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Sweating Vacation


It seems like everyone is concerned about putting on the pounds over the annual holiday season, but what about summer vacations? We spend the greater part of the new year trying to shed the weight gained from an over-indulgence of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pies and various other sweets in order to slip into that new bikini or eliminate the gut before shedding the shirt at the beach. What happens when you reach your destination of summer frolicking? Toss your diet out the window and reward yourself with excess? Stay loyal to your eating and exercise plan? Somehow manage to find a happy medium? I was faced with these questions when I embarked on a weeklong excursion of bliss to Kona Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.

My parents wanted to take the family on vacation to celebrate their 40th anniversary, as well as the birthdays of my nephew (10th) and myself (36th, ahem). They decided on Kona Village because we had celebrated Christmas there back in 2002 and had a wonderful time (though I had experienced periods of boredom due to the fact that the accommodations have no TV, computer or phone). If you want a site to get away from it all, and be pampered in the quintessential locale of relaxation, this is the place to go.

Over the holidays I had fallen victim to the two-headed monster known as Sloth and Gluttony, so I put in plenty of effort to get back in shape. As a competitive open water swimmer, I was focusing more on getting prepared for the spring/summer race season than achieving the perfect beach body, but I won't scoff at the aesthetic results. After months of training, respectable success in my races, and the loss of 15 pounds, I was a bit apprehensive about stepping aside for a week of hedonism.

Determined to take as few backwards steps as possible, I forged a plan for exercising and eating before departing the mainland. My training partner in California (shout out to Lisa) hooked me up with a friend of hers who lives in Kona-Kailua so I would have a motivating force on the island. We exchanged communications and planned a few swims, including a race the day after I arrived!

The 11th Annual King Swim took place at the Kailua Pier, which is the starting and finishing point of the Ironman World Championships Triathlon. Before you start to get impressed (just yet), the race was just 1.2 miles, instead of the 2.4 miles swum in the initial stage of the Ironman. I didn't go through the ubiquitous pre-race nerves because I didn't have any high expectations for this event. Since I was in the land of stud triathletes and had been in Kona for just 15 hours (not to mention the effect the time change had on me), I went into the race just wanting to have fun and to get some ocean swimming under my belt. Despite some crooked swimming, due to my limited attention span wondering off and looking at all the pretty fishes, I actually had a pretty good race. I finished first in my age group (got a sweet trophy), was the fifth male and the seventh overall finisher. Of the six people who came in before me, five were 18-years-old or younger, and the other was a 43-year-old woman who holds numerous world records in Masters Swimming (my island training partner). Not bad for an old man in the last day of his 35th year of life!

Aside from this race, I tried to swim daily in the ocean, which included another 1.2 miler on the same racecourse (for fun) and a completion of the whole 2.4-mile Ironman course (also for fun). Throw in a couple of pool workouts and a (mostly) daily trip to the resort workout room for weights and cardio, and I got in more than my fair share of vacation exercise. I found that the key to getting your sweat on while away from home is to do it first thing in the morning, getting it out of the way and leaving the rest of the day wide open for the real fun (or napping, if you prefer).

As for eating, the hardest part was resisting the temptation of the huge buffet breakfasts and lunches. I stuck to my goal of keeping on the blinders in front of the food spreads and throwing caution to the wind at dinner. Every day I was a good little boy and had eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt and berries for breakfast and a biggie salad for lunch (with a few French fries thrown in for good measure). Dinners were a different story, though I did not go completely overboard. There were plenty of four-course meals (with yummy lobster on most nights), but I knew I could shovel it in knowing I would be burning (most) of it off the next morning. As for desserts, I swore to myself that I would avoid them all unless cheesecake (my Kryptonite) was offered up. I succeeded in this mission until the last dinner of the trip when cheesecake finally popped up on the menu (woo hoo!).

All in all, I had a fabulous trip and came home weighing the same as I did when I left. I'm not suggesting that y'all be a psycho nutcase like me when taking time away in the summer, but it is possible to avoid all the traps that lay ahead of you when leaving the safe confines of your home regimen. Plus, the more disciplined you are while on vacation, the easier it will be to jump back into the daily grind upon your return. Just a little food for thought.

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