Should I Work Out On Vacation?

Given the time of year I think this topic may be on some people’s minds.

Should I work out on vacation?

The simple answer is.. it depends.

It totally depends on your situation.  How often are you training?  How long have you been training consistently? How intense are you training? Do you have any event coming up that you need to get the volume in for? Are you in a state of overreaching?

If you are asking this question then you likely fall in to one of two categories: a) you are currently and have been exercising consistently for some time and may be worried about losing your hard-earned gainzzz or b) you have recently decided to make some changes and want to keep your momentum.

To answer this question you should also consider how long your vacation is.  Is it just 3 or 4 days?  Then I would say no.  Take the extra day or two of rest and enjoy yourself.  If your vacay is a week or longer then you may consider working out but take a few things into consideration.

What facilities or equipment do you have to work out?  Have you been training really hard and could you benefit from complete rest for a week? (probably)

Addressing the first category regarding losing gainzzz.  Studies have shown that fitness can begin to decrease after just 2 weeks.  Scary shit if you’ve spent months or years training.  However, what doesn’t get discussed is how much fatigue masks fitness.

Assuming you are sleeping, eating and recovering 100% then yes, 10-14 days may start to show changes at a cellular level but as a real human with adult responsibilities you probably aren’t in this camp.

The time off likely will not have any ill effects but rather you might see your fitness maintained or even increased with proper rest from your short break.  Removing the stressor (training load, work, daily responsibilities) allows the body to adapt to the training and you get stronger, faster and/or fitter.  This is how supercompensation works.

Now, the second category.  You have recently become active or started eating better.  Taking a vacation doesn’t mean you have to press pause on your health and fitness.  Precision Nutrition made an excellent post on this recently.  It is much better to view fitness as a dial and simply dial down a bit rather than press pause and abandon your healthy behaviour completely.

Here is the Instagram link  All you have to do is make healthy choices where you can and enjoy yourself, and the journey, then dial it back up when you are back to your regular routine.  This also works well for nutrition.

It might sound like I’m trying to say you shouldn’t work out, but that’s not the case.  Personally, I usually find some time to train a bit on vacation, though my training is quite different than when I’m home.  Before going away I try to over-reach a bit and then use the vacay to recharge and recover.  Most recently I was away for 10 days, camping up north.  I spent a total of 20 minutes over the 10 days training.  2 work outs were 5 minutes each, using some superbands that I brought, just to get a mild pump and feel good.  (You see, I enjoy working out and it’s a hobby of mine, if you don’t like it then this may not make you feel good)

The other was a completely impromptu tabata workout in a parking lot when we had to go in to town.  My wife ran into the store, my daughter was sleeping and I had the truck parked out back in the shade.  I got an urge to kill it for 4 minutes so I warmed up for 3, did 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 4 minutes then walked around for 3 minutes to cool down.  Because I actually wanted to do it I think this was ok, I didn’t force myself to do it.  Had a pretty good backdrop to train in a parking lot.


If you are considering working out while on vacation take these additional points into consideration.

  1. Maybe do something different that the normal workout but not so different that you get hurt. What I mean is different setting, different exercise varations, new or different loading methods.  If you are a power lifter and try to run the 15km recreation trail you may end up injured and ruin your vacation and blow your training when you get back.  Just use your head.
  2. Plan around the activites of your family or group. If your vacay group doesn’t want to work out with you then don’t make them wait and don’t let your training impact the group activities.  Just don’t be a fitness douche.
  3. Relax as much as you can.   Recover. Reduce your volume.   Just take it easy.

Most importantly, if you WANT to train then train and maybe change it up.  If you don’t want to train then don’t but don’t press pause.  Dial it down a bit and when you return rested, dial it back up to 11… or whatever volume you like to rock out at.

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