90 Day Challenge: Working out while on Vacation and Periodizing a Program!

Vacations and workouts… ok, we’re clearing the air about this one!  Vacations are never ideal situations to train, whether it’s a 5:30am wake up call so that you can muster up enough mental strength to workout in a mosquito infested park – if you look in my eyes in the image below you’d probably see that I’m devoid of all consciousness and emotion – or you decide to go out for a run and workout in the rain without any equipment after a heavy night of excess, it’s always a struggle!  So what do you do?

5:30 am workout in a Calgary park before heading to Vancouver!

1) Plan ahead and do something called periodizing: Your body needs a break from exercise every now and then!  Paul has been working out minimum of one hour (sometimes two or three) a day 7 days a week for the past three weeks, he needed a few days of lower intensity exercise or rest just to repair the body.  I usually structure my workouts for either myself or our members in four phases:

Phase 1: low intensity workouts which could be a week or a month depending on the time frame.  In this phase we do a lot more cardiovascular intense functional workouts and lighter weights if we’re lifting weights.

Phase 2: medium intensity workouts lasting about the same time.  The cardiovascular component increases in intensity but is not at it’s peak, and we start to increase the amount of weight that we lift  for strength training.

Phase 3: I call this the all out phase.  We basically structure the workouts around high intensity workouts with heavier weights and lots of compound movements and very little rest phases.  If you’ve ever been to one of our H.I.I.T. classes where there is practically no rest in between each one of the exercises, this is what I consider all out.  It’s in this phase where most of the results happen since our bodies are primed for change, and nutrition is really down pact.  If you have been following me on twitter, Paul and I did these three phases before the vacation.

Phase 4: Rest!  And don’t feel guilty about this!  Your body needs some time off to rest and recover from the first three phases.  As humans we were never meant to exert ourselves at high intensities all the time.  If you’re worried about loosing traction keep this in mind: when you are performing functional fitness your metabolism can remain high for upwards of a week of reduced exercise; this doesn’t happen so much with purely cardiovascular exercise so most people notice more significant weight gain if they are just running to loose weight.

I will usually structure a person’s workout around their vacation time so that we perform all of these phases.  When I tell someone to take a break during their vacation they usually look at me in shock and awe since they are so habituated to exercise.  Sure enough, if the vacation is short enough they actually come back stronger and with more energy because they gave their bodies a rest. That definitely happened with Paul and myself on Tuesday and for the following days of this week.  So plan your workouts around this principle!  If you are heading out for a few weeks then it might be a good idea to bring some equipment and do some of the workouts that are on our “Workout Anywhere” blogs just to maintain your fitness, or go do something that’s physically challenging and have fun doing it!

2) Stop feeling guilty!   I hear this frequently: “I don’t want to stop working out on vacation, I’m afraid of loosing all of my progress”  Paul even said it before we left! STOP! You deserve a break from life’s stresses so take a vacation and let your body rest too.  It’s not to say that you should throw your nutrition out the window for weeks on end, but if we stop consciously focusing on the negative we can truly relax.  Don’t touch the scale during the vacation and even a week after your vacation.

3) Move!

Did I ever mention how much I love cooking? This place was heaven to me!


Plan to do fun things on your vacation that involve movement!  Plan walking tours of a new city so you can see how awesome it is from the ground up.  Go zip lining or hiking.  Exercise on vacation if it is fun for you like it is for me! This allows you to do two things:

i) Stay active: of course… no brainer right!

ii) Reap the rewards of your hard work: I’m always proud when people come back from their vacations and they are so excited that they saw a difference in their stamina and their strength when they were moving around on their vacation.  We focus here on community oriented fitness because it improves your quality of life, in other words, how you experience and interact with the world!

So take some time off from exercise, but just like work and everything else in life plan for it.  Just as Paul said, this is a lifestyle change not just a 90 day challenge.

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About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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