By G.D. Rossen

As the summer vacation season approaches and millions of people start planning trips, among the most popular ways the recreation-starved choose to spend their hard-earned vacation time and harder-earned cash is on cruise ships or at all-inclusive tropical resorts. The cruise industry alone saw more than 10 million passengers depart from U.S. ports last year, while tropical ├╝ber-resorts with names like Sandals®, Breezes, and Couples beckon with enticing promises of warm sands and days of leisure. (We won't touch on what Hedonism Resorts® beckons with.) What these vacation destinations all have in common is cocoon-like protection in a safe, microcosmic version of the locale you're visiting, committed to relaxation and fun. But they share something else too. As all-inclusive vacations, they offer near-continuous access to all the food you can eat, which makes them appeal to instincts honed by our famine-fearing ancestors—instincts that tell us that if there's food available, it's time to chow down. Cruise ships in particular have gained notoriety as being fat factories on the seas. Like the average American waistline, every year, the ships grow larger and larger, adding more and more dining rooms and buffets, each enticing travelers to gorge as they lounge in the tropical sunshine.


And while in this era of shrinking paychecks and cost-conscious consuming the idea of all-inclusive vacations sounds like a smart vacation shopper's dream come true, this all-you-can-consume kind of vacation carries with it risks for the health-minded vacationer. So if your goal is to keep from overindulging while at an all-inclusive resort or on a cruise, and you can't depend solely on your willpower to keep you on the straight and narrow, here are eight ways you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest without derailing your healthy eating and exercise plan.
  1. The opposite of mountain climbing (or beware the buffet). Mountain climbers have been known to explain their passionate need to tackle a given peak by saying "because it's there"; vacationers at an all-inclusive often defend their face-first dives into mountainous buffets with the same motto. Just because something is there doesn't mean you have to have it. That said, we're all human, and something that seems "free" or "paid for" is enticing and alluring . . . especially when it's bathed in cream, salt, sugar, cheese, etc. So when mealtime rolls around and a buffet sprawls before you like pirate booty waiting to be plundered, make sure you start with the salad. That's right, a simple green salad, and while you're at it, try light dressing or no dressing at all. Salad fills up space in your stomach while it provides you with vitamins and roughage, the latter of which is noticeably lacking in many buffet-style foods. Just remember, the more salad you eat (at, say, 50 calories for a cup and a half of salad without dressing, or 100 calories for a cup and a half with low-fat balsamic vinaigrette), the less room you'll have for starchy, fatty, salty Fettuccine Alfredo (which can weigh in at 700 calories per serving and up—often way up). The result is that in addition to keeping your arteries clearer, you're gonna feel a lot better in your swimsuit when you're lounging on the Lido deck.
  2. Be the captain of your table. While cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts have embraced the "more is better" philosophy, offering sometimes a dozen restaurant options to their captive diners, the tourism industry has also been among the most responsive to working "heart-healthy" and lower-calorie options into their menus. You just have to use them. Vegetarian choices are usually available at every meal, as are sugar-free desserts and low-salt options. On cruises in particular, many ship kitchens pride themselves on accommodating guests' special dietary requests. And since both cruise ships and beachside resorts boast waterfront settings and nautical themes, fish dishes are virtually always available on the menu, which can make for healthier dining choices, especially when grilled.
  3. Beware the pink parasols. Okay, let's not go overboard. If you drink alcohol, your vacation most likely won't be the time you choose to cut it out of your diet. But the amount of calories in some alcoholic drinks can be truly astounding. Daiquiris, margaritas, mai tais—resort favorites all—generally carry high-calorie loads, and basically any drink sweetened with syrups or sugar is getting into Candyland as far as calorie count goes. Also, alcohol has that special ability to lower your resistance, impeding your better judgment. The bottom line is that drinking can make you consume a surplus of empty calories, both directly (the alcohol itself) and indirectly (the poolside French fries or grande platter of nachos you order when the alcohol obliterates your resolve). So before you find yourself paddling over toward the swim-up bar (because hey, how cool is that, having a swim-up bar?), have a strategy in place. Maybe your strategy will involve using low-cal mixers (i.e., rum and Diet Coke®) or alternating between an alcoholic drink and a nonalcoholic low-cal or no-cal drink (i.e., sparkling water on ice with some lemon or lime). Or if a cold beer is more to your liking, enjoy a light beer instead.
  4. Then again, it is vacation! So eat . . . then hit the gym. Sure there's temptation on vacation. That's why it's a vacation. And you don't want to be so mindful of your menu that you don't have fun. (After all, would you go to Switzerland and not try the chocolate, or visit New Orleans and not have beignets?) So if you embrace the dining options to their fullest, or feel you're deserving of your vacation drinks (especially since someone else is driving [the ship]), you should also embrace the many, many exercise options that are available. Fully outfitted gyms are de rigueur in all major resorts and ships, and the hour you spend on an elliptical machine could see you burn off 600 calories. The hardest part is incorporating the workout regimen you embrace at home to this new environment where hedonism is encouraged and rewarded. (Few gyms are emptier than those on cruise ships.) So here are a few exercise options.
  5. Exercise easy . . . Opportunities for easy, "I've got a hangover and can't get too out of breath"-type exercise are plentiful at resorts and on cruise ships. Sure, they may not be challenging enough to be featured on the cover of an outdoorsy-lifestyle magazine, but remember that embracing the many slower-paced vacation-style exercise options around you is better than not moving at all. For instance, you might want to take a morning walk before camping out on the nearest chaise lounge for the day. Walking on an even surface at 3 miles per hour will consume around 220 calories an hour, and even a modest (or stumbling) 2-mile-per-hour walk burns around 170 calories. So the paths around the resort, or even off-property if that's both safe and viable, provide for strolls that let you enjoy the warmth, soak in the atmosphere, and not atrophy on a poolside lounge chair. Likewise, most cruise ships boast tracks around the upper decks where passengers can walk or jog to their heart's delight (jogging can burn 360 calories and up an hour). Even the much-maligned game of shuffleboard can burn 150 or 200 calories an hour. Yes, it's a ridiculous pastime. Yes, it is associated with Miami Beach in the 1970s. But the idea is to move, rather than only bake in the sun while downing nachos and beers.
  6. Or exercise hard core . . . Rock-climbing walls are now present on many ships and at some resorts, and provide an extremely calorie-intensive workout due to the intense physical demands of clinging to a faux-rock face with feet and fingers (burning as much as 100 calories in a brief 10-minute climb). Never rappelled down a climbing wall before? No problem. Whether you have or not, if your resort has a rock wall, they have staff on hand to teach you how to use it, generally offering courses geared for climbers of different experience levels. Climbing walls involve intense use of muscles and balance, and you'll certainly feel it the next day. Likewise, many cruise ships, when they pull into port, offer challenging onshore athletic activities, like kayaking, which can burn 340 or more calories per hour.
  7. Sleep with the fishes—or just exercise with them. Nowhere are water sports more readily available than at beachside resorts and on cruise ships. Snorkeling burns around 350 calories an hour, and provides a calm and calming view of the world you may not normally get. Surfing is another activity that's perfect to try on your resort-bound vacation (some megaships also offer surf pools or surf parks to let passengers surf while still on board), and surfing can burn 200 calories an hour. Of course, swimming is one of the most effective exercises around, and swimming around ocean or pool for an hour could easily burn 400 calories or more.
  8. Dancing (does the limbo count)? Yes, cruise ships and resorts are romantic places where music fills the warm night air, so embrace the music and dance! Dancing is one of the best forms of cardio exercise, so whether you prefer to slow dance in the moonlight (a gentle waltz burns 120 calories or more an hour) or party down to some disco (while burning more than 270 calories an hour), rest assured that what you're doing is good for you. Dancing also has the distinction of being one of the more enjoyable forms of exercise—just one of the reasons that Hip Hop Abs® and Turbo Jam® have helped so many people improve their health and conditioning. The point with all these exercise options is to move, and whenever possible, to embrace the concept of Muscle Confusion, which forms the basis of the P90X® fitness regimen. Keeping your body moving in a variety of ways, continually forcing it to adapt, results in effective muscle toning and fat-burning.

1 comments

  1. montanna // June 21, 2011 at 9:16 PM  

    To incorporate these into your core workoutt routine you need to work on stretching exercises that are specifically designed to help golfers. Your aim in improving your swing during your golf workouts is to drive the ball further and straighter than you have done before.