Going on vacation and getting your sweat-on aren’t two things you’d usually rope together but, as it turns out, a fitness vacation is now the thing. A big thing. A thing so big they’ve been granted their own hybrid nickname – they’re called fitcations, and they’re the bombdiggity. They’re awesome. They’re wanderlust meets wellness. They’re about celebrating your sense of get-up and go, swapping your city-centre gym for a retreat in some rub-your-eyes-in-disbelief pocket of paradise, and recharging your batteries in a whole new way; an active way; a jump-up-and-get your-move-on way.
And they’re everywhere.
There are open-water swimming getaways to Greece, midnight-sun runs in the Arctic Circle, working out like cavemen in the Spanish wilderness, goat-yoga (which is exactly what you’re imagining: it’s yoga with goats climbing over you), hardcore hiking-adventures across the Agafay desert, Thaithlons (which are basically triathlons in Thailand), yoga retreats, Muay Thai escapes and so much more. But they all share the same aim: to make the epic world’s of globe-trotting and fitness perform a four-step fist bump.
Of course, the first step to putting your fitness and wanderlust, well, first, is to book your place on one, which is where our super-epic, no-nonsense, step-by-step guide to choosing the right one comes in handy. But once you’ve read through that, found the fitness vacation for you, entered your long card number, clicked the “book now” button, and made the commitment to getting your fitness-on, you’re probably gonna find your belly does a few backflips and your brain starts sparking with panic.
Don’t worry, though.
Thinking, “what the heck have I just done?” followed by, “there’s no way I’m ready to do this?” are both totally normal reactions. It’s just a matter of grabbing that brown paper bag your bakery-bought lunch came in, taking a few deep breaths, and then preparing yourself. That’s where we come in.
So, without further ado, here is our no-nonsense guide to preparing for your fitness vacation (fitcation) so that your body doesn’t freak-out when it has to suddenly step it up a notch:
Exercise On The Reg
Okay, before you panic that “The Reg” is some super-fancy, anti-gravity new treadmill machine or something, it’s not. It was just meant to be a quick way of saying “exercise on the regular”, but the fact we had to explain it means it’s kinda backfired. Anyway, the point is: if you aren’t already exercising regularly, now’s the time to hop on the good foot and get into a great habit. It could be a morning jog, walking to work, cycling at the weekends, or running in the evenings.
Which one suits you doesn’t matter because each of these exercises will help you build up your all-important cardiovascular fitness, so try and find a way to cram them into your weekly routine. You don’t need to go overboard and crush it every day, twice a day. But try and aim for something like three, thirty minute cardio-workouts a week, something that gets your heart rate bouncing like an excited puppy. Trust us: it will give you a great head start on your holiday.
Pinch Your Nose & Dive In
It doesn’t matter what sort of fitness vacation you’ve booked – whether it’s Muay Thai or a Triathlon – you’re gonna want to swot up on both your endurance and stamina, and the best way to do that is to wiggle into your trunks and get swimming. For the sake of dramatics, the benefits are endless. Full-body workout. Check. Achieve more by doing less. Check. Boost your mental outlook. Check. De-stress your brain. Check. Take the stress off your body. Check. Boost your energy levels by cranking your metabolic rate up to eleven. Check. And do it all without the whole gross sweat thing. Uber-check. Basically, it’s great. So, dust off your nylon-slash-polyester-get-up and book a few swimming sessions in the run-up to your fitness vacation. If nothing else, it will give you an extra dollop of strength needed to keep pushing on when you’re deep into your far-flung training-trip.
Eat A Whole Lot Of Food
Mmmm hmmmm. Whole foods. Not packets of fluorescent-orange-coloured Cheesio’s that stain your fingers and tongue and have no obvious link back to a natural food source, but a balanced diet made up of whole foods. The best way to think of it is: your body is a Ferrari, and you don’t just chuck any old fuel into a Ferrari. You give it the best of the best. The premium stuff. And now is the time to leap onto that healthy eating bandwagon because, well, if you celebrate dodgy eating habits in the build-up to your fitness vacay, chances are you’ll feel super-sluggish, unmotivated and frustratingly unfocused when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. We’re not saying you need to become a nutritional martyr that only eats smashed avocado on wholemeal, sourdough bread with a turmeric shot to wash it down because no one could handle that pressure. But try and limit your processed food snacking to just 10% of your overall grub intake. Trust us: by enjoying a balanced diet of nutritious and delicious meals before you board your plane and zoom off, you’ll 100% notice your energy reserves shoot up like a High Striker puck and that’ll let you finish even the more intensive training sessions with a Tim Henman style clenched fist. You might also find keeping a food journal helps you become a bit more mindful of what you’re eating and how often.
Get Your Zzzzzz’s In Line
Rule No.7 About Exercising: The most effective way to recover is to soak up loads of sleep. That goes for athletes across all sports. That’s why you should try and nail the art of sleeping, perfect your bedtime routine, get into the habit of going to bed at the same time each night, and aim to get somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every day. Why is this super-duper important? Because you’ve booked yourself onto a fitness vacation in the hope of getting into the shape and condition of your life, and that means the training is gonna get a little bit intense. Ipso facto, your body is gonna need to recover at the end of each day, and that’s what a good night’s sleep gives you. It lowers your blood pressure, releases hormones to slow your breathing down, relaxes your muscles, reduces inflammation, and gives the whole healing process a great, big, Emperor-style thumbs-up. And the secret to it all is repetition. It’s habit. It’s getting your body’s circadian rhythm on point, and that comes with predetermined dedication.
Bend Don’t Break
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it, well, probably quite a bit: Stretching is good. Like really good. Like kickass good. In fact, those that have dedicated their lives to wearing white lab coats and writing uber-boring but super-impressive research papers have proved that regular stretching will boost your range of motion, up your mobility big time, prevent injuries from wrecking your day and reduce your battles with chronic pain. It’s also fun to do, which could have a little summin’ to with it making you feel refreshed and energised at the same time. It’s essentially magic. But start now. It could be that you get into the habit of rolling out of bed and touching the sky, begin breaking up your day of desk-hugging with a few toe-touches, set aside a 15-minute chunk of time to make sure most of your muscles get a good old elongating, or subscribing to a Yoga channel on Youtube and then get up a little earlier than usual to smash it. Whatever suits your lifestyle, make stretching a big part of your pre-fitcation preparation because it will help you out big time when you finally touch down at your fitness vacation. There’s not a lot worse than leaving your muscles unstretched and then suffering with cramps and soreness in those areas for days. It’s sucky.
Pilates Is A Good Egg
Yoga is definitely a great habit to get into. There’s no denying that. It’s like stretching but on super-relaxing steroids, and it’s especially great for anyone heading to a Muay Thai or fighting retreat. But pilates is also good. No, it’s great. No. It’s even better than that – it’s a time-tested practice that’s been celebrated by a gaggle of pro athletes for the simple reason it hardens the heck out of your back and core muscles, which are probably going to come into play at some point during your fitness vacation adventure. So go on the Google-internet machine, book a few pilates classes and enjoy the self-fulfilling prophecy that will be a stronger stance, an improved centre of gravity, and a mucho better balance. Or if you know classes are a step too far, just move your coffee table over and do a bunch of bridges, half-bridges, and any other core-strengthening moves you can easily pop into your pilates sequence.
Keep (Foam) Rolling, Rolling, Rolling
At first, we were skeptical. We couldn’t understand why you would want to put yourself through the slow form of self-torture that is rubbing a soft rolling pin up and down your muscles. But we’ve been converted. They’re just so groovy, especially when you’re looking for ways to prepare for the sweat-dripping, fitness vacation of a lifetime. Rolling out your quads, your hamstrings, your IT band, butt muscles, shoulder blades and just about every muscle you can on the foam roller lets you enjoy so many the benefits (one of which is less pain through practice). You see, what foam rolling does best is warm-up and soften the deep tissue of your muscles, which is a pretty good idea when you’re about to tackle a workout, heavy or not.
Some Extra “Been There, Done It” Advice
There’s a reason we’ve focused on the physical side of things. Quite simply: that’s gonna be the biggest shock to your system, so making it the focal point of your prep just makes sense. But it’s not the be all and end all of your fitness vacation build-up. There are a few extra pieces of helpful advice we’ve picked up along the way, and what better way is there to share these than in good, old fashioned, bullet point form – woo woo:
- Become An Early Bird: One of the best things you can do to limit the, “wow, this is intense” feeling of a fitness holiday is to get used to waking up early (especially if you are a night owl). So be brave, set your alarm for 6:00am (latest) four or five days a week and then squeeze in a cheeky workout. It’ll be good practise.
- Doctor, Doctor: It might sound a little extreme, but you should definitely pop in to see your doctor a few months before you depart and have them perform a physical. Why? ‘Cos it’s better to be safe than sorry should you have a medical condition the fitness retreat you’re heading to might need to be aware of – dietary or otherwise.
- Saviour Soles: If you’ve got a trusted pair of trainers, make sure they’re ready and by the door. If you’re due a new pair of sneaks, however, make sure you grab a great pair of exercise shoes and then break them in at least a week or two before you arrive at your destination. Blisters and discomfort aren’t on anyone’s fitness vacation wish list.
- Pack Sooner Rather Than Later: Whether your retreat has handed you a suggested packing list or not, take the time to review your needs, and then go on a shopping trip to grab all the bits you need. But do it sooner rather than later because a last-minute splurge isn’t going to be the best thing for your stress-levels.
- Open Your Mind: Now is the time to start jumping on the spot, punching the air and getting excited about your health and fitness because you’re doing it. You’re taking the next step, maybe even the biggest step, on what’s going to be one badass fitness journey. So, start preparing mentally by opening your mind up to change, practising a bit of mindfulness, and enjoying the moment for what it is.
And there we have it: everything you need to settle those pre-fitness vacation jitters and prepare in the most epic way possible. So, what are you waiting for? Find the fitness vacation for you, book it in a hurry, and kickstart your health and fitness adventure in ways you’ve never dreamed of.