As the temperature drops and the snow falls, many of us dream of hibernating over the long cold winter by curling up in front of a cozy fire beneath several warm blankets. Some lucky souls have other plans, escaping this perishing weather for warmer climates, even if only for a few days. While both options sound tempting, and as beneficial as it may be to “conserve” your energy or lap up much needed rays of sun and relax with friends and family, it’s also very likely that, in doing so, healthy eating and exercise regimens will be “put on hold.” After all, “I’m on vacation,” right?
Wrong! Now, more than ever, we need to show resolve and adhere to a healthy diet and exercise routine. But doing so while on vacation can sometimes be challenging. Food choices are often limited; access to a gym cannot be assumed and space to exercise is often unavailable. So what’s a frum healthy Jew to do? Here are my seven tips to coming back from your vacation more relaxed and healthier than before you left:
PLAN AHEAD: Don’t arrive at your vacation only to use the “but I didn’t bring my sneakers” excuse. If you’re going to pack 10 pairs of shoes, make sure you can exercise in one of them. Bring at least one pair of shorts or jogging bottoms that can [also] be used to workout. Bring a stopwatch. Bring an mp3 player and headphones. Don’t leave your motivation at home.
BRING EQUIPMENT: True, it’s difficult to pack your entire set of dumbbells in your suitcase, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bang out an invigorating resistance workout. Bring a sturdy bag with handles, such as a backpack, that you can fill with books, cans of food, bottles of water, or even bags of sand. Exercise bands (essentially over-sized rubber bands) are also another excellent tool that you should add to your training equipment arsenal; they’re light, easy to pack, and exceedingly versatile.
GET CREATIVE: Don’t have any equipment? No problem. Grab some furniture; improvise and be resourceful; all you need is a couple of chairs: work your chest and triceps with dips and incline pushups; work your shoulders by lifting each chair with mostly straight arms in different directions away from your body; work your back by resting a broomstick or something similar over the top of both chairs and hang down from it, using it to reverse row; work your legs by standing facing away from the chair, resting one foot on the chair seat behind you, and dip down with the front leg (making sure the front knee doesn’t track over the toes); work your abdominals by lying on your back in front of the chair and either resting your feet on top of the chair seat or hooking them underneath the chair to perform crunches. Two chairs, and you can work your entire body. Add a few books to adjust the angles of movement, and some water bottles to use as resistance weights and the possibilities are endless. You can find everything you need in any hotel room or public park. You’re only limited by your imagination. Get creative.
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE: OK. You’ve been dropped off on a desert island or you’ve been incarcerated and there isn’t anything to work with except the floor you’re standing on. What now? Well, notwithstanding the fact that being incarcerated isn’t really my idea of a vacation, it still shouldn’t be a problem to workout. Enter the biggest known secret in the health world: calisthenics. Although the fitness industry would have you believe you need to spend your hard-earned money on expensive gym memberships and fancy exercise equipment to be healthy and strong, it’s a total myth. All you need is your body. Pushups, pull-ups, air squats, jumping jacks, core exercises, and anything else that gets your heart pumping are all the moves you need. There’s never a time when you can’t exercise. There’s never a time when you can’t mix things up and create a fun workout to challenge yourself.
FAMILY SANITY: You’re on vacation with your family and, assuming you’re like most families, it won’t take you too long before one or more of you start going stir crazy with all the “quality time” you’re spending with each other. Before someone says something he’ll regret later, work off the tension with a family run or friendly competition to see who can do the most jumping jacks in two minutes. Get the blood pumping and keep the love flowing.
MORNINGS MATTER: Don’t sleep too late and fritter away the day. Sure, you’re on vacation, so sleeping in a little can be beneficial, but waiting too long to rise will set a poor tone for the remainder of the day. One thing is for sure: gathering the strength and wherewithal to exercise at the end of a long day vacationing is highly unlikely; not to mention the fact that the temperatures and humidity in areas with subtropical climates, such as Florida, grow grizzlier as the day progresses. Instead, grab a quick workout in the morning before you rush off (or not) to enjoy the rest of the day. Get your heart racing for at least 10-15 minutes, and your whole day will start on the right foot. You’ll also enjoy all those vacation meals more; you’ll have earned them.
SNACKS: Going on vacation is often thought of as the perfect excuse to get away from not only your work or school, but also your healthy diet. Well, not by you or me. You should definitely treat yourself to good tasty food while you get away from things, but you should treat yourself similarly when you’re at home too. With a little careful planning, excuses such as “but there was nothing to eat apart from that bag of chips or that chocolate bar” will be moot. Instead of snacking on candy, take healthier food with you on day trips, such as a big bag of vegetables or fruit, or a small bag of nuts. If you’re going to graze, graze with style.
As frum Jews, we must become adept at surviving as Jews in the non-Jewish world. Maintaining our frumkite is, quite frankly, not overly challenging when we’re surrounded by our friends and family in our tight-knit Orthodox communities. The true test is when we’re away from our familiar protective environment. This is true spiritually, and it’s true physically as well. Going on vacation doesn’t mean you stop davening or learning, and it doesn’t mean you stop exercising either. Rejuvenate your soul, rejuvenate your body, and come back stronger than before you left; invigorate and revitalize yourself inside and out to better serve Hashem.
Finally, don’t forget to bring back a little sunshine for the rest of us who’ll be stuck here with the snow and ice… sure, shoveling is also good exercise, but I’d much rather be keeping fit in 72° weather.
Chemmie Sokolic is an ACSM-certified Personal Trainer, and owner of Frum & Fit LLC. Chemmie can be reached at chemmie.sokolic_frumandfit.com. Visit www.FrumandFit.com or www.Facebook.com/FrumandFit for more information.
By Chemmie Sokolic