 10

A3. Forward Lunges x 10

A4. Pull Ups x 10

A5. Push-Ups x 10

Rest 60 secs and repeat x 5

  • Don’t want to do the ‘usual’ forms of cardio? Hire a bike and explore the area. Take a skipping rope and skip for 10 mins every morning. Make use of the pool and swim some laps every day. Take a 45 minute walk before breakfast every morning.

Holidays are a fantastic way to unwind, de-stress, re-energise and enjoy yourself. However, they don’t necessarily have to spell the end for your fitness goals. Following these simple tips will help you stay in shape during your holiday.

Wishing you all a great Christmas break whatever you may be up to. Enjoy!