A Virtual Cyclist Reluctantly Takes a Vacation

My Active Cycling Vacation Tips for Balancing Family, Fun, Fitness, and Fear!

I don’t like to take a day off! If I don’t do something I can rationalize as furthering my fitness, it is a bad day for me and a horrible day for the loved ones forced to tolerate me.  

Yes, I know! The pros often take long stretches off the bike with little to no physical activity. Further confirmation that I’m not even pro at being a hack amateur.  

I know I’m not alone. When I asked Charlotte Backus of PLAN7 Endurance Coaching, her initial comments addressed my insecurities.

“Vacation time is exciting, yet it can cause anxiety if you train every day and fear that you will lose all the fitness you have gained. What if I can’t get it back?”

I know from many years of amateur experience that my fear is unrealistic, but it doesn’t matter. I am the way I am, and I have to deal with myself. I have developed a multi-faceted approach to doing so when it comes to family vacations. Brace yourselves.

Before you say it, I will. “That doesn’t seem like a vacation.” Guilty, but it works for me.

Cycling in front of a Glacier

An Active Vacation it will be

My family assumes by now that our vacation will be centered around maintaining MY active lifestyle. That means getting outdoors to explore the national parks and taking in the natural wonders. We have been to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, The Grand Tetons, Zion, Arches, the Grand Canyon, and this year it was Acadia.

An active vacation is a great way to witness the natural beauty that surrounds us. It also provides me with a way to give my body what it craves. Knowing that I don’t feel right when I don’t do something isn’t mental.

Bear's Tooth Montana

I Always Bring My Bike

Hauling a bike through the airport is not easy, but most major airlines allow it for an (exorbitant) fee. Handing your precious cargo to baggage handlers and inspectors is a prohibitive leap of faith I’m no longer willing to take, however.

It wasn’t so bad when I convinced the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) precheck authorities that my assistance was vital to the procedure. I knew what it took to get my bike and its many expensive parts delicately arranged in the case. I also knew that most TSA agents couldn’t appreciate my affection for the case’s contents, nor that it would spring open like a snake in a can when they were “just trying to do their job.”

I no longer choose to add that scenario to my traveling stress checklist and opt for a more convenient method. I find a reputable shop in the vicinity of my destination willing to accept delivery of my bike and assemble it. At first, I would pack and ship it myself, but now I bring it to my local bike shop, and they coordinate the delivery in both directions.

It is an added expense, but the luxury of not having to assemble your greasy bike in the cozy confines of a hotel room, or find it in more pieces than it started after TSA precheck, is well worth it. Trust me.

This year we drove to Acadia, so I also brought my spare trainer.

Would you mind not saying it? I know what you are thinking. My family feels the same way.

Pike's Peak

Booking for the Bike

Traveling with a bike and fulfilling the needs of the person riding it requires a different level of accommodation than provided by a standard hotel room.  A bit more space and a buffer for sound are essential to being a responsible member of resort society.  

I have found that an extended stay hotel, like Marriot’s Residence Inn, or a vacation rental platform, like VRBO, is the way to go.  They have a kitchen, the importance of for me I will mention later.

We also book a mini-van to carry the bike and the supplies required to fulfill the needs of the person riding it.  

Would you mind not saying it.  I know what you are thinking.  My family feels the same way.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Scheduling for Success

This takes on many forms, and for me, it starts with training.  Coach Charlotte takes this approach with her athletes.

“I know in advance when my athlete has a vacation, and I will plan to end a good training block so my rider is set for some much-needed recovery.”

I will notify my coach in advance of my vacation dates and arrange my training plan accordingly. Having a bike with me while traveling allows for some training, but I prefer to keep things unstructured and take the opportunity to ride for the enjoyment of riding.  

A pleasure I take for granted when engrossed in a structured training plan trying to maximize minimal gains. Also, a great way to see things you never would while driving and immerse yourself in the splendor of natural beauty. A chance to smell the flowers.

When planning your pre-vacation training, be careful not to significantly increase your volume and intensity immediately before departure and then stopping abruptly. The consequences were catastrophic for the virtual cyclist highlighted in this article on Rhabdomyolysis previously posted on The Zom.

Scheduling also includes the timing of my rides and its effect on the family activities. We discuss the next day’s active plans during dinner and set an agreed-upon time to be in the car and ready to go.  

The demands of raising a family and directing a private practice have caused my training schedule to evolve into early morning riding organically. Now it is my routine and a departure from it, even in the name of “relax you are on vacation,” is not as much fun for me as it may be for you (and my family). I schedule my riding to have the least amount of impact upon the family fun.

I also choose to schedule a transition day between our return home and the resumption of the workweek. I call it my “vacation from the vacation” and find it essential to getting back into my routine. Are you sensing a trend? 

Yosemite National Park active cycling vacation

No Need to Neglect the Strength Training

Resistance training is essential to my training. Therefore, it is also a part of my active vacation plan. It requires some creativity and flexibility, but I do it effectively. Coach Joy gave a few tips in her article on Functional Strength Training for Cyclists.

I bring suspension training straps like these https://amzn.to/2VcWsR6 whenever I go on vacation. I can perform a total body strengthening workout, and a good one at that, and the equipment doesn’t take up much space.

You will find more specific details about suspension training in this article I wrote for ZwiftInsider.

I prefer to find a gym in the area, however.  Most hotels have decent fitness rooms these days.  Most resort areas have gyms.  It is not only a great way to get in a good workout, but it also provides an opportunity to experience the local community in the area you are exploring.

I found a great YMCA in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Golden Gate Bridge by bike

Don’t Overlook Your Recovery Routine

I know the whole time you are reading this, you have thought there should be more recovery in my vacation. If that is the case, please don’t forget about it on yours. I always build in a few minutes to stretch and roll.  

My recovery aids have logged substantial miles, and through experience, I have settled upon this compact and practical vibrating therapy ball https://amzn.to/36YMmGw. It doesn’t take up much space and does the job very well.

Hydration is Vital

Staying hydrated while on your active vacation is a “no-brainer,” but it isn’t always the case for me. The family activities are not as taxing as a training session where I would be more conscious of drinking for performance.

The outdoor environment unknowingly places a greater demand upon your hydration than training in a climate-controlled indoor space.

While hiking or sightseeing, hydration sources may be hard to come by. Plan to be sure that you bring enough water. I will buy a low-cost styrofoam cooler when I arrive at my destination or pack a cooler bag.

Then there is always the dehydrating effect of adult beverages to take into account. I’ll save that for a different article.

Acadia National Park with my bike

Diet and Nutrition While You are Enjoying Your Active Vacation

As I mentioned when discussing bookings, I always try to secure accommodations that include cooking options. Not only is it a money saver, but it also allows me the ability to maintain a semblance of my diet routine and is more time-effective than dining out every meal.

I eat an early morning pre-ride breakfast in the dimly lit kitchen to avoid disturbing the family. We prepare and take lunch to go on whatever outdoor adventure we have in store. We even choose to cook some dinners in our temporary home.

It is an excellent way to taste some of the local flavors. The lobster in Acadia was incredible. We go out for dinner most of the time, however. Yes, I have been married a long time and intend to stay that way.

Active Cycling Vacation accommodations

Don’t take it from me. Here is what Professor of Exercise Metabolism Adam Upshaw has to say on the matter.

I often tell my vacationing client athletes to continue to eat as they regularly do but not to worry too much if they cannot match their habitual nutritional patterns.  For most individuals, a few extra calories here and there, a second helping of pasta, an impromptu fast food stop, and even that second piece of cake will not contribute to significant changes in body composition when done for such a short period. 

For those who have struggled with excess body fat, you know firsthand how difficult it is and how long it takes to shed those few extra pounds; similarly, it can be challenging and lengthy to increase those body fat stores. 

Additionally, I remind my athletes that any scale weight fluctuations you might notice during or soon after your vacation is likely just water weight. Suppose you are like most of my clients and me. In that case, carbohydrates, particularly various refined carbohydrates, are the splurge food we often avoid in our day-to-day lives but overconsume when outside our everyday routine. 

When we consume carbohydrates, we store water as part of the metabolic process of glycogen storage. As such, our scale weight goes up without any fundamental changes in body fat.   Fat metabolism is a complex process and is undoubtedly not significantly affected by a few indulgences over a 10 to 14 day period.

Conclusion - It Works For Me

I realize that what I consider a vacation may not be your ideal vision of a relaxing time away from home.  I also realize that I go to great lengths to remain in an unsubstantiated comfort zone of fitness maintenance while away.  Coach Charlotte eases my apprehensions best in summation when she says this.

It can be scary to think you will lose the benefits of your hard work, but you need these rest periods to come back stronger mentally and physically. The best thing you can do is enjoy yourself and get the rest you require.

Of course, I make my suggestions in jest and thoroughly enjoy the time I can share with my family in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Doing it on a bicycle makes it even more special.

Suppose I can maintain a reasonable resemblance of my fitness, routine, and sanity in the process. Well, it works for me!

What works for you? Comment below.

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