Lifestyle, Travel

How My 6 Day Travel Fitness Challenge Went Horribly Right

Vacations are time for relaxing at the beach or exploring a new city. They’re also a time for drinking like a fish and eating rich, decadent food that we wouldn’t normally eat at home.

Staying healthy on a trip can be difficult because vacation food is so damn tasty, and traveling can interfere with our daily routines, including our workout and healthy eating habits. Some are of the mindset that vacations are just a bunch of cheat days strung together in a row, which is perfectly fine. But for me, I try to maintain some semblance of a balance between eating all of that delicious food and trying to stay healthy.

So I decided to challenge myself on my Hawaiian vacation last week to do a different workout every day of my trip. The purpose of making the workouts all different (as opposed to just running every day) was to keep things interesting and try something I wouldn’t normally do, with the hope of finding a new activity to incorporate into my normal routine.

But things didn’t turn out exactly how I had hoped…

Without further adieu, here are the results of my 6-day vacation fitness wellness challenge:

Day 1 – Run/Jog/Walk

We have been staying at a beautiful hotel on Wailea beach in Maui for years, and one of my favorite things to do is wake up just a bit after sunrise and run a trail along the beach. The path passes most of the hotels in the area, and the views are lovely and serene because there aren’t too many people out at that hour.

On days when I am feeling particularly ambitious, I loop around and run back to our hotel, for a 3-ish mile run. On other days, like today (when I am exhausted from traveling), I run to the coffee bean at the end of the path and take a leisurely stroll home. Either way, day one was a success because I got my ass moving.

Day 2 – After the after-party it’s the hotel…gym

I had all of these grand ambitions wake up at 4am to hike the Haleakala crater and watch the sunrise, but getting out of bed this morning proved to be quite the challenge. Instead, I hit up the hotel gym (real original, right?) after we came in from the beach. I ran a couple miles, did some upper body weights and then gorged on pasta and wine at dinner.

I am actually a huge fan of hotel gyms because they’re almost always nicer than my gym at home, and if you go during dinner time or a bit before, it’s practically a ghost town. This gym is particularly delightful because the cardio room is open-air and overlooks the ocean. Check this page out for some more jaw-dropping hotel gyms (bet you didn’t think they could be that amazing, did you?).

Day 3 – F**k It

One of the worst parts about my 30’s has been that my body is starting to hurt more and more. I have been nursing an injured knee and an injured shoulder for months now, so yesterday’s workout probably didn’t help that situation. Other than taking a light swim and walking to and from food (and lifting my fork to my mouth), today was a dud for workouts.

It’s important to be OK with having days like these without feeling guilty. I realized that, although the initial purpose of this challenge was to workout every day, the bigger challenge is to be able to care for your mind and body in every possible way, including tending to your injuries (no matter how inconvenient or frustrating they are) and giving yourself space to heal.

Day 4 – Yoga for dummies

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Well, I must have been insane to think that the hotel’s complimentary yoga class would be any different than it has been every year before.

It’s a lovely idea – early morning outdoor yoga in a beautiful paradise overlooking the ocean. But in reality, I find it neither relaxing nor challenging, each of which would be enough to make me enjoy a class. I understand that a beginner hotel yoga class has to go slowly, but the instructor’s sad attempt at a flow class always just leaves me irritable and in pain.

Day 5 – Treat yo’self

I didn’t really have a good excuse for not working out today other than I didn’t feel like it. I decided to stop being so hard on myself and start treating this like a real vacation. Today was also the day this blog post went from being a fitness challenge to a “wellness” challenge.

First order of business: get a massage.

I’m not just saying this to make myself feel better about being a lazy piece of shit on this vacation, but I really think that it’s equally important to focus on our minds as much as our bodies. I am under a great deal of stress at my day job, so having a massage was a perfect way to unwind and work out some tension, both mentally and physically. Plus, Maui has some incredible spas, so it’s definitely worth taking a workout break to go get the royal treatment.

Day 6 – Paddle-boarding Drinking Mai Tais

I usually go paddle-boarding at least once on each trip to Hawaii, and I really wanted to do it this year. I thought about it, planned to rent one, and watched other people do it every day. Today was the last full day of vacation, so if it was going to happen, it’s got to be now.

But then as I was sitting by the aptly-named serenity pool contemplating how badly my shoulder still hurt and mustering the energy to get up, another poolgoer sauntered by me drinking something out of a pineapple. Further investigation confirmed that it was a frozen Mai-Tai, which sealed paddle-boarding’s fate once and for all.

I spent the rest of the day posted up on a lounge chair with a book and a drink. The perfect end to a perfect vacation.

Runners Up

I’m usually a lot better about staying active on vacation, and there are a ton of fun activities to try in Maui (and basically every other tropical vacation spot). Here are some things that I didn’t get to this year, but deserve an honorable mention nonetheless:


I swim for about 30 minutes every day in Hawaii. I didn’t count it as an actual workout for the purposes of this post, but it’s definitely a great, low-impact exercise, and can be quite a workout depending on ocean conditions.

A note of caution: my father spent half of his life in the ocean, so he taught me about ocean safety when I was young, and I have always been a strong swimmer, however the ocean can be a treacherous place for those who are unfamiliar with it. Make sure to always check posted flags and warnings before getting into the water. Observe what others, especially locals, are doing before you get in. And try to stick to beaches with lifeguards. For more helpful ocean safety tips, check out this post.


Vacation hiking is great because you get the best of both worlds – exercise and sight seeing some absolutely breathtaking views. Maui has a large variety of hiking options which range from easy to difficult. My favorites are Haleakala and the Iao Valley. Both very touristy and crowded, but for good reason – they’re relatively easy hikes with impressive views. Both places also have interesting historical and spiritual significance, so make sure to learn about them before your hike (or during, if you’re going with a guide) in order to enjoy the full experience.

Fitness Classes

Our hotel also offers complimentary tennis classes for beginners. I contemplated going to one of them (I am basically a beginner – I haven’t played since high school), but I decided against it for two reasons. First, my shoulder is already on fire, and I doubt that swinging a tennis racket would help. Second, see my note above about hotel fitness classes. That said, a lot of hotels offer fitness classes for little or no charge. It’s definitely worth checking to see if your hotel offers a class you would be interested in.

Even though my fitness challenge didn’t turn out the way I planned, I am pretty pleased with the results. By not forcing myself to do anything I didn’t feel like doing, and refusing to feel guilty about not working out every single day, I was able to spend my vacation focusing equally on my mind, body and soul.

What kind of wellness habits do you have while you’re on vacation?

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  • Reply Ryan Biddulph August 2, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Great point on not forcing yourself, because force negates, leading to injury. I have circled the globe for the past 6 years. At home, or on the road, going slowly, calmly and patiently has helped me immeasurably in staying fit over the long haul. I am running 10 miles 1-2 days a week plus 4-5 days of either 7-8 mile runs or interval training. Amazing how easily it comes to me when I am not trying so darn hard.

    • Reply August 2, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      Appreciate the feedback! Yeah, working our bodies too hard seems like it just leads to more injuries, which means having to skip more workouts. I am trying to figure out a good balance, and also looking for some lower-impact exercises to add to my routine.

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