Summer road trips have a great deal of significance in today’s culture. They represent freedom, independence and exploration. Unfortunately for many athletes, they can also cause stress by removing them from their usual dietary and training regimens. But by following a few tips, you can enjoy your summer journey and simultaneously keep yourself on track for achieving peak athletic performance.
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1. Pack Resistance Bands
Resistance bands take up very little room, which makes them a fitness-minded traveler’s best friend. As a serious athlete, you should have some in your possession already.
Beyond their small size, resistance bands are great for training the lower body and the mid-back, two areas that can be extraordinarily hard to train without cable systems and free weights.
Use a weak resistance band to do Pull-Aparts, rotator cuff and shoulder work and high-rep arm exercises like Curls. Bands are also great because they can be folded, doubling or tripling the tension for some exercises—like Side-Lying Clams. A thicker, medium-tension resistance band can be used effectively for lower body work, like Lateral Band Walks, Good Mornings, Squats and Banded Pull-Throughs.
If you supplement these exercises with Push-Ups, Crawls, Pull-Ups and Bodyweight Squats, you may even gain muscle while on vacation!
2. Eat for Experience, Not for Convenience
I am very fond of traveling, and one aspect I find particularly enjoyable is sampling local food. While traveling, you’re usually forced to make exceptions to your dieting plan. To maximize your travel experience and fitness, make sure these exceptions are for the good of experiencing something unique or different from what you are accustomed to, rather than eating for convenience at a national or international fast food chain.
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3. Continue to Work Out
Depending on the length of your trip, working out on vacation could be more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule. If your trip will be shorter than four days, consider taking time off from your rigorous training regimen to regroup and enjoy new experiences with friends and family. If your trip will take seven days or so, there are some tricks you can do in the gym before you leave to maintain your progress without working out. Between 7 and 10 days, you can still take time off, but it might hurt your athletic progress. More than 10 days on vacation, you will need to work out to prevent serious muscle atrophy, weakening, and loss of sport-specific skills.
4. Emphasize Soft-Tissue Work
Soft-tissue work using things like foam rollers should always be part of your training program. However, they are of the special importance when you’re on vacation. While traveling, whether by airplane or car, you spend a lot of time sitting and exhibiting poor posture, which can shorten the resting length of your muscles and further throw your posture out of alignment.
Using a soft-tissue tool—such as a lacrosse ball or a foam roller—will help reduce the unhealthy tension promoted by extended periods of sitting. Target your pecs, glutes, quads, upper back, and feet—all areas commonly affected by poor posture and travel. Doing so will ensure that your muscles are ready to get back into your normal training schedule when you return home from vacation.
5. Overreach Before Leaving
If you can master the art of the “overreach,” you’ll have more freedom while traveling. Overreaching means taking on a higher workload in the weeks leading up to your vacation than you are normally accustomed to. Your body will adapt and recover in the days that follow, when you are resting and traveling. Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between overreaching and overtraining. Overtraining is when your workload is so high that you can’t recover, causing your stress hormones to skyrocket and your ability to recover to nosedive.
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To walk the fine line and overreach successfully, I recommend using a training program slightly longer than your normal plan (e.g., 5 weeks instead of a 4-week cycle), in which you gradually add volume and intensity up until you leave for your travels.
If you don’t have that much time to recalibrate your training schedule, avoid taking rest days in the week leading up to your trip. You may be sore going into your workouts, but that’s OK, because there will be a supercompensation effect when you take time off. Your body will respond to the stimuli of additional exercise by making you stronger and healthier.
To avoid overtraining, ensure your diet and sleep schedule are honed in, giving you enough protein to recover from your workouts and ample rest to help you recover and perform the workouts at your highest potential.
Always remember that vacations are meant to be enjoyed. Worrying over diet and training schedules can result in undue stress on the body, wreaking havoc on your athleticism and reducing the fun you should be having while traveling. Heeding this advice will allow you to return from vacation fresh, healthy, and ready to take your athleticism to the next level.