By Martica Heaner
Rest and relaxation are just a few of the virtues of being on vacation. But one downside is that you can get out of your normal workout groove.
While, in theory, you now have the time to spend hours a day exercising, the reality is that you may not actually workout on vacation. There may be no Zumba or spinning classes nearby. You may not have access to a bicycle or a gym. And you may not have hiking boots with you.
So, despite the best of vacation-exercise intentions, what do you do? You sneak in a short, but effective, cardio workout that will keep you in shape—or start you moving so when you return home you’ll be psyched to keep up a regular fitness routine.
The best part of this approach is that all you have to do is a short blast of exercise for only 7 minutes a day to reap big fitness gains and still have time to relax while on vacation. The secret is in your intensity, or how hard you push yourself. The body thrives on stimulus. So if you give yourself a short dose of hard exercise, the body will respond and adapt to that stimulus. Short blasts of high-intensity exercise can improve your blood pressure, your insulin sensitivity, your cholesterol levels, your fitness levels and can help decrease body fat, especially deep abdominal fat, over time.
The trick is to push yourself hard for short bouts and then give yourself time to recover before you push yourself again. But don’t worry, this approach is relative. If you are out of shape, you can still push yourself within your personal comfort zone. And if you are already physically fit, you can push harder to challenge your body even more.
Here’s a 7-minute workout that is cardio-based so that you can burn the most calories possible in this short amount of time while vacationing. Perform the routine every day if you can, or at least four to five days a week.
Here’s how to do it. (You will need a timer or second hand on a watch, phone or clock):
You can walk and/or jog outside. Or if there are steps nearby or if you have a bike, use those. If you are lucky enough to have access to cardio machines such as a treadmill, elliptical trainer, stairclimber and/or rower, you can follow this routine using those machines.
- Warm up by walking (or using a cardio machine) at a moderate pace for 2 minutes. If you have extra time, spend 5 to 10 minutes on the warm-up.
- Increase your intensity by moving faster or harder for 20 seconds. Aim for an all-out effort during this short burst. If you are walking outdoors, either jog or run or pick up your walking pace or find a hill to climb. If you are on a cardio machine, either speed up your pace or increase the resistance level or incline on the monitor so that the movement becomes more challenging. If you are on a bike, speed up or find a hill to climb.Round 1: Move hard for 20 seconds. Recover by moving slowly for 20 seconds. Repeat this for Rounds 2 through 6. If at any point you feel dizzy or out of breath, slow down your pace or stop as needed.
- Slow your movement down to a moderate pace for 1 minute to cool down.
Martica Heaner, Ph.D., is an exercise physiologist and nutritionist and author of Cross-training for Dummies. She is an award-winning fitness instructor based in both New York City and Houston, Texas, and an adjunct assistant professor of nutrition at Hunter College in New York.