There is No Right Way to Enjoy the Summer Holidays – Discover What Works Best for You

Tiina Hoffman

Tiina HoffmanExercise Physiologist & Master Trainer, Firstbeat@Tiinafbt

Stress & Recovery

An all-inclusive vacation resort recently organized the “best summer vacationer” competition here in Finland and Firstbeat Life measurements were used to determine the winner. The couple who had the best balance, physiologically speaking, between activity, exercise, recovery, and sleep during their weekend at the resort were deemed the winners.

It was, of course, a bit tongue-in-cheek – a fun event to increase awareness towards enjoyable, yet balanced vacation days. In real life, the idea of making the holiday a competition of who can do it the best is like the antithesis of what we usually recommend. Is there even an objective or sensible way to determine a winner in something like taking a vacation?

I’d say no – and hope that if anything, this blog can take a bit of a gentler approach to vacationing. Remind us to let go of huge expectations and avoid comparing our own holiday to that of others or following checklists of how to do it right.

Needs and Circumstances Differ

We have such different needs, opportunities, and life situations that it can be challenging to give meaningful holiday tips that work for everyone. I’ve given it a go before, and while I believe that we all can benefit from certain key principles, the message can easily seem shallow.

Chatting with our HR manager last week, I was reminded of how much family situation affects the holiday “reality”. She contrasted her own expectations for the holiday, as a busy mom with a demanding job – no program or schedules; boring is good – to those of her teenagers – there’s nothing to do at the cabin; let’s go places … Surely a familiar scenario for many working parents. It’s not easy to match everyone’s expectations. Well-meaning holiday guidelines, and planning for what you need right now, can seem like a distant dream.

Managing Your Holiday Expectations

Regardless of one’s life situation, it’s certainly easy to overbook the holiday or have unrealistic expectations – and in the process, forget to look after our personal needs. Even the busy mom has the right to have some unscheduled time for herself (quiet time in a hammock or peaceful kayaking on the lake) or the young up-and-coming professional has the right to turn their brain and computer off and enjoy a proper recharge, whatever it means for them.

If we take some time ahead of the holiday to think about our own needs and wishes – and determine what the needs and wishes of those close to us are – it’s possible to strike good compromises and make sure everyone gets to do something that they need and enjoy.

Getting together and doing things with family and friends vs. spending plenty of quiet alone time … Sleeping in late vs. waking up early to enjoy the sunrise … Traveling around vs. staying put and not traveling… Catching up on house and yard to-do’s vs. not spending the holiday on home improvement tasks …Cooking elaborate gourmet meals vs. keeping it simple and maximizing time away from the kitchen …

A Few Tips for A Successful Holiday

None of the above are better or worse – it’s just that our needs, wishes, and expectations can vary so much. With a bit of pre-planning and learning to understand the needs of others, you can hopefully find a way to “win” your own holiday and get the break that you need. To get you started thinking about your own holiday guidelines, here are a few tips worth considering (somewhat borrowed from my blog from a few years back) 🙂

  1. Figure out what you need the most and plan accordingly.
  2. Avoid too many schedules and must-do’s.
  3. Allow some time for just being! Without guilt. Reading, movies, music, wandering in the woods, hammock, napping, gazing at the sunset, listening to the silence … whatever works for you.
  4. Prioritize sleep. Vacations often include long days and nights of fun, but make sure you also prioritize some long periods of sleep. It’s easier to stock up on sleep during a vacation than during the working year, so take advantage of it!
  5. Take your “exercise personality” into consideration when it comes to physical activity:

–  “Fitness buffs”: If you follow a strict exercise regimen year around and have a tendency to overdo it, let your body relax for once and only do what feels good, without goals. Try something new, even if it’s “just for fun” (and has no effect on your VO2max or muscle development).

– “Let-it-sliders”: If you struggle to find time for exercise or often feel distressed after the vacation because you didn’t do anything, dig out some self-discipline and figure out a way to fit in some physical activity into your vacation days. Go dancing, do some calisthenics, try a new group exercise, go on walks or bike rides, swim in the lake…

An Example of a Relaxing Vacation Day

The Firstbeat Life example below shows a relaxing day at the start of my summer holiday last year, with a bit of activity and physical work (blue), but also time for relaxation, reading, and a long sleep. The thunderstorm caused the sleep period to be interrupted, but we cannot control everything and all in all, plenty of recovery to help ease into vacation mode.

If you are currently using Firstbeat Life, why not make a small experiment – make a measurement at the start of your holiday, to see where you are at, and then repeat it towards the end of your holiday. But if you normally use a wearable device every day, it might not be a bad idea to take a break from it for a few weeks and just enjoy a simple, less quantified life for once. Let your feelings instead of numbers guide your well-being.

Fig. 1. A slow-paced vacation day provided plenty of recovery (green) and enough light physical activity (blue) to get the blood flowing for a bit.

Accurate physiological data allows you to understand your clients’ wellness status and identify potential health risks and make better coaching decisions. It helps you to deepen and lengthen your client relationships. Learn more about Firstbeat Life.

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Tiina Hoffman

Tiina Hoffman Exercise Physiologist & Master Trainer, Firstbeat @Tiinafbt

Tiina is an Exercise Physiologist who works at Firstbeat as a Wellness Specialist. Growing up as a skier, Tiina spent 4 years cross-country ski racing and later 4 year coaching at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. After moving back to Finland, she found her way to Firstbeat after several years in overtraining and heart rate variability field studies at the Research Institute for Olympic Sports and the University of Jyväskylä. To maintain a good balance in her own life, she enjoys the outdoors – kayaking, hiking, xc-skiing and escaping to her cabin in the woods.

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