Staying Healthy on the Road
Although for some people a week or two’s vacation in the sun represents an opportunity to sit back and relax, if you’re someone who places importance on maintaining your fitness and physique through exercise and training, this won’t be you. Instead you’ll see it as another chance to work out.
While you might try your hand at some new activities when you’re abroad, if you have access to a gym where you’re staying, you may well want to keep up with your current training regime. However, while you may think that you can just pick up from where you left off at home, there are a few issues to be aware of. This will ensure that you can work out safely to avoid injury and ill health, allowing you to enjoy the rest of your vacation and not put your fitness back. Follow the tips below and seek out further advice on staying well before you travel.
Be cautious of the fitness advice you take
Although you might be sticking to your usual training routine when on vacation, you might have some questions, particularly if the equipment on offer isn’t the same as that you normally working with. The chances are you are used to receiving advice from a qualified trainer or member of gym staff. However, remember that just like back home not everyone that calls themselves a fitness instructor or personal trainer has the qualifications to back this up.
While you would hope that those on hand at the hotel gym would at least know how to operate the equipment safely, be wary of the additional advice they offer; unless you’ve seen their certificates from a body such as the International Fitness Professionals Association, you just can’t be sure they are competent to advise you.
In busy gyms each piece of equipment will be used tens of times each day if not more. The resulting wear and tear of equipment can place you at risk if it fails while you are using it. Each item in the gym might display a label indicating when it was last serviced providing you with an idea of how often they are checked and repaired; if not, ask those in charge. If you can’t get a straight answer or you aren’t happy about how often their equipment is tested, look elsewhere for fitness activities.
Taking a break from your usual regime will damage your fitness less than if you use a faulty item in the gym that results in an injury.
Be wary of trying something new
While vacations are often seen a chance to try something new, when it comes to your training program at the gym, it’s best to err on the side of caution. There will be a good reason why your trainer back home has devised a particular plan for you, leaving some items of equipment out. It might be tempting to try these while you’re away if the gym you’re using has this on offer, but without expert advice to explain why these aren’t suitable for you or how to use them safely taking into account your individual requirements, you could be taking a big risk.
If you really must deviate from your usual schedule in the gym, tell the instructor about any old injuries or current medical conditions you have. However, you know your body best of all, so if you do attempt something and it doesn’t feel right, stop the exercise straight away, as otherwise you could be in for a strain, sprain or worse. If you think you may have injured yourself, ask for ice, keep the body part elevated and use compression to minimize swelling.
Reduce your infection risk
There’s no escaping the microbes that cause disease and gyms, particularly in hot countries, are a breeding ground for them; sweat that has been left on equipment is ideal for bacteria to multiply and gym benches, showers and the area round swimming pools aren’t much better. It would be ironic to take a vacation, which is meant to boost your health, only to come down with a respiratory or gastric infection.
Besides washing your hands regularly, wipe down each piece of equipment before and after use and as not all gyms will provide hand sanitizer, take some of your own away with you. In the showers wear flip flops to reduce the risk of you developing toenail infections.
If the gym has a pool and you plan to use this as well as the cardio machines and weights, check that the pool has filtration and that disinfectants are used to reduce the risk posed by disease causing microbes; the World Health Organization also advises that water samples should be taken weekly, so check this measure is also in place.
Dangers of exercising in the heat
If the gym is not air conditioned, you body will heat up much quicker than it does when you’re working out back home. Although heat exhaustion and heat stroke are less common in fit healthy adults, they can still occur if you aren’t careful. Sweating large amounts doesn’t just increase your risk of dehydration, but also the chance that your electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium will become depleted.
If you start to feel overly tired, nauseous or faint, stop your work out immediately; going somewhere cool, having a drink and removing any excess clothing will help you to feel better and prevent the progression of your symptoms. Allowed to develop heat exhaustion will lead to heat stroke, characterized by confusion, shallow breathing and loss of consciousness, which requires medical attention.
The best way to prevent these conditions is to avoid using the gym during the hottest part of the day; early morning or in the evening is a safer time. Ensure you are well hydrated prior to your workout and drink according to your thirst while at the gym; this will ensure you take sufficient fluid on board without overdoing it, as too much water can also dilute your body salts.
You would be advised to use a sports drink rather than water, particularly if exercising for more than an hour, as this contains electrolytes to replace those you are losing. If you do drink water, remember that if the water quality is questionable, use bottled water.
Following these five areas of advice will help to allow you to maintain your health and well-being whilst working out on vacation.