With a suitcase full of cargo shorts, men or women’s comfortable sandals, sunscreen, and swimwear, it’s difficult for even the most adept packer to squeeze in a pair of twenty-pound dumbbells. Fear not; getting in a decent workout while vacationing can still occupy a spot on your travel itinerary, even without appropriate workout gear or equipment.
There are plenty of ways you can enjoy cocktails by the beach while maintaining—and even increasing—your strength, endurance, mobility, and daily caloric burn. The best part? You don’t need a gym for any of these exercises.
In this article, you’ll find equipment-free vacation workouts that will keep you aligned with your fitness goals while you visit your favorite destinations.
How To Exercise On Vacation
While you may not be able to flow with friends at your favorite neighborhood yoga studio, exercising on your spring or summer vacation, in many ways, is the same as working out at home. That’s because it all starts with one essential step: defining your goals.
Step One: Start with The Why
Since fitness goals vastly differ among people, the first step to creating a sound, vacation-friendly workout is recognizing what you plan to maintain or achieve while doing so.
Here are a few common fitness goals to help inspire you, if you’re feeling stuck:
- Increasing strength – This goal requires weightlifting while progressively overloading the weight over time. Start with fewer repetitions and scale up as you get stronger, and make use of weighted equipment or your own body weight to complete each workout routine. To improve strength, longer rest periods allow for better recovery as does increasing one’s caloric intake gradually.
- Increasing endurance – Endurance is more than just the ability to run marathons. While aerobic endurance is your body’s capacity to meet its oxygen demand during cardio workouts, strength endurance is your muscles’ ability to repeat certain movements before getting fatigued. You can train up to four types of endurance: aerobic (jogging), anaerobic (HIIT workout), speed (plyometrics with a focus on intensity), and strength (high-repetition low-weight movements).2 Some people may focus on one category while others will work toward mastering a combination of a few.
- Bodybuilding – This goal involves body recomposition, and diet plays an essential role in achieving it. Those who choose to take this fitness route may benefit from a protein-focused diet and a bodyweight workout routine that combines strength training with HIIT exercises.
If you’re having trouble deciding, you can combine multiple goals to achieve your desired fitness level, since many go hand-in-hand with others. For instance, doing a high-volume, low-weight workout may increase muscle endurance but also tone your body, provided you’re mindful of your macros.
A particularly attractive perk for vacationers? Each of these goals can be worked towards without access to equipment like weights and machines. So, keeping your fitness goal in mind, here’s a guide on how to work out on vacation without a gym.
Step Two: Incorporate Workouts Aligned With Your Goals
The second step is designing your vacation or spring workout. Each of the following exercises can be tailored to just about any fitness level. When combined, they work as a full body workout, targeting your upper body, lower body and core muscles. Each bodyweight exercise has strength-focused and endurance-focused variations, depending on your fitness goal.
#1 Deep Squat with Variations
A bodyweight squat is a classic go-to when it comes to your lower-body fitness. It targets multiple muscle groups like your glutes, quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, and abdominals.3
Since they work your full range of motion, research indicates that body-weight deep squats can improve muscle strength and size more than weighted shallow squats.4 In other words, this exercise helps you do more with less—a perfect way to maximize rest and relaxation while you’re on vacation. Keep in mind that it’s important to work with the mobility you have, so be mindful of your form and avoid pushing your body beyond its natural range of motion.
To perform a deep bodyweight squat correctly:5
- Squat down as if sitting on an invisible chair. As your ankles, knees, and hips bend, your knees will naturally go over your toes, and your hips will fall backward.
- Ensure your feet remain flat while squatting as low as you can. Ideally, your pelvis should not lean backward or forward and should align with your shins. When viewed from the front, your knees and feet should also be aligned.
- Now, push through your feet, engage your glutes, and return to your starting position.
Even as a heavy weightlifter, an intensive deep squat variation like jump squats can help your muscles reach the same level of fatigue that you would normally reach in the gym. To train for muscle (anaerobic) endurance and improve fat loss, you can combine a jumping deep squat with a burpee for a simple and effective HIIT workout. You can also target different muscle groups by trying a narrow, wide, or sumo stance for the deep squat.
#2 Pushup with Variations
One of the best ways to target multiple upper body muscle-groups is the classic pushup. Not only do push ups work your deltoids and pectoralis muscles, but they also help target your triceps, the ‘wing’ muscle between your underarm and chest, and your core.6
Plus, whether you’re at the beach or picnicking at a mountainside park, you can perform them on just about any flat surface.
To complete a push up correctly:7
- Begin in a plank position, tuck your pelvis in, keep your neck neutral, and ensure your palms are aligned directly underneath your shoulders. An additional tip is to keep your shoulders rotated back and low.
- Make sure your back is flat, brace your core, and lower your body down by bending your elbows backward while breathing in as you move. Go as low as possible till your chest grazes the surface.
- Push your body upwards by extending your elbows as you breathe out.
The best part about pushups is the many variations for every fitness level.8 If a standard ground push up feels like too much of a challenge, doing an incline pushup against a wall, bed, or low table will engage the same muscles. You could also spice up your yoga practice with a pike pushup, starting from the downward dog position.
Alternatively, if pushups feel a bit too easy for you, doing a decline pushup by elevating your legs, or a plyometric pushup by clapping between repetitions makes this movement more intense. Trying a stance your body is not used to is also a way to make different muscle groups work harder, such as the staggered pushup which trains the pushup muscles asymmetrically.
To get the most bang for your buck, ensure your bodyweight workouts incorporate a blend of narrow and wide push-up stances.
#3 Superman with Variations
A highly underrated bodyweight movement that targets muscles that can easily be left behind like your lower back, lats, glutes, and abdominals is the Superman. This movement can easily be done on a comfy hotel bed and has ample variations to tailor it to your expertise.
To correctly perform a Superman correctly:9
- Lie face down with your arms extended forward and legs straight.
- Put your head in a neutral pose while avoiding looking forward, and slowly lift your arms and legs until you feel your lower back contracting. Engage your glutes, core, and shoulder blades as you begin to lift.
- As your chest comes up with your arms, aim to lift your belly button off the surface. (This is the part where you imagine you’re Superman flying through the city, searching for the latest crime to fight.)
- Hold this position for about 3 seconds and keep breathing deeply.
- Relax your muscles as you lower your arms and legs.
Easier Superman variations include bird dogs, the yoga cobra pose, and practicing Supermans with bent elbows. To dial up the intensity of this bodyweight exercise, you can try holding it for up to six seconds at a time or increasing the number of repetitions you do. Relative to the others, this movement is perfect for improving posture. However, if you begin experiencing lower back pain afterward, switch them out for standard planks.
Step Three: Keep It Realistic to Stay Consistent
The key to getting back in shape and a successful workout regimen is consistency. Simply put, you get better at what you do when you do it regularly.
The best part about exercising is how creative you can be with what constitutes fitness for you. In other words, not everybody needs to do a 20-minute HIIT session three times a week. With access to a beautiful beach or park in your neighborhood and a durable pair of men’s or women’s slide sandals, you can opt for a long walk on some days instead.
Alternatively, if you have a heavy suitcase to lug around while you travel, simply walking around your room while holding it is a makeshift exercise that targets your shoulders, back, forearms, and grip strength.
Ensure the workouts you choose are realistic for your fitness level, the time you have, and the space you require to do them. Stay open to changing your workout when necessary, and being innovative with workout equipment.
For Holiday Style That Supports Your Fitness Goals, Try Vionic
Make packing for your next holiday effortless with Vionic’s athleisure collection that gives you all the style, support, and motivation you need to stay fit while you’re on the go. Designed by podiatrists, Vionic sneakers not only improve foot mobility with a cushioned outsole but are also sturdy enough to handle all kinds of impact.
With a diverse collection ranging from women’s comfortable sandals to plush slippers for men, you can be guaranteed orthopedic benefits thanks to the innovative Vio Motion Support technology.
Stay aligned with your fitness goals on your next vacation with Vionic shoes.
- “How to Achieve Your Fitness Goals.” Maximum Fitness Vacaville. https://www.maximumfitnessvacaville.com/blog/7-steps-how-achieve-common-fitness-goals
- “Endurance Training.” Brian Mac. https://www.brianmac.co.uk/enduranc.htm#:~:text=What%20types%20of%20endurance%20are,speed%20endurance%20and%20strength%20endurance.
- Chertoff, Jane. “What Muscles Do Squats Work?” Healthline. 23 May, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/what-muscles-do-squats-work
- McMahon, Gerard E et al. “Impact of range of motion during ecologically valid resistance training protocols on muscle size, subcutaneous fat, and strength.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 28,1 (2014): 245-55. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e318297143a
- Bowling, Nicole. “What Muscles Do Pushups Work?” Healthline. 11 May, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/muscles-worked-push-ups
- Carpenter, Hayden. “14 Types of Push-Ups—and How They Help You.” Outside. 28 February, 2019. https://www.outsideonline.com/health/training-performance/types-of-pushups/
- Davidson, Katey. “Try the Superman Exercise to Stand Tall and Proud.” https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/superman-exercise#common-errors