Americans are hitting the road in record numbers as the COVID-19 vaccines unlock the doors to quarantine confinement.
It's a great feeling, but that satisfying sensation of freedom will feel even better if you chase fitness goals while seeking the escape and respite of long-awaited summer vacation trips.
I put this notion to the personal test recently when my wife, two youngest children and I spent our kids' spring break at a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
Regular readers of my column know I spent a year prior to the pandemic shedding more than 100 pounds of accumulated neglect from my body.
And throughout the pandemic, I began deliberately putting some of the weight back on in the form of healthy and lean muscle through strength training and proper nutrition.
Heading off on that spring road trip to the mountains, I made sure to pack plans for maintaining my physical fitness routine. I wanted to preserve all of the hard work of the past two years, even while enjoying some scenic R&R.
I'm sharing my vacation fitness routine ideas, through this column and a video attached to it online, hoping these tips can help all of you with ideas for maintaining — or even initiating — a physical fitness regimen while on vacation.
There's a freshness and a clean slate that accompanies travelling to new destinations and settings.
And when you incorporate some of the best parts of your vacation destinations with healthy physical activity, it can make the experience far more memorable.
Here are some tips that I put into play during our recent trip to the mountains — and that I plan to carry with me to another series of family trips to southern beaches this summer:
Pack the gear
If you have room in your family vehicle for snacks, suitcases and beach chairs, you also have room for a rolled up gym mat, a case of adjustable portable dumbbells and some comfortable workout clothing.
During our recent trip to the Smokies, I didn't want to leave behind the five-days-a-week workout habits I worked so hard to establish over two years.
Two sets of portable dumbbells — each of which offered about 40 total pounds of weight and fit into cases smaller than an airplane carry-on bag — went into the trunk of our vehicle along with the other luggage.
This way, the ability for me to do arm-, core- and shoulder-building curls, squats and rows traveled with me. No excuses.
A padded exercise mat — allowing for sit-ups, push-ups, floor presses and other exercises on any hotel or cabin floor — also made the trip and took up even less space than the dumbbell cases.
These are cheap and can be used on every family trip.
Use body weight
If you're traveling by plane or otherwise strapped for cargo space, use the resistance of your own body weight to stay on track while on vacation.
Chin-ups and pull-ups are incredible exercise for your arms and back and merely require an elevated bar of some kind.
Squats — normally performed with a barbell or dumbbell — can be done with just your body weight. If you do four sets of 10-15 reps with a barbell on your routine squat days, do four sets of 20-25 body weight squats instead. At the very least, if you're doing regular strength training, this will help you maintain tone and conditioning until you get back to the regular workout cycle.
And if you're turning over a new fitness leaf while on vacation and just getting started with a fitness plan, body weight squats can begin preparing you for the proper form and conditioning when you graduate to squatting with dumbbells or barbells.
Good, old-fashioned planks — when you keep your body rigid in sort of push-up position while resting on your forearms — work out nearly every muscle of the body and require no gear at all. I demonstrate some really effective plank variations on the new "Chasing Fitness" workout video attached to this column online.
Let the workout enhance memories
Working out on vacation shouldn't be something you dread. When done right, it's actually a layer of the experience to make a great trip even more memorable.
During our spring trip to the mountains, I did my dumbbell and body weight exercises in front of a picture window in a cabin that overlooked the awesome bluffs of the Smokies.
Getting up just before sunrise — while my wonderful, but noisy children remained asleep — made for a quiet solace during my workout routines that was just for me.
Loading a backpack with weights and hiking up and down the mountain roads near our cabin combined fresh air, stunning scenery and great cardio. I intend to repeat the trend on the Florida and South Carolina beaches we plan to hit this summer.
The are no excuses keeping most of us from working some form of physical fitness into our summer trip plans.
Draw up your plan before you leave.
Grab some compact fitness gear for road trips or just plan your own regimen of body weight exercises.
And be sure to incorporate the natural beauty and landscape of your destinations into the workouts.