When Should You Break Your Fitness Regimen?

08/27/2011 09:58 am ET | Updated Oct 26, 2011

Last week I was at the Paws Up Resort in Montana: a gorgeous, 37,000-acre chunk of remote mountain land (which of course was WiFi-readied so I could keep up with all the HuffPost goings-on). It was already a bit strange to finish a straight-up-a-mountain hike and still have five bars of 3G service at the top, but when we came back down and landed in "Spa Town" I saw something a bit stranger: an outdoor gym tent.

Inside the tent was a treadmill, stair-master, stationary bike, a Bowflex machine and free weights. And bugs and and dust and grass and stuff. The idea of an outdoor gym is pretty cool if you live in the middle of a big ol' metropolis, but when you're on a mountain with tons of hiking trails for any skill level, what do you need a stair-master or a treadmill for? And if you can rent mountain bikes and pedal around, why would you stay stationary? The gym tent became something of a mystery to me.

As I set out on a jog around the huge property, I made a point to pass by the gym tent looking for people working in it. Who exactly comes on this lavish outdoor vacation with all these sweat-inducing, calorie-crushing activities available, and then ends up trapped in a tent, plowing away on a machine?

And then I became one of those people. Suddenly, crunched for time before dinner, I decided the best way to get my heart rate up in the short window I had would be to head for the tent. (I was not in the mood for a run). I climbed on the stair-master and started pumping away, watching Netflix on my iPhone.

I felt so guilty the whole time. Periodically, the flaps of the tent would blow open, exposing the rolling hills in the distance and my guilt would be assuaged, but then I would look sadly down at the dashboard of the machine. "I'm wasting my time here! I should be outside with all the nature!"

I wondered whether sometimes our routines take over. It felt so natural to be in a gym doing my normal gym thing, even though there was tons of scenery to appreciate. I realized I kind of felt overwhelmed -- what if I get lost on a run? What else is there to do that's sufficiently difficult if I don't feel like running? How good of a workout is riding an ATV, anyway? It was much easier just to throw on some sneakers and head for my cardio equipment.

But I think this is sort of the problem with routines and regimens. Exercising is great, but if you're somewhere pretty and wonderful (and on vacation!) you should be able to mix up your regular workouts. River rafting for five hours is probably an excuse to skip 20 minutes on the exercise bike. It's all about balance, and after my adventure in the gym tent (which luckily was only the second day of the trip) I decided not to go back. I spent the rest of the time taking long walks, rafting, practicing archery and, in one particularly ill-advised move, being pushed down a hill in a giant inflatable ball. Maybe I didn't get the same calories-per-minute burn, but I sure had a hell of a lot of fun.