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Tips For Training While On Vacation

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Find out how to incorporate your training into your next family summer vacation.

Written by: Liz Hichens

With the heart of triathlon season overlapping the summer vacation season, many triathletes are often put in a difficult position regarding their training. Taking a week completely off from swim/bike/run is not an option for those of us just weeks away from our next race. Because we all have families and friends who wouldn’t understand missing a vacation and we all deserve a little rest and relaxation, we must find a way to continue training in what is often an anti-training environment.

I most recently experienced this while on a week-long cruise in the Eastern Caribbean with my entire family. With Vineman Ironman 70.3 only a few weeks away at the time, skipping training was not an option. I quickly figured out that a cruise ship is one of the least ideal locations to maintain a high volume of training.  While these tips are specific to vacationing on a cruise, they are applicable to many family summer vacations.

Here are ten triathlon training tricks I picked up while on my Caribbean adventure:

1.    Have a plan: Over a month before the cruise I started researching my options for achieving my training goals during that week. Simply sticking to my normal training plan during this week would have resulted in frustration, and I likely would have given up after day two. Knowing ahead of time what obstacles I was going to face and how to overcome them made the experience productive and enjoyable.
2.    Put key workouts early: Make sure your schedule that week is front-loaded with your tough workouts. Don’t put your hardest workout at the end of the week because it won’t happen. Cruises are relaxing and fun, but they can be exhausting. The first day of the cruise, the fitness center was packed with eager cruisers waiting in line for machines. By the end of the week, the fitness center was a ghost town.
3.    Get up early: This is the tough one. No matter how late you stayed up or how many cocktails you may have had the night before, get up before everyone else and get your workout done. Having my training behind me by 9 a.m. every morning was key. It allowed me to enjoy breakfast with my family and lounge by the pool without any guilt. This tip of course also involves incorporating a nap during the day.
4.    Swim… anywhere: Don’t be concerned about exactly how many meters you will get in during a swim workout, go for time instead. Finding a lap pool, especially on a cruise, is usually impossible. Spend some time in the pool in the morning, but the best option is to find a way to open water swims while in ports. I was able to get two open water swims in. One was ideal with beautiful water and plenty of space. The second was an adventure: I spent the entire time dodging screaming kids and people on rafts. It wasn’t ideal, but I got the workout in and have definitely refined my sighting skills.
5.    Bike… anywhere: Getting in cycling workouts was by far the most difficult. There is no way I achieved the correct mileage for that week, but I did what I could. My first mission once on the cruise was to sign up for every spin class possible. It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than not being on a bike.
6.    Mix it up: I couldn’t stomach the thought of doing every run on the treadmill. I also couldn’t handle doing multiple laps on the ship’s hot and windy track that was apparently 4.5 laps/mile. I avoided the monotony by switching between the two. An eight-mile run on either would have been torturous, but a three-mile run on the treadmill, then a two-mile run on the track, followed by a three-mile run on the treadmill was completely doable.
7.    Bring your own nutrition: No, I don’t mean bring every meal. Unless you plan on scarfing down an omelet or a doughnut before your workout, bring your normal pre-workout snack and training nutrition.
8.    Be flexible: I didn’t hit every workout, but I knew ahead of time that would happen. After all, it is vacation and a time to get away from the stress of sticking to a schedule.
9.    Take the stairs: This one is very specific to cruises. The fact that you’re on a ship means that you usually have to go up or down to get where you’re going. Pretend there’s not an elevator and take the stairs every time. No it won’t shave minutes off of your race time, but it will help keep you fit during a week of indulgence.
10.    Avoid the buffet: While I don’t believe there have been any scientific studies on how many pounds the average cruiser gains, I’ve read a few places that the number is likely anywhere between 8 and 15 pounds. Can you imagine what gaining 15 pounds would do to your training three weeks before a half-Ironman? While I still enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner, I avoided snacks at all costs. After observing other cruisers, I’m pretty confident that the majority of weight gain comes in between meals and late at night. Enjoy your meals, but avoid the mid-day and midnight buffets.