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Vacations ruin diets and diets ruin vacations.

Before I left for my Germany vacation, I was confident that while away I’d find a way to work out. I researched kettlebell classes in Munich and Frankfurt and at the very least, would work out on my own, practicing the advice I give to clients when they travel—pushups and jump squats. Three to four sets, AMAP and 20 reps respectively every other day or so. Easy-peasy.

As far as food, I was going to go the way of the Bavarian and eat the meat. Add a salad, try some beer and Riesling and maybe cook some nights, since all our lodgings would include a kitchen.

When we arrived at our first Air BnB, nestled in green farmland surrounded by horses and chickens, I scoped out space to work out, including blank wall space where I could practice handstand pushups, and overhead bars, branches and the like where I could do pull-ups. There was nowhere to do any pulling, unless I jiggered a door handle towel gizmo and did bodyweight rows, TRX style. I did not pack my TRX, but I did pack a mini resistance band. Oh the booty I would build with all those lateral band steps!

Our first night at a pub I ordered currywurst and French fries and a Heffewiszen beer.

And that was the end of my fitness mission.

We did not cook a thing. I did not do body rows or jump squats or handstand pushups. The mini band remained buried at the bottom of my suitcase. I did not go running. What I did was walk. According to my phone, one day I logged 20,000 steps, which for me, is unprecedented. One afternoon I ran part of the way up hill on the way to Bacharach Castle, along the Rhine River, and then there were the thirty pushups I cranked out one morning, feeling a sudden desperation over my surely shrinking muscles.

Then at our last Air BnB, eureka! A pull-up bar. I not so humbly showed my hosts what I was made of, and did a few in quick succession, surprising myself with my retained strength. I was flooded with relief. At nine days without exercising I was growing anxious about losing all my hard-earned gains and PRs. My gracious hosts were duly impressed, and I felt reborn.

Then I pigged out on Indian food and wine, resulting in a food baby. How far along? I’d say four months.

As far as those kettlebell classes in Munich and Frankfurt, it would have been a logistical mess, separating me from my family, interrupting our sightseeing, then meeting back up with them or worse, taking the rental car on my own and leaving them behind. It was a family vacation after all, and the togetherness we experienced was unlike the same ole-same ole we have at home. Maybe if I’d booked us a hotel with its own gym, or found an Air BnB within walking distance to a gym, but I didn’t, and I don’t regret it because the places where we stayed were magical.

Do I have any regrets? About not exercising, I do wish I’d done some handstand pushups. I did lose some upper body strength in both my overhead pressing and pull-ups. I know I’ll regain it in a short time, but I could have easily done a little. Still, I’m not worried about it and if anything, am glad to have learned what strengths I retain and which ones fade.

Iced coffee

As far as food, I do NOT regret the currywurst, fries, cheeseburger, döner kebab, leberknödel (my favorite), iced coffee with ice cream and whipped cream (also my favorite), the scoops of gelato on crispy cones of: malaga (OMG), bitter chocolate, chocolate-rum, ricotta and—oh yes—chocolate… I do NOT regret the sauerbraten, potato dumpling, sweet cheese pastry or the giant pancake stuffed with chicken and roasted carrots, the soft Bavarian pretzels with butter or the Radlers, Russ, and Rieslings.

I did struggle at times with the fact that I had stepped, and consciously so, but still… I’d stepped really super far out and away from my usual routine, which is tightly controlled by most standards—weighing my food, tracking my calories and macros meticulously… and sticking to a specific training program day in and day out. I felt a bit of an identity/confidence crisis, and I was sure my body would just go pfft. My hard-earned muscle would melt into flab.

But that didn’t happen.

Finally back at home I weighed myself. I gained a half pound. I took my body-fat measurements with the caliper I bought on Amazon. Same measurements as before I left, which had me like, WTF. And I stripped down to my sports bra and booty shorts to take a selfie that almost matched the selfie I took before I left for Germany. I can see a definite blurriness where hard lines once were, slightly softer belly, but overall not a drastic change.

The results surprised me, but not in a way that made me go, well I guess I don’t need to diet and exercise anymore. See ya fit lifestyle! It was more in a way that made me realize that all the work I’ve put over the past few years in does not disappear in ten days. It slowly backslides for sure, but more than anything else, I saw the foundation I’d built was secure and was excited to get back to my training routine.

It felt validating to see that the work I’ve been doing really does improve my strength and body composition. That might sound weird or like, DUH, but when you’re in the middle of a program, be it nutrition or training, there’s always some other program out there being touted as THE way to get stronger, fitter, more chiseled. You’re always questioning the thing you’re doing when others are out there performing or looking better than you. But that’s just life, right? Doubting, hoping, toiling away…

Now I am easing back into it, with the mindset that ten days off certainly puts me behind where I was, but I’m still ahead in the larger picture, in that I have deeply ingrained training and nutrition habits that are part of who I am now. This made returning home from gorgeous Europe not as heartbreaking as it might have been.

That salad I ordered…with beer and a pretzel

So I guess my advice to clients would be the same in one sense—do those pushups and jump squats. But only if you really want to do them, and it doesn’t interfere with the whole point of your trip. Getting away from it all every now and then is valuable and worthwhile. Have confidence that your progress will not regress into flab city. You will retain most of what you achieved before you left for vaycay, and by all means, like Michelle told me before I left, EAT ALL THE F$%KING FOOD. And don’t ever, EVER regret it.

When I returned, Michelle shared one of her favorite memes, “Vacations ruin diets and diets ruin vacations.” Wise words, my friends. Now go train hard. As long as you’re not on vacation.

2 Comments

  1. Cheryl Elliott on September 22, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Great and encouraging words Elise. Feeling guilty on vacation is the pits! I chuckled through your whole article. Thanks for the wise words

    • michelle on October 2, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      Thanks for the comment on Elise’s post, Cheryl. And you’re right, feeling guilty on vacation is the pits!

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