Staying Healthy Abroad

We all know that any avid health nut plans to work out and eat their vegetables while traveling, even searching for hostels and hotels with fitness centers or parks with beautiful trails. Yet in all the excitement a new city or a new country brings, I get so wrapped up in immersing myself in the culture and in the sights that my daily run, maintaining a balanced diet, and a healthy sleep schedule tend to get thrown on the backburner.

Let’s take a look at my routine now. Currently I am a collegiate distance runner with an obligation to my coaches and my team to prioritize my run most days of the week. Three 45 minute runs, two track workouts, and one long run, about 40 miles a week plus two weights sessions. I also pay close attention to the nutritional value of my diet. Obviously once graduation rolls around and I pick up for Spain’s Basque Country, this routine is going to change.

Rather than a culture shock, I anticipate experiencing a “lifestyle shock” when I arrive in Spain and spend two months there. I am going to have to acclimate to a new city with a new schedule, and with all the things there are to do (work and play), I really will have to make an effort to time manage or be more flexible with how I maintain a workout routine and healthy lifestyle.

Planning for Rome last summer included excitement about the possibility of running laps in the Circus Maximus, an ancient chariot race track that is open to the public. I bookmarked it in my Frommer’s “Rome Day By Day” book with the one hundred percent intention of making it there. I even Google-mapped Parisian running routes along the Seine and along the Mediterranean coast in Barcelona, truly planning on doing what I love someplace magical.

What happened? None of the above. I did not run or work out one single day of that trip. I suppose at that time, I was a short-term traveler trying to relish every minute I had to spare, in the back of mind believing that I could work out anywhere, anytime but I can’t always sit below the Eiffel Tower or graze on tapas on the Barceloneta. And while this is true and that if you’re away for a relatively short amount of time (I was traveling for two weeks), don’t stress too much. However, this summer I will be away for two months and not including fitness in my summer will make for a grumpy, sick me.

So why should you listen to what I have to say since I have already admitted to international failure on the fitness front? Think about the big picture of your travels. You know that, at home, you feel best when you are active and eat right. Why should that change in another country? Keeping that in mind 75% of the time will allow you to keep up energy for those days that you do want to cram in a lot of sightseeing and don’t have time for a workout.

That said, as difficult as it might be for Type-A personalities such as myself, don’t beat yourself up when you end up sleeping in until noon and wind up not seeing or doing what you had planned for the day. Sleep is definitely most important for the busy traveler. It can make or break an attitude, cure a hangover, relieve stress, level off jet lag, and prevent illness

For you young hostel guests planning on partying, a few simple rules to follow:

1. Don’t go out every single night. I don’t care if you’ve just arrived in Amsterdam from a long weekend living it up in Ibiza. Give your body a break and rest up. Lack of sleep could lead to illness which would definitely interfere with any further plans of enjoying the nightlife.

2. Especially if the hostel has a kitchen, venture to a nearby market and make a meal out of fresh local produce, cheese, and simple whole grains. Saves you money and calories.

3. Hydration, hydration, hydration. Long hours on a transatlantic flight or basking in the rays in the south of France can really do some damage. Refer to rule #1: Dehydration combined with excessive alcohol consumption will inevitably make you sick and hinder your plans!

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