I recently visited Bali – the epitome of paradise. Bali is a health-nut’s dream come true with is abundance of vegan and generally nutrition-focused eateries, exquisite tropical fruits, and spiritual ambiance attracting soul-searchers and yogis alike. I was fortunate enough to be staying at The Samata – a boutique health and wellness resort near Sanur, which had an incredibly healthy menu and amazing fitness facilities.
I’m certainly not always this lucky – but, being a frequent traveller who is also a fitness addict with difficult dietary requirements, I try very hard never to let a change in routine prevent me from staying healthy, and relaxed. I have three principles by which I try to abide, and indeed would recommend to anyone else who travels often or is about to go on holiday: these are (in order of priority) mindset, diet and exercise.
We must remember how completely different we all are. We all enjoy different types of exercise; digest certain foods better than others, and all have different ways of responding to, and dealing with, stress.
It’s no mystery that stress is a neurotoxin. The increase of the stress hormone cortisol can have a detrimental effect on our health and a severe impact on our bodies both in the short and long-term. It can lead to endless digestive problems, weight gain, hormone imbalance and ultimately, over a long period of time, it can stimulate the mutation of cancerous cells. Hence why stress is often referred to as a ‘silent killer.’ So we all know how important it is to have a break from work, to get away from the computer screen, and let ourselves switch off completely. But often we then worry that while we’re away we’ll let our healthy habits ‘slip’ and end up drinking too much, eating too much and lying around feeling like a beached whale.
And this is why mindset is key. If you are a regular gym bunny then try and see a holiday as an excuse to force yourself to relax. You need to take the fear out of letting yourself have that extra glass of wine, that mid-afternoon ice cream, or just simply the act of waking up late and therefore not panicking that you weren’t able to get a workout in before breakfast. In fact a recent study conducted by Octavia Zahrt details how just thinking that you’re not exercising as much as you should can be harmful. In her new study in the journal Health Psychology, she discoverd that people who thought they were less active than their peers had a greater chance of dying younger - even if their actual physical activity levels were the same.
There’s no need to over indulge and then punish yourself on your return to normality through strict juice cleanses or detox programmes. Just make sure your diet nourishes your body and compliments the rest you are allowing it. Consume for fresh foods, don’t overdo it on the booze – you’ll crave unhealthy food the following morning and then go into a vicious cycle of regret. Try and see the holiday as an opportunity to explore local cuisine. If you are truly worried about not being able to get your daily greens, pack some multi-vitamin supplements or bring along some superfood powders. Enjoy lean proteins and less refined carbohydrates – you will fill more satisfied and energised.
In terms of exercise: this will of course depend on the time you have and what’s available to you. If there is a hotel gym and you have some spare time, then use it. Or better, if you have a pool, go for a swim. Swimming is way to get in both resistance and cardio with little impact on your joints. But power walking is just as good. Sometimes our muscles need to relax fully – even professional athletes take an entire week off. If you’ve recently toned up, don’t worry that you’ll lose muscle within a week; of course everyone is different, but in general it takes up to two weeks of no exercise at all for any significant change to happen to your muscle fibers. If you’re travelling for business and will be sitting in meetings all day, why not do a quickie 20-minute yoga session in your hotel room? There are lots of great free podcasts available as well as videos on YouTube.
I try as much as I can to practise yoga, but sometimes I do need that extra confirmation that it really is doing me good - and honestly, especially on a holiday, there is nothing better than to stretch away all your stress and tension. And if you need further motivation, have a read of guides such as those by Jenn (www.jenreviews.com/yoga/) with lists the 18 amazing health benefits of yoga, as well as gives readers tons of practical tips and advice for how to surrender to your inner yogi. :)
But if you need to get your heartrate up, then of course there are lots of no-equipment exercises that you can do almost anywhere – shadow boxing, mountain climbers, push-ups, sit-ups, star jumps, standing pike crunches etc.
But, above all, you must listen to your body. If you are tired – rest. If you are stressed – relax. Explore the local food scene as a way of discovering the culture. If you are by the sea - eat fresh fish. If you are in the tropics - try all the unusual and exotic fruits.
Only work out if you can seamlessly fit it into your day, and if it contributes to your overall goal of switching off. Don’t let it cause unnecessary anxiety - if you worry on holiday, then you’re not on holiday!
Take the stress out of it all, and truly allow yourself to relax.