With all the weddings my husband and I have been to this year (5 of 7 so far!) I’ve had many long weekend trips, the most recent we made into a true vacation featuring two full weeks split between Greece – Athens and Santorini – and Istanbul, I came back inspired to write about keeping fit while traveling.

I got stuck starting this post because they way I see it, there are two opposite personalities to write for; those who seek tips on making healthful choices and not throwing all caution to the wind, and those who get so stuck in keeping up with their workouts and healthy eating that a vacation stresses them out. Perhaps you toggle between the two. You may be completely content with being a beach bum on your honeymoon but you may be training for a marathon while visiting family at Christmas. There are ways to vacation as a healthy person and enjoy your new environment!

Keep fitness and healthy habits while traveling

Pack for it
Bring one pair of gym shoes (great to travel in if you have limited suitcase space) and workout wear that can double for sightseeing attire. Fitness clothing has come a LONG way and many of your pieces can be worn for a run on the beach then a walk to brunch. If you’re going to the beach, remember socks!

Gym in a band
Resistance bands deliver a great workout and take up practically no space and add no weight to your luggage. Plus, you can use them in a hotel room, no need for a gym!

Get creative
I used a coffee table for dips and split squats, the bed for deficit push-ups and a pillow to create an unstable surface for balance work. If you’re waiting for family to get up or get ready, use that time to get creative with items in the hotel room and use your body weight to work your muscles.

Use your surroundings
San Francisco is a hill workout of a city and the beach provides resistance! Walk if at all feasible, taking the scenic route and not avoiding the stairs. You’ll see more, save more and get your steps in before lunch time. If there are hiking trails nearby, pick a challenging one, if there’s kayaking take one for a spin!

Splurge on what counts
Trying new foods, famous restaurants and your hosts’ favorite dessert joint are all fine things to indulge in; it’s half the fun of a vacation, eating things you can’t get at home! But don’t waste your splurge on something you aren’t excited about simply because you didn’t take a few minutes to plan. Pack (or hit up a nearby grocery store) non-perishable healthy snacks like: apples, string cheese, dried fruits and nuts, beef jerky (low in fat, high in protein!), instant oatmeal (can be made in the microwave or with hot water from a hotel coffee maker), protein bars, etc.

Find a new approach to fitness and break out of your routine while traveling

Know before you go
If you workout 5+ days a week it’s easy to think you’ll gain weight and/or lose muscle and fitness during a week long vacation. Did you get fit in 7 days? In 14 days? No. You’re still someone who works out regularly, this is simply a XX day cut back in your routine and you will resume regular programming as soon as you’re back.

Change your perspective
Much like, “use your surroundings”, instead of viewing fitnessĀ as black and white workouts with sets and reps and miles, challenge yourself with what’s outside your hotel. Hike the nearest mountain, run on the beach (I guarantee you will be spent in half the time), sign up for a white water rafting tour. Get out there and enjoy what’s unique about wherever you are and make the focus about fun and experience rather than calories and time.

Running tours
Many cities offer running tours where you can get in a run while learning about your surroundings AND meeting other travelers. Here’s my favorite: City Running Tours.

Eat like a local
Get what’s fresh, branch out from your staple foods, get one thing that the city you’re in is known for. Fresh food keeps it cheap as well as healthy, deviating from your norm will remind you how awesome food can be and you will have the experience and stories of trying whatever wonderful or terrible hometown delicacy you land on!

As a fitness professional, it’s probably no surprise I fall into the latter category. I’ve been in the gym of a hotel at 7am (I was training for a half marathon so I’m OK with that choice) and I’ve found myself fretting about not getting in my 30 miles a week or figuring out what to eat in the morning if I don’t have a kitchen. Then I remember every vacation I went on where I didn’t workout much, if at all, and didn’t gain weight, and was able to run 5 miles the day after getting home. I’ve always resumed my routine once back home and my body tends to thank me for the extra recovery and working out feels great since I allowed myself to miss it.

What’s the worst that will happen? You’re a few seconds slower per mile for a few days? You put on 2 pounds? Would you trade in your last vacation for those reasons? I know I wouldn’t!

I saw amazing things over our two weeks abroad. My Fitbit registered 17,000+ steps with no formal workout taking place and one day I hit 147 floors! Eating out everyday didn’t take the toll I feared it would. I ate more intuitively, getting food when hungry and not snacking mindlessly because snacks aren’t sitting in front of your face when you’re walking to the Blue Mosque or climbing the steps up from Amoudi Bay. The Greek salads in Greece are insanely fresh and the dressing is a drizzle of olive oil. The fish in Istanbul was likely caught outside our AirBnB. The Turkish breakfast changed my view of what breakfast can be!

IMG_7552Steep walk to and from Amoudi Bay with a quick swim was a refreshing way to move in Santorini.

IMG_7964 IMG_7913After renting bikes and a 900 meter steep climb we were rewarded with a sweeping view of the Asian side of Istanbul from the Princes’ Islands!
IMG_7770One of our many Turkish breakfasts! Meat, tons of cheese, honey, fresh jam, olives, cucumber, tomatoes and hard boiled eggs. YUM!
IMG_8048Street gyros in Athens. Need I say more? I went “healthy” and did not get fries in mine. Brett did.

By all means, get your endorphin fix, but keep experiences and wonder at the forefront of your vacation. It’d be a shame to look back on your travels and have your memory be of the hotel gym or the stress you felt trying to find the healthiest restaurant. Get out there and explore!

Published by Samantha Kellgren

1 Comment

  1. Great tips, Sam! Running in a new city is the best way to explore.


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