How to Stay Fit While Traveling

Today’s guest post is by Cal Bailey. For more about Cal’s life on the road and to dig into his other blogs, check out mountainleon.com.

Fitness conscious individuals know well that fitness is something that must be maintained through discipline. That means dedication to a regular fitness routine, which is usually pretty easy to achieve when at home. Challenges to this arise more often when traveling, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s impossible to remain fit while on the road.

What it does mean is a little forward planning and at times, improvisation. When traveling, you’ll find yourself in unpredictable environments and situations. As no place is the same, and options for working out will vary greatly, you’ll probably find that you end up partaking in novel fitness activities, giving you a break from the monotony of a fixed regime. After all, variety is the spice of life, as they say.

The truth is that no matter where you find yourself, there will always be an opportunity to work on your health and fitness. The below guide to remaining fit while traveling should give you a few ideas as to how to keep on top of things regardless of your environment.

1. Bodyweight routines

Both muscle tone and cardiovascular health can be easily maintained with no props whatsoever. Even if you’re in the habit of using equipment as part of your regular workout, it’s incredibly easy to switch to a bodyweight routine with similar results.

The below routine came recommended by Sam Ross (The Hammock Hombre), a seasoned traveller with a penchant for keeping fit on the road, wherever he is in the world. It really works a treat to keep all the muscles of the body in tip-top condition:

This high-energy workout routine can be completed in around half an hour depending on how hard you want to work, and if you do it in short bursts with minimal rest periods (e.g. 1-2 minutes of movement followed by 1 minute of rest), you’ll continue to burn fat long after you finish working out. Win-win!

  • 25 jumping jacks
  • 25 squats
  • 10 – 15 lunges (each leg)
  • 10 squat jumps
  • 0 – 15 squat thrusts
  • 25 kick outs (each leg)
  • 10 – 15 push-ups
  • 25 sit ups and/or 50 crunches
  • 10 side plank rotations
  • One minute plank hold
  • One minute squat hold

You can even do door frame pull-ups, or run up and down stairs (with care!). Where there is a will, there’s a way. If you get bored easily, search out some other bodyweight routines online and save them on your phone to keep things fresh.

2. Hotel gyms or parks with outdoor fitness equipment  

Weight-lifting fanatics, fear not. Although you may not be able to find a gym or fitness centre open to non-members in every town you visit, there are sometimes other options. For instance, check out high-end hotels in the vicinity; you might not need to stay there to get access, as some will offer day passes to the public for a fee. It probably won’t be cheap, mind!

Some places also have fitness equipment in public parks. The quality and range varies greatly dependent on the location; big, thriving cities tend to have better facilities, but small towns often have rudimentary but functional equipment in a park or two. Equipment might include climbing frames, exercise bikes, cross trainers, rowers, benches and other basic, fixed machines.

3. Homemade weights

Even if there are no gyms you can use, it’s simple to maintain muscle mass by creating your own weights. Everyday items can be transformed into makeshift workout accessories by filling them with sand, water or stones. Here are some ideas:

  • Use a milk jug or carton
  • Lift canned items
  • Turn plastic water bottles into dumbbells or arm weights
  • Turn an old football or basketball into a weighted medicine ball
  • Turn socks into wrist weights
  • Lift packets of rice or beans
  • Fill sturdy bags with sand or stones

Wherever you go, you’ll be able to find a few of the above items so there’s no need to carry these improvised weights from place to place. Five-liter water bottles are almost omnipresent and work well as heavy duty weights if you’re struggling to find something heavy enough. Something like this can make you work a lot harder at squats, overhead raises or crunches, for example.

4. Yoga practice

Yoga doesn’t have to be all breathing and balancing; there are so many forms of yoga and some are really great at keeping your fitness level high. Power yoga, Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow can all be quite hard work, in fact; these strong yoga styles may be all you need to keep in excellent shape on the road as they build body strength in a big way.

Even if you haven’t done any yoga before, there’s no reason not to start while traveling. Invest in a lightweight, eco yoga mat and it shouldn’t add much weight to your load at all. These are handy for all kinds of workouts, so it’s worth getting one even if you don’t intend to do yoga. You may well be able to find a local class or two to join, but if not, have a couple of yoga routines downloaded on your device and you can follow these wherever there is space for a yoga mat. There are lots of apps designed for solo yoga and you can even record your progress in some.

Lastly, you might find that local groups offer free or donation-based outdoor fitness activities like yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong in the park. Check out MeetUp or local Facebook groups for information.

5. Everyday activities with a twist

If you’re serious about maintaining your fitness day to day while traveling, it’s so easy to inject a little more effort into your activities for fitness purposes. This is really all about being mindful about the effort you’re putting in; for example, you could manage to stay relatively fit just by walking everywhere instead of taking public transport. Where you can, conduct tours by bicycle instead of on buses or hiring cars. Always take the stairs instead of the lift, and sign up for hiking activities wherever you can.

There are so many guided tours in holiday destinations that have hikes as part of the agenda. Jungle treks are particularly fun, and all you need is proper hiking boots and a decent insect repellent! If you like biking, join a mountain-bike trek and see the best of your destination while you’re at it. Take to the water on a surfboard, paddle vigorously in a kayak, do some climbing or abseiling, etc. These things will feel more like fun activities than pre-organized workouts, but your fitness levels will benefit immeasurably.

Who says working out has to be boring?

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Cal Bailey
Cal Bailey

Cal Bailey runs Mountain Leon - A travel blog he started after two years backpacking around the world.

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