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Are you fit for a vacation?

You’ve diligently worked your way towards a vacation far from the madding crowd and workplace stress. Here're a few ground rules (and pitfalls!) to keep in mind before you head for the hills or hit the beach

brunch Updated: Sep 01, 2012 18:40 IST

You’ve diligently worked your way towards a vacation far from the madding crowd and workplace stress. The spouse and children have blocked the dates a year in advance. The bags are packed, hotel rooms booked and even the bosses agree that you deserve a holiday. But are you fit enough to head out? There’s more to a relaxing holiday than platinum credit cards, frequent flyer miles and sunscreen. You’ll also need the muscles of a loader, the stamina of a horse, an appetite for adventure and a sense of humour. Here’s what you should know before you start packing:

fitGet a health check

"Be careful while climbing steep inclines or hundreds of stairs at a hill station. If you have a family history of heart disease or a personal history of smoking, I’d recommend a health check before you leave the city," says Dr Rommel Tickoo, internal medicine consultant at Max Hospital, Delhi.

Travel is advisable only if the results display good blood flow to the heart, says Dr Ashok Kumar, consultant physician at Columbia Asia Hospital in Gurgaon. “In ideal conditions, this means you should have had a normal stress test or negative angiogram,” he says.

Curb that machismo
Lotus eaters from the metropolises, like many of us who lead pampered, sedentary lifestyles, realise how unfit they are the moment they step out of the airport. Here the size of the male ego might not necessarily be proportionate to one’s quadriceps. A pulled hamstring that grounds you to your hotel bed isn’t, after all, anybody’s idea of a vacation. Hospitality executive Pranay Gupta, 42, on a vacation to Manali, for instance, pulled a back muscle when he tried to help the cabbie unload the baggage from the SUV that was taking the family to the hotel. “Depending upon the person’s body shape and activity levels, they might aggravate back problems if they suddenly try to lift large pieces of luggage,” adds Dr Kumar.

Playing soccer with your eight-year-old in your backyard is one thing. Battling breathlessness and aching glutes quite another – as this writer realised on a recent vacation. As romantic as novelists might make it sound, taking the children to see the snow can be a challenging experience, particularly for a parent fighting gravity and obesity.

According to a holiday health survey carried out amongst more than 3,000 Indian travellers by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, holidays are when most people throw caution to the wind with respect to their regimented schedules and habits and indulge in food, drink and merrymaking.

But revelry doesn’t always mean you should skip your fitness regime. Those who are out of shape should take baby steps towards attaining vacation fitness, says Dr Rajeev Gupta, orthopaedic surgeon at Action Balaji Hospital. "Begin with simple stretching exercises, such as back extensions. Go on long walks for a fortnight before your vacation, so you don’t run out of breath on treks. Also, avoid lifting heavy pieces of luggage."


You are vacation unfit if...
You get breathless climbing stairs at work or at home. Imagine your plight when you have to take several flights of stairs for mandatory darshans at most hill stations
You have difficulty lifting your son/daughter’s satchel of books when you pick them up from school. It’s time you pumped iron at the gym before you haul large suitcases onto trains or cabs
You need a massage just to work off that walk to the Metro/train station. Work those calf muscles into shape before you head to a beach or hill holiday. Brisk walking will also improve your stamina

The Cheat Sheet
Heading for a holiday without being exactly combat-worthy? Here are some tricks to fake it through a vacation.
Make sure your hotel room is on the ground floor if there is no lift. Avoiding steep climbs will keep the spotlight away from your waistline and your respiratory health.
Hail a porter before your under-exercised shoulder or back muscles get exposed.
Unless you are on the right side of 30 and fighting fit, avoid showing off your adventurous self and avoid tourist traps such as pony rides, paragliding and rappelling. Instead, read up and romanticise the benefits of a walk on the beach.
Don’t scrimp on essentials. Hail a boatman, chauffeur or guide where it is needed. Your loved ones will thank you for it.

From HT Brunch, September 2

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