On Sweatpants, Sandwiches, and Stairs

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Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing actress Julie Benz for a feature story in the July/August issue of Natural Solutions. Spoiler alert: She’s on the cover! You might know her as Dexter’s wife, or the sexy lesbian from Desperate Housewives, or Mayor Amanda Rosewater in Syfy’s futuristic series Defiance. She recently celebrated her birthday—42 years young—and second wedding anniversary to hubby Rich Orosco. Now, she’s busy filming the horror flick Havenhurst.

But having a hectic schedule doesn’t mean Julie sacrifices healthy habits. I asked Julie about her fitness routines and how she keeps herself in shape when she doesn’t have time to make it to the gym. She offered some tips on how to stay fit both on-the-go and at home, and that inspired me to think about general ways to stay healthy on vacation. Many people throw their workouts to the wind when they travel—as a sort of positive side effect to being on vacation—but Julie actually said that she looks at vacations as a time when she can work out every day because she is free from the responsibilities of her normally tight schedule.

Her reasoning is worth considering, especially if you also follow a busy routine. Even if your next vacation is just a one-day trip to the lake, maintaining health all summer long is important—and we shouldn’t think that the arrival of summer vacation means it's time to quit being fit. Read on for my own tips to staying healthy on vacation. Whether your future travel plans take you across the world or across the street, try these ideas when you embark on your next adventure.

1. Pack cute workout clothes.
There are a lot of key words in that sentence. First, pack: this means, bring it with you. Don’t count on buying a new pair of running shoes after your plane lands, or picking up a new pair of yoga pants on your way out of town. Plan ahead because chances are if you pack it you’ll use it, and if you don’t, you’ll be less likely to allocate hard-saved vacation funds toward athletic gear. If you’re a nighttime gym-goer, this concept can even be applied to your daily routine: Bring your packed gym bag to the office so you’ll be ready to go after work, because you know if you go home first your couch is going to look a lot more appealing than a treadmill.

Second, cute: don’t plan to be frumpy just because you plan to get sweaty. Gyms have mirrors everywhere, and if you glance up and see frizzy hair, baggy sweatpants, and a hoodie with a hole in the left elbow, you probably aren’t going to feel very inspired to continue your workout. I’m not saying don those fake eyelashes and look Saturday-night ready when you go to the gym—but a fitted tank, supportive undergarments, and high-waist bottoms go a long way to smooth out imperfections and get you feeling fit.

Third, workout: There are sections in most clothing stores—and actually entire stores—dedicated strictly to workout stuff. Don’t wear your Chucks to the gym. Leave the jean shorts at home. Get a sports bra.

2. Use time change to your advantage.
If you’re going somewhere with a significant time change, use the extra time to be productive. Say you normally wake up at 7, but are up at 5 because of the time change—go for a run instead of trying to force additional sleep. If you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and will “lose” hours when you travel, grab a bottle of wine and have some late-night fun with your better half. For couples who are normally in bed early, the later hours might even seem like its own mini vacation within a vacation. Plus, sex is a great calorie-burner, and the change of scenery might provide some frisky inspiration.

3. Plan an adventure.
Most people go on vacation to experience the outdoors in some form: sunshine, the ocean, beaches, lakes, mountains, etc. Instead of sitting in your lawn chair, toes in the sand, staring out at this beautiful scenery, why don’t you jump right in? Plan a hike, go for an afternoon swim, or organize a volleyball game. While you’re at it, get competitive! Challenge friends to active games. See who can do the best in-water handstand, or hold a beach-based relay race. The games will make you forget you’re getting in a workout, and you can have a guilt-free celebration afterwards. Bonus: If your activities take place on the beach, remember that you burn more calories working out on sand than on a flat, hard surface.

4. Make small adjustments when out to eat.
You don’t have to go all When Harry Met Sally and take an hour to order a sandwich, but a few small substitutions will help preserve your beach bod. Ask for oil and vinegar for your house salad instead of the homemade creamy Italian, for example, and choose a healthy wrap over heavy pasta dishes. Limit your bread intake, too—many restaurants offer unlimited bread before dinner, so stick to just one piece instead of packing your gut full of carbs before you even get your meal. If you know you’ll want to have dessert, or if your meal includes multiple courses, choose light entrees to avoid filling up too fast or overeating.

5. Pick an alternative beverage.
Vacations can be full of day-drinking shenanigans, but a day on the pontoon doesn’t mean you have to settle for empty beer calories. Trade in your bottle for a refreshing iced tea, fresh-squeezed juice, or even flavored water. If you want to catch a bit of a buzz, try a twisted tea, make a skinny cocktail (with organic vodka, water or dry soda, and even fruit), or pack wine coolers. Drink slowly and alternate with water to stay hydrated and avoid overdrinking.

6. Take the stairs
You might hear this one a lot, but skipping the elevator can be especially beneficial on vacation, particularly if your daily activities won’t involve a lot of walking. Provided you aren’t lugging cumbersome suitcases or shopping bags, opting for the stairs in your hotel building or the parking ramp is an easy way to get in a workout while getting to where you need to go. Sure, it might take an extra few minutes, but there are usually windows (or natural scenery if the stairs are outside) so you can step to the tune of the great outdoors.


For more travel tips—as well as general ideas for healthy summer fun, our best beauty secrets for smooth skin, and a collection of delicious BBQ recipes—check out the July/August issue of Natural Solutions, scheduled to hit stores in early July. Look for Julie Benz on the cover!


**Erica Tasto is an editor for Natural Solutions and Alternative Medicine and the author of The Natural Suite blog. Follow the magazines on twitter @NaturalSolution and Erica @editorerica