How To Stay Fit While Traveling: 9 Steps
No matter how many pushups you grunt out or kale shakes you choke down, the bodies we occupy made of meat and bones and blood will fail us someday. And that’s ok. That’s part of what it means to be human. Travel, and exploring this weird world, is also part of what it means to be human. As we charge full-force into The Age Of Technology, more of us are saving up, ditching out and embarking on 3+ month world trips. If you fall into this category, but are unsure of how to stay fit while traveling, this piece is for you. Staying in shape 17,000 km from home, along with the other experiences you have while traveling, will change how you see fitness. This piece covers 9 tips to stay in shape while traveling that include travel workouts with no equipment, nutrition, making the world your gym, smart partying, and cutting yourself some slack. Vamos!
- 1.Plan Ahead And Prepare
The best way to stay fit while traveling is to sit down and come up with a plan for how you’re going to manage your fitness on this 3+ month trip. Obviously you need to plan the actual country, flight & logistics parts first (at least 6 months in advance is a good jump-off point); Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum is a good place to start for that. But in terms of fitness, give yourself a month or so to prepare before you leave. Tighten up. Go hard at the gym. Eat right. Treat your body right. Get enough sleep. Lay off the booze. Do your research; find active/adventure activates to do in the various places you’re going to go and pick which ones you’re going to do. A multi-day trek, a peak you want to bag, a week-long bike ride through the desert, etc. Preparation also includes getting yourself a good pair of trail shoes/running/walking shoes. Everyday drivers. You’ll appreciate them.
Mentally prepare yourself before leaving on your trip as well. Realize you may miss workouts, you may get slightly out of shape, you may get sick, and that’s all ok. You’re on vacation! You’re gunning after the experience of a lifetime, not a physique.
- 2.Remember The World Is A Jungle Gym
Depending on where you travel, you’ll have to get creative in order to get a good workout in. See that 7 foot brick wall at your hostel? There’s your pull-up bar. Rocks and cinder blocks on the beach are your weights, sand is your resistance trainer and old stone structures are your plyo boxes. Palm trees are for climbing, chairs are for dipping, hills are for sprinting. In my experience something deep in my primal brain is triggered when I go to battle with whatever I can find lying around. The world is your resistance trainer. Be a world-beater.
The key is that you can’t get self-conscious about how crazy you look holding a rock over your head doing split-squats red in the face while breathing profusely. I spent some time in the Caribbean and after two weeks of high intensity workouts (more on HIIT below) in the sand behind the hostel a friend asked why I was practicing my dances out back. In this case, my friend and I had a good laugh. But most of the time, you’ll never see that person giving you the sideways glance ever again. Who cares if you look like you’re summoning demons while doing alternate plyo split-squats. Get creative and stay weird.
- 3.Exercises Without Weights
Exercises without weights are key to stay fit while traveling. Use your time away from the resources of a weight room to make sure your form is dialed on the basics like pushups and squats. Listen to your body; nothing exposes weak spots and areas for improvement like exercises without weights. Push yourself. Get more pushups this week than last. Maintain a static hold longer than you could before you left on your trip. That is the definition of how you get stronger.
Below are a couple examples of body weight exercises that you can do almost anywhere;
- -Body squats
- -Pistol squats
- -Vertical pushups
- -Wall sits
- -Static holds in down pushup position and deep squat position
Crossfit Travel Workout: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
I get it. The word “crossfit” conjures up images of people who cannot so much as take a breath without muttering, “you should do crossfit” before exhaling. But there are real benefits to a crossfit travel workout. Here’s how to do it;
- 1. Download a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) timer app onto your smartphone.
- 2. Everyone is different, but I like three 15-second sets back to back with a 15 second rest (45 consecutive seconds work, 15 seconds rest).
- 3. Choose 3 body weight workouts from the list above.
- 4. Each 15-second set is full clip, as many reps as you can get before switching to the next.
- 5. You’ll repeat this 7-10 times, and that can be considered a full set. Some days you’ll be able to get 3 full sets, some days only one. Either way. You get the blood pumping in just 10 minutes. WHAT.
- 4.The Goal Of Travel is Experiences, Adventure and Meeting New People. You Don’t Travel to Maintain Your Physique.
This can be tough to wrap your head around after spending years dedicated to achieving peak physical condition. But like we’ve eluded to before. You’ll have stories about your 3-month adventure through Southeast Asia when you’re 90 years old as you sit down to dinner with your grandkids. You’ll learn more about the world and people and yourself in those 3 months than you have in the past 3 years. While you should do your best to stay fit while traveling, even Zoolander understands “There’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good-looking”.
- 5.Leave Weight Gainer And Supplements At Home
You don’t need them. They take up space, they add weight and they will not make or break your plan to stay healthy while you travel. But if you insist, try to limit it to a couple essential supplements like Vitamin B, BCAAs, zinc, etc. Many parts of the world are not accustomed to protein powders and you may very well be less-than-kindly greeted upon your arrival in Singapore when they find your “Hypertrophic Myo-Whatever Weight Gainer 7000”. To them you’re a foreigner bringing in a kilogram of mysterious white powder. Buckle up, that’ll be a fun 48 hours.
Instead, use the money you’d spend on that weight gainer and those supplements to pay for something crazy. Go paragliding or get your diver’s certification. Plan an overland trip. Get a guide for a big peak in the country you’re headed to. Go bungee jumping. Or just use that extra cash as a buffer for your budget.
- 6.Walk. Run. Surf. Bike. Hike. Climb. Everywhere
Staying fit while traveling means staying active or finding opportunities to get active. Instead of catching a taxi, ride a bike. If you’re new to a city, go for a run and explore it. If you’re by the beach, go surfing (learning how to surf is perhaps the most physically and mentally exhausting thing I’ve ever tried). Use MeetUp to find a group of locals that hike in the area. Maybe there’s a trail-running crew. These are some of the best ways to meet locals or travelers that you can link up with for a big portion of your trip. Get out there.
- 7.Be Smart About Nutrition And Partying
It’s very easy to get sucked into the party scene when you travel. All the sudden 3 months go by and you realize you haven’t had a conversation with a local or tried any real local foods. You’ve been in a quasi-blackout state speaking your native language with your countrymen eating pizza. That’s being a tourist. Be a traveler. Get away from the party scene every once in a while. Exploring and transformative experiences are things alcohol doesn’t facilitate very well. Added bonus- you save a ton of money. With all that said, don’t be afraid to indulge. But just be smart about it. Keep the beers to light beers. Stay away from sugary soda mixers. Don’t always shoot for a blackout night.
If you want to stay fit while traveling you cannot let yourself fall into the sugar traps that exist in so much of the developing world. The land of cheap and plentiful sugary snacks is the land of addiction. Literal physical addiction to sugar and carbs. Watch out for that trap. Buy fruit instead of processed sugars. Eat vegetables when you can and try to limit the rice intake. Drink water when you’re craving carb-filled salty goodness.
Ah yes, water. Drink more water. Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Drink a bottle when you wake up and a bottle before you go to bed. Use your trip as an opportunity to really juice up the muscles and tendons and joints.
Remember that overall health and wellbeing is about more than just physical fitness. There is a mind element as well. Use this time to get flexible and get strong. Yoga strength is different than explosive strength, and it will make you stronger. You’ll be in some of the most beautiful places on Earth while you’re traveling, so make sure to breathe deep and stretch deep.
- 9.Take It Easy On Yourself
Look. You won’t adhere to your “Stay Fit While Traveling” itinerary as strictly as you think you will. This is the nature of traveling. You’re dealing with the unexpected and the unpredictable. Do the best you can, where you are with what you have.
Traveling will change the way you see the world around you and the way you view yourself. Don’t let the desire to stay in peak physical condition stop you. You can stay fit while traveling. You can have the experiences of a lifetime without sacrificing everything you’ve worked for. So get after it.
My bio: Jake Muniak is the founder of SEO For AI, a digital marketing agency focused on helping small businesses prepare for the explosion of technology that accompanies machine learning. He manages SEO For AI from abroad while doing his best to follow the guidelines above.