Sleep, Eat, Work out, Relax, Repeat

Make your next vacation a time of restoration,
not something you need to undo when you get home

First of all, I’m a big fan of vacation, believe it or not.  I look forward to relaxation, getting away from the everyday routine, experiencing new places, eating well, and being creative with working out in new environments.
A couple years ago, we took a family vacation to southeastern MN at the end of August. My wife and I packed up the minivan with our four kids and rented a farm house in the middle of what felt like nowhere but was really about 10 miles outside of Pepin, MN. All you could see from our farmhouse was miles of hills of cornfields. Our days were spent playing family board games, exploring and hiking, and making fantastic, delicious, and nourishing meals from fresh vegetables and meats from local farmers. Best of all, we got really creative and did some great workouts with no equipment and nothing but the natural elements and each other. I would much rather spend my vacation time like this than waiting in line at some theme park for hours in the heat, then going back to a hotel and eating at the “High-Fructose, Hormone-Packed, Pesticide Buffet”.  I don’t know about you, but theme parks and buffets aren’t restorative or relaxing to me. We all end up tired, bloated, and crabby.
Something that’s really important to our family is having nourishing, nutritious food on vacation. Even the kids know how important good nutrition is to feeling good and having a good time. It feels so much better taking care of your body, getting enough rest, and feeding your body what it needs. On vacation, we actually have the time to do all these things. We have time to prepare and enjoy really good food, to sleep as long as we want to (and even take naps), and to work out in creative ways. There is nothing better than waking up after a good night’s sleep to a homemade breakfast of farm-fresh eggs, fresh ground almond meal banana pancakes, and, for the rest of the family, bacon fresh from the neighbor’s pig (I’m kosher). It sure beats waking up to a stomachache and a food hangover from eating something that sat in your gut and fermented overnight. Whenever we pick out vacation spots, we always make sure there is a place nearby to get local, organic, fresh food!
Vacation is my time to shut down and let my mind and body recover. I always have a good book and scope out the best place to nap on day one! My naps are typically 90 minutes in the middle of the day because any napping after 5:00 pm makes it really hard to fall asleep before 11:00 pm. It also makes it really hard to get eight to ten hours of sleep at night, which is a must on vacation if I want to recover emotionally and physically. If you aren’t getting eight to ten hours a night of sleep, then you most likely need at least a 90-minute nap during the day (which you probably don’t get). Physical and mental recovery take place in the latter phases of sleep, so if you don’t sleep long enough, your body doesn’t fully experience the daily restoration it needs. Vacation hopefully offers an opportunity to sleep as much as you need, and to get your body into a healthy restorative rhythm. Sleep is life and death. Without it, we are more susceptible to disease and more likely to age quickly. I can’t always get a nap in when I’m home -- as a matter of fact, I rarely do. When I’m on vacation I make it a priority. 
I sure it’s no surprise that I love to work out hard, and I do so five days a week when I’m home. I also like to work out on vacation, but I want to relax too, so I don’t want my training to take more than 30 minutes. Plus, I know I can get in what I need in 30 minutes from start to finish. I like to make it intense but nothing that’s going to crush me for the hiking I’ll do with my family, or put me to sleep during our family game of Rummikub or UNO. I focus, for the most part, on body-weight workouts. It’s not uncommon for the entire family (yes, all the kids) to head out before breakfast and get in a good workout to start the day. 
Here are a few of my favorite body-weight workouts that the family does on vacation:

  • 100 push-ups for time.
  • Every time you have to pause, break rhythm, or rest, you must complete 20 sit-ups.
  • If that’s not enough, just add another activity… 100 lunge steps and every time you break do 20 reverse crunches. You get the idea!

1-mile Challenge

  • Run 1 mile, stopping every 2 minutes to complete 10 burpees.

20”:10” x 8 (TABATA)

  • Pick any 4 activities (squat, push up, sit up, lunge)
  • Work 20” and rest 10” x 8 rounds for each activity
  • Rest 2 minutes after you complete each 8 round set and then move to the next activity.
  • Score each one by your lowest number, thus making your lowest number as high as possible.

2-minute Max Rep Challenge

  • Pick 4 activities and do as many reps as possible in 2 minutes.
  • Rest 2 minutes after each 2-minute work effort.
  • Burpees, sit ups, squat jumps, run for distance.


This is my eldest daughter, Ari, gathering some tomatoes for our lunch at our farmhouse near Pepin! I can tell by the smile on her face that she has no idea burpees and sit-ups are coming right before lunch.
A vacation should be restorative. You should return home feeling refreshed and full of energy, maybe even learning a few new habits that make you healthier and more fit. Don’t return home from vacation feeling like you need another vacation to recover from your vacation. You can avoid that!  Whether it’s a new way to train, learning how to cook a nutritious and delicious meal (or finding restaurants that will do it for you), or determining to carve out five minutes each day to meditate is up to you. What if you return from a summer break feeling better than when you left instead of feeling tired and wishing you had spent more time [insert wish here]? Do it! Make your health and fitness a priority on your next vacation, and you won’t regret it.
See you when you get home!