Keeping fit while on holiday

Health and Fitness
If you are like many, holidays are for relaxing, not exercising. But after two or three days of indulging, you may eventually feel the urge to do a little exercise and break out into a sweat. The only problem is that sometimes the city or town you find yourself in is not conducive to facilitating your favourite workout.

For me, it is all about using what you have at your disposal to get a little ‘HIIT’ of exercise in – high intensity interval training – and make that long lunch by the lake all the more enjoyable after you have earnt it.

So, here are my top tips for staying active while enjoying your holiday.

Run, Forrest, run

Without a doubt my favourite way to see a city, wash off the jet lag and get my bearings is to lace up the sneakers and go for a 40-minute jog. I promise you it will be the easiest, most enjoyable run you have ever had. Why? Because it is all new to you! Every corner you turn, sound you hear, smell that wafts past your nose is part of a new, exciting culture. Never once will you look at your watch and think, “How much longer to go?”. Here are a few tips if you do go running in a new town or city:

  • Take a map of the area from the hotel foyer, or if you are using something like Airbnb, ask your host to leave a small map for you.
  • Write down the street name you are staying on before you leave. Worst case scenario if you get lost, show a local the street name and make your way back home.
  • Take your credit card or some money with you in a secured pocket. Again, worst case scenario is you may have to pay for a short trip to get home.
  • Find a landmark and follow it. This is easy in cities with lakes, towers and bridges. Line yourself up with one before you head off, and you will never get lost.

5 x 15 x 5

No matter in what location you find yourself, you can work your entire body using 5 exercises, completing 15 repetitions, and doing 5 sets or rounds of the exercises. They are guaranteed to get your heart rate pumping, muscles burning and calories expended… all within 20 minutes! The key is to choose ‘big bang for your buck’ exercises, have short rests and use things like your suitcase or backpack as a weight to make them harder. Try this next time you are sitting in your hotel room, or better yet, the local park:

  • Alternating, bodyweight lunges: Put your backpack on your back or lift your suitcase above your head to make these harder.
  • Push ups: There are loads of ways to make these both easier and harder. Easier: kneeling push ups, push ups off the desk, clothes drawer or window sill – by leaning on a surface and not doing them from the floor, you will take a lot of your bodyweight out of the exercise and make them significantly easier. Harder: clap push ups (each time you come up off the ground, sneak a clap in underneath you) and decline push ups (pop your feet up on the bed, table or chair and change the angle you are using).
  • Alternating front step ups: Just as the name suggests, you are stepping up on to a chair, bed or park bench. The higher you make the step, the harder you work. As with the lunges, add a bag or suitcase to make it just that little bit harder.
  • Dips: As with the step ups, use a bench, chair or the bed to perform triceps dips. To make this harder, place your feet up on a chair in front of you, put a foot up in the air and even try placing your suitcase across your lap.
  • Crunches: To turn up the difficulty, place your feet up on a chair in front of you and hold your suitcase above your chest with straight arms.


Give yourself only 15 seconds between each exercise, and after the last exercise, rest for one minute then repeat.

Stair sessions

Every hotel has a set of stairs and that means every hotel is custom built for an early morning HIIT session. The great thing about hotel stairs is that no one uses them – holiday makers like to use the elevators, so that means you get them all to yourself.

Head to the ground floor and take your smartphone or something you can time yourself with. For an easy warm up, do a slow jog up, one stair at a time, for 3 minutes. Then, slowly make your way back down and once at the ground floors, stretch your calves (these are going to get a work out) and your quadriceps muscles (these are going to be burning too!). For the workout, try 8 x 30 second (100%) efforts, using a slow walk back down the stairs as a recovery between each set.

After the first set, note which step you made it to. Your goal is to get to the same spot for all 8 efforts. But take care on the way down – your legs could get a little shaky, but nothing could be better for your heart!

So, you now have a suite of options to keep your exercise routine going the next time you head out of town, no matter where you land or hop off.

But remember, holidays are for letting go, filling your belly a little more than usual and indulging in the local customs. As important as exercise is, giving yourself both a physical and mental break from your daily routine is just as important as staying active. Besides, you are hopefully squeezing in as many sites, sounds and museums by foot and staying naturally active.

Header image: Dev Dodia/Unsplash

Nicholas Chartres - The Good Food Dude

Nick has been a personal trainer for 15 years and tries to keep fit. Nick believes that despite the eye watering volume of information out there about health, the majority of the population are still left confused on how to eat and exercise effectively for good health. Nick is currently completing his PhD at the University of Sydney, looking into Research Integrity and Science Policy and also has a Masters of Nutrition. Nick believes in evidence based, sustainable exercise and eating and wants people to have a healthy relationship with exercise and food!


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