Why I Don’t “Take a Break from Exercise” While on Vacation

When I had an unhealthy relationship with exercise, vacations went something like this:

Feel out of my comfort zone. Worry about how much food I was eating. Panic that the foods weren’t my “normal” or “safe” foods. Try to make up for the splurges by over-exercising. Become exhausted. Feel anxious about the fact that other people were having fun and I wasn’t. Worry that there was something wrong with me. Eat desserts in secret. Feel guilty and ashamed. Rinse and repeat.

In case it wasn’t obvious from that cycle, vacations were always more stressful for me than fun because I was constantly fighting with myself and feeling out of control. The change of pace that comes with vacation doesn’t mesh well with an all-or-nothing, rigid rules, perfectionistic eating disorder, and the distress that came with trips and retreats sent me into spiral of eating & exercise insanity.

Thinking about a more balanced relationship with food and exercise, it might initially seem that the healthier, more relaxed & intuitive approach to vacations would be to sit back, chillax, and splurge a little by laying around all day. Sometimes that is healthy, and that works for some people. But that’s not what intuitive means for me. As I wrote in this post about intuitive eating on vacation, honoring my health means checking in and respecting my body signals every day, regardless of if I’m at home, on the go, or sipping a fruity drink on a beach in Mexico.

I think this was my favorite vacation ever because it was also my Honeymoon…hehe

The same holds true for exercise. When I have a healthy relationship with movement, getting outside and going for a walk or hanging out on a yoga mat for a good stretch feels good and helps me enjoy my life. After a few hours of laying on the beach, I either start to feel like taking a nap or start to feel restless. If I’m feeling like getting up and moving around a bit, doing so doesn’t necessarily mean I’m being disordered. Sometimes, it means I’m listening to my body.

However, I want to note that if you are in a place where exercise rules are ruling your life, it’s probably a good indicator that you could benefit from a break from exercise under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

I don’t have a formal routine, so there’s nothing to “take a break from”

For me personally, the healthiest thing is to not have a formal exercise schedule. Sure, I have patterns that my life generally reflects, but I don’t have a weekly quota or goal for the number of exercise sessions, minutes, or miles I spend moving my body. I do what feels right, when it feels right — and I do the same thing whether I’m at home or on vacation.

A picture I took while on the aforementioned Estes Park hiking trip

Regular vacation activities sometimes involve exercise

I love hiking, and I especially love vacations that allow me to do this in new places. Visiting Estes Park and not hiking just doesn’t make sense — there’s no reason to make an arbitrary rule about exercise that it isn’t supposed to happen on vacation. I think in some ways, this idea stems from the (false) notion that exercise is never enjoyable and consequently would ruin a vacation. While that was true of my life when I had an unhealthy relationship with movement, it isn’t true of my life now.

There are other types of exercise that naturally happen on vacation besides just hiking, too. Splashing around in a pool or the ocean is exercise even if you’re not formally swimming laps. Likewise, sightseeing is one of those things that just naturally necessitates walking.

Holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa was also one of those exercise-intensive vacation activities…as was balancing on the fence while doing so!

I keep it in perspective, though

After walking around Florence, Italy all day, I’m not going to go for a run. Not only would that be a little excessive, but it doesn’t make sense for the nature of the trip, and it’s also probably not the safest choice. On the other hand, if I’m at a reunion with my husband’s extended family of 50+ people and we’ve been playing cards all day, I might get out on the trail for some time by myself to recharge and rejuvenate my introvert side. It’s all about doing the thing that is most balanced, reasonable, and helpful — and it’s always, always circumstance-dependent!

What does healthful, helpful movement look like for you on vacation?

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