How to Maintain (or Gain) Fitness While on Vacation

Plan A, Plan B: Maintaining (or Gaining) Fitness While on Vacation

Are you training for a race this summer or fall and also planning a vacation? People who go on vacation thinking, "I'm going to blow it out and put on a few pounds," typically do. But on the other hand, those who say, "I'm going to come back from vacation no worse for wear, or maybe even in better shape,” do that, too. 

There’s no reason why you can’t have a fantastic vacation while also maintaining your level of fitness—or even improving on it! The secret is planning, or more specifically, creating a Plan A and a Plan B:

Plan A is the plan prioritizes your fitness and your race goals above all else.

Plan B still holds you accountable to your fitness and training goals but allows you a little slack to indulge during your vacation. I often tell my clients, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” and that’s the perfect way to describe Plan B.


Eating Healthfully

Plan A: If you’re going away for 5 days, that’s potentially 15 meals plus a whole lot of snacks. That’s a lot of opportunities to eat well…or to eat foods that counter your fitness goals. A few strategies for eating healthfully include the following:

  • Before you arrive at your destination, look up the nearby restaurants where you’re staying and on your day trips, choose restaurants that boast fresh, locally sourced menus, and plot those restaurants on your calendar. Preview menus ahead of time and make note of what meals fit into the model of the Healthy Eating Plate (the Harvard School of Public Health model that advises a diet of 50% vegetables and fruit, 25% lean protein and 25% whole grains).
  • Meals eaten in restaurants almost always contain far more salt, sugar and fat than we’d ever put into meals we prepare ourselves. Consider whether/what meals and snacks you can prepare where you’re staying, whether you have a full kitchen, a mini bar fridge or none of the above. Make a list of what you’re going to prepare. Even with no kitchen or fridge, you can bring healthful snack and breakfast options like apples, bananas, raw nuts & seeds, and packets of plain oatmeal.

Plan B: Life happens.

  • Make it a goal to lock down one nutritionally sound meal in the Healthy Eating Plate model every day. Maybe your hotel has a great breakfast with oatmeal and plenty of fruit. Perhaps you can put a simple breakfast of overnight oats in the mini fridge (chia seeds + a prepared muesli + almond milk or follow this simple formula); or maybe there’s a café with a great lunch salad loaded with vegetables, fruit and nuts.


Training Runs

Plan A: As you are plotting your vacation activities—tours, dinners, museums, beach visits—plot out on your calendar all the runs on your training plan. That may mean scheduling them earlier or taking off for a run on the beach instead of laying around.

Plan B: You may end up cutting down a 5-mile run to 3, or trading in a run for a long hike with your family. Don’t sweat it as long as you’re staying active and meeting a good portion of your training mileage.


Treat Treats as Treats (my favorite Michael Pollan “food rule”)

Plan A: Plan where and when you’re going to indulge in special treats, scheduling them infrequently and making sure they’re really worth it. If you have a reservation at a restaurant known for fabulous desserts, make a note on your calendar about it, and limit your indulgent foods earlier in the day. Going to a party where you know you’ll want to drink a glass of wine or another adult beverage? In the days preceding, hold off on drinking alcohol. Remember that alcohol is dehydrating, which can make running the following day anywhere from uncomfortable to downright dangerous.

Plan B: Sometimes you just stumble into something delicious. Ice cream happens, and so do fries on the boardwalk, beers with friends and other salty, sugary, fatty treats. If you didn’t plan for it but want to enjoy it, order the smallest portion that will leave you satisfied and savor it. Then keep that treat in mind when you sit down to your next meal or snack.


The more you plan healthy choices, the more likely you are to maintain your fitness level, and maybe you’ll even return from vacation stronger. 

About the Author: Lauren Shafer

Lauren is a certified Health Coach who helps busy Baltimoreans articulate their health + wellness goals, and make measurable, sustainable diet and lifestyle changes for lasting transformation. Though she would never be described as athletic in her youth, Lauren started running as an adult, begrudgingly at first, until she discovered she actually enjoyed it. Now an 9-time marathoner and 4-time ultra-marathoner, you’ll frequently find Lauren running on roads and trails with her husband John and dog Osita.

To learn more about Lauren and check out her health coaching and blog, visit or Contact her at