We all travel to some extent. It might be on vacation, for business, for a missionary purpose, to visit family during special occasions, or even for that bucket list trip of 6 months backpacking somewhere amazing in the world. No matter what kind of trip it is, we all would agree that traveling and fitness do not always necessarily combine. So I decided to share with you a little more about myself and how I have found a balance between my two passions - Traveling & Fitness.
First MY STORY
I was very skinny as a child, and as a teenager I decided to change that. More than 20 years ago, back in the days when only a few women wanted to have a muscular body, I decided that I wanted to have lean muscle. I struggled to convince my family that this is what I wanted to do.
I started to workout and became a gym rat at age 16. Since then, no matter what happened in my life, I have always had a gym membership.
I also always loved to eat healthy. I remember during the big Brazilian Sunday lunch, my choice was the chicken breast and salad, over a big bowl of mom’s (delicious) pasta! I just loved how chicken and salad tasted together, and it is still my favorite dish.
When I moved to the USA, I hired a coach and I was encouraged to enter a NPC Figure Competition. This is when my serious journey to become an athlete started, in 2008. Being a naturally competitive person, I found the pot of gold!
What is a FIGURE ATHLETE?
Figure is a category in Bodybuilding, where the female athletes need to have the right amount of muscle, combined with hardness and body symmetry. We walk on the stage and present our "quarter turns" where the judges evaluate the overall package and compare each athlete's physique and score you.
The overall physical package on a competition day, and which you are judged includes:
- Shapely lines
- Overall firmness
- Healthy appearance
- Custom bikini fit
- Makeup, hair done and jewelry
- Skin tone
It is a very girly category of Bodybuilding.
The competition LIFESTYLE
I think that all the bodybuilding athletes would agree with me, that getting ready for a competition is a full time job. Well, by this point you can only imagine the amount of work, dedication, hours spent at the gym and in the kitchen preparing my food, eating and cleaning dishes.
When I started competing, I changed my workout, incorporating more weights and cardio, and started to hit the gym twice a day, 7 days a week. Talk about gym rat! But the most important change was in my nutrition, and changing my eating habits completely. I always ate healthy by choice, but now I had to eat more, 6 meals a day, measuring and weighing all the portions of protein, carbs and good fats. During my in-season for competition, I work so hard day-in and day-out for 3 months.
But the best thing about being an athlete is that I learned a lot about myself through this journey. I found out that I was a real athlete, and I didn’t want to compete only one time for my own personal goal. I wanted more. The feeling of getting better, faster, stronger combined with my mental toughness (that did not know I had). This passion for the physical and mental challenge took me to next level, and then the next level, and then…I became a Professional athlete.
Where does TRAVELING fit into my lifestyle
You are probably asking this question by this point.
Well, if I became a gym rat at the age of 16, my traveling passion started much earlier, at the age of 12. My parents didn’t have money to pay for my trips, so I decided to organize excursions with my friends at school (and their parents) so I could get my ticket for free and travel to places I wanted to go. I guess I also found out I was an entrepreneur at an early age.
Since then, I have been traveling and living in different countries. The more I travel, the more my bucket list grows. If you are like me and love to travel, you know exactly what I am talking about.
The enlightenment moment – I found LIFE BALANCE
I had the “what should I do with my life” moment. I was now an athlete and found my passion for the sport and had reached the next level, but what could I do about my other passions for traveling, photography and learn about new cultures?
If I continued to compete in Figure, I wouldn’t have time to prepare for trips. I wouldn’t be able to prepare and weigh my meals or have access to the gym during my busy traveling schedule. Could I continue to do all that I loved or would I have to sacrifice one thing over another?
After a period of self-life reflection, and playing different scenarios in my mind about what would make me happier, I realized that I did not have to sacrifice one or the other. The answer was “Life Balance”.
Like everything else in life, it is important that we find balance, and that we feel fulfilled doing things that we are passionate about.
During the competition season I give 100%, and maintain focus to achieve my goals:
- I don’t miss a single workout session, even on the days when I feel extremely tired and sore.
- I don’t have much of a social life since I don’t drink anything besides water and I only eat my homemade controlled portions
But when I am on vacation, my priorities change:
- I don’t pay for a gym membership at my destination because I am always traveling around the country that I am visiting,
- I don’t follow a strict diet, especially if I am traveling in remote places and I cannot be too picky. I like to enjoy the local food.
- The most important thing, I don’t feel guilty for not working out or following a diet.
When I am traveling on vacation I feel so blessed to be able to explore our wonderful Planet, and my main focus switches from hours of hard work to achieve my physical goals as an athlete, to enjoying the moment and exploring the new.
The exception is when I travel for business. Since business trips are shorter, I need to stay consistent with my training. I look for a hotel that offers a gym and will get my work out done first thing in the morning. But in this article, I want to focus on traveling for vacation (pleasure).
My top 5 takeaways are:
1. FIND LIFE BALANCE - I don’t have to repeat, the number one advice I could give anyone is finding balance in anything you do in your life, you will be a happier and better human being.
2. PRIORITIZE - You don’t need to choose one thing over another, you can do it all! You only need to prioritize. Your goals can be managed by hours in your day, or periods of time during your year, or set goals for a short, mid and long-term to accomplish things you want to do in your life.
3. BE CONSISTENT – Consistency is hard, especially with our super busy lifestyle. But it is possible, and easier than you may imagine. As some examples, when you are following a workout and diet plan, be consistent. When you are back from your vacation, be back to your routine and take the willpower back. A trip or a vacation shouldn’t be an excuse to let the hard work go, but it should be a reward time for all your hard work.
4. MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES YOUR LIFESTYLE – I don’t diet, this is my lifestyle. I trained my brain and my body not to like unhealthy (processed food, fast food, high sugar, grease, fried…) and I don’t crave those types of food. When traveling, I see myself getting super excited about trying a local dish that is prepared with fresh ingredients, or trying some of the local exotic fruits. It doesn’t mean that if you go to Italy, you aren’t going to try a delicious pizza or that amazing gelato, but have 1 gelato instead of 3 and enjoy and appreciate the taste of it!
5. BE AN ACTIVE PERSON – This is key. Our bodies need to move and be active. Hitting the gym after 8 hours of sitting in front of my computer is the best feeling. When we are traveling, it is the same thing. Make choices to walk instead of rent a car or motorbike. Stroll around the cities and appreciate the local culture. It is so easy to just walk thousands of steps while we are having fun. What about training for that big adventure coming up, such as choosing a trek or hike during your vacation? It’s a perfect goal to be active before and during your vacation.
I hope to inspire you to Live your Best Life. This is the purpose of this blog, and I feel honored to be able to share my lifestyle with you. Travel, be Healthy & Practice Compassion.