Is It Possible to Stay Fit While traveling? Tips from The Road
Before I started writing this, I thought that maybe no one really wants this information. It is possible that no one goes on their gap year or travels with the thought of “I can’t wait to exercise while eating every type of fried food in other countries and drinking every day on the beach.”
However, who says you can’t go on a gap year or any extended holiday without staying in shape? Why, you may ask, would you bother to stay fit while traveling? Wouldn’t the travel do that for you as you run from airport to bus to train, hike the (whichever mountain range), swim with the dolphins? Sure, carrying your 60 kilos of various sized bags up and down the stairs at the AirBnb flat you rented in Paris might help you out and certainly walking around because you are cheap and don’t want to get ripped off by a taxi because you do sound so much like a tourist may work off a couple of kilos. But then again, sitting on a plane for hours, eating fine or not so fine foods on the run and enjoying the occasional but not too occasional glass of wine might add them back on plus some extra.
No, I’m not directing this bit of blog to the 18 year olds carrying their backpacks, drinking their weight in beer and eating street food every day who will not seem to gain a kilo no matter what. I am talking about people whose metabolism has decided to kick back and enjoy life in the later years and needs to be encouraged somewhat to do its job. Like all the time.
Luckily Eeva and I both traveled quite a bit in our previous roles and we used what we learned then to help us stay fit while traveling this year. We have also learned a few things along the way of course.
Are we always motivated to work out on our year long holiday? No. We don’t jump out of bed enthusiastically every day already dressed in our workout gear. We do always feel better after we have done it though. These are some of the tricks we use to motivate ourselves on the road:
- Work out in the morning. We started making this part of our routine a while back because it gets it out of the way first thing and then we can’t claim “long day” or “too tired” later in the afternoon
- Plan the night before. We discuss if we are going to work out the night before. This way we already have it planned in our heads that we are going to do it when we get up
- Only have 20 minutes? No gym or equipment or even gym clothes? No problem. On busy days, we will do the 7 minute workout for 21 minutes (3 sets). The apps are set up for this length of time and it seems pretty easy when you think “only 21 minutes” first thing in the morning. Even if those minutes are hard ones, they go by quickly. This exercise requires no workout gear at all, just a little space
- Routine. If we stay anywhere for a long period of time, we put together a schedule so we can more easily plan around it. We did this back in Sydney as well. For instance, in Sámara, Costa Rica, we found a local gym and yoga class (both inexpensive) and for the five weeks we stayed there we scheduled five days a week for exercise in the mornings.
- We motivate each other. Yep, sometimes one of us wants to throw a sickie and get out of working out in the morning. Without a guilt trip, the other one will just start working out on their own. Then the other one of us will join in because you kinda feel like a wimp if you don’t. Peer pressure at its finest
- We enjoy it. We support each other in our fitness goals and we enjoy working out together. Keeping fit keeps our moods up and keeps us energized on the trip. Fitness has now become a key part of our lifestyle and we like the way if feels
What we took with us and what we do on the road:
- Gym clothes including quick dry shorts, shirt, socks and runners in case accommodation provides a gym or we find a gym or yoga studio nearby
- We use mostly Nike brand and LuluLemon mostly because we tried and tested their gear for years and they seem to last
- I will blog a review of our gear in the future, what’s lasted and what we needed to replace
- Yoga apps and exercise apps
- Yoga apps include:Yogify, Yoga Studio,andYogaFlowXpress by My Yoga Minute, Yoga 301
- Workout apps: Johnson and Johnson’s 7M Workout, Sworkit Pro, MapMyFitness – reviews coming soon
- We have worked up to the Hard levels on the 7M Workout that are about 20 minutes long and I can tell you that they know how to make you sweat over at Johnson and Johnson
- MapMyFitness is great for tracking your exercise and to remind you where you have been walking for the last 20 kms.
- Rubbertubingusedbyphysios and band weights made by Champion ($20 at Target in the US) and a jump rope
- I ditched the jump rope because 1. It made too much noise jumping around in the various accommodation and would not impress our downstairs neighbors and 2. I felt I looked like an idiot jumping outside said accommodation, but don’t let that stop you. The other items we have kept.
- A small budget for occasional gym visits / yoga classes
I have to clarify that as much as I would like to say I did yoga, Eeva is the yoga doer in this family whereas my poses look like I have broken something
- Bonus tips – You can work out anywhere and you don’t need any of the above to stay fit while traveling. If you are in a hotel room, your luggage and your body become your weights. You can take a nice long walk or hike anywhere. If you don’t want to jump up and down for fear of being noisy or looking silly, you can do lunges or about twenty other exercises. If you have kids, they can learn to exercise with you (and you can all complain about it as a family!)
We try to get some sort of activity in almost every day or at least four times a week. At the minimum we will do yoga, strength and use the 7-minute workouts for cardio.We also tend to do a lot of walking, usually around 10 km on our shorter walks. You get to see some pretty amazing things just by walking around. And sometimes you just see cars coming at you so maybe get a cab for those places.
So how do we keep fit while traveling? The very brief answer is simple at heart. Exercise and watch what we eat. There really was no other answer for us.
Eeva and I decided to embark on this adventure with staying in shape and maybe even getting healthier in mind. We attempted to get in shape before the trip to set the tone including watching what we ate and then we decided to stick to an eat and cheat schedule. This only means that we allowed ourselves the chance to try some nice food and wine in other countries but we stuck to an “eat healthy five days and cheat a little on day six and seven” and exercise almost every day.
This frame of mind accomplished a few of the goals we had for the trip. The first, to stay in shape of course, and the second, to keep our budget down. You would be amazed how the budget changes when you start eating and drinking in a different (moderate and healthier) way. We still do eat out and get some nice desserts and we still love a good bottle of wine.That being said, by watching what we eat and drink and including activity in our day-to-day, we have cut our budget and increased our fitness. The third item is important if you want to hike, bike or even walk around New York for a day. If you are healthy, your trip is much easier on you mentally and physically.
Evolution of our so-called fitness
Our eat and sometimes cheat diet has evolved over the last nine months of travel. We started off with an “eat healthy and work out five days a week and then pig out on sweets and alcohol on the other two days” schedule. Maybe “pig out” is too strong a phrase. That being said, if you have ever been out with us on one of these nights you know it ain’t pretty. Soon after we started we changed the pattern to a cheat day once every three days. That gave us more opportunities to try some exotic dishes/desserts/wine in new places.
Over time, especially over the last few months of the trip when we have had a chance to settle down a little more, we have adjusted this eat and cheat schedule. We realized that finding a good bottle of wine or drinks whilst traveling in various parts of the world can be challenging. Not that we haven’t found some amazing drop (thanks T-Vine Cellars in Calistoga, CA), but not all of it has been good. And rather than destroy our memories of great wine, we started drinking less of it. Pretty soon we realized we didn’t miss it as much as we thought. Our budget started going down along with our calorie count. Don’t get us wrong, we are happy to imbibe and if you want to share, feel free to pour. We are just saying that we realized we didn’t need as much. Soda water and lime is pretty damn refreshing and so is a very occasional mojito on the beach.
We have also had some amazing treats. Those are grubs in the pic to the right. Not really recommending them though…but kinda tasty in a deep-fried bug sorta way. Lots of protein?
Here in Ko Samui, Thailand, where I am posting today, there is a market that sells some sort of creamy cake thing and coconut candy. Yep, we had a lot of it when we arrived and ate more than we needed. But after our little binge it has been back to normal. Turns out that it is nicer for us to remember the good desserts than to fill up on boring and mundane sugary snacks. We now eat a lot of fruit and fresh vegetables that we put into our dinner and eat as snacks. We also in the last few months have cut back on meat. We still have it but maybe once a week in small quantities. Overall we feel better, we were able to reduce our budget and we still get to have some quality treats on occasion.
Feel free to compare notes with us if you are interested. I am happy to discuss what works for us and it would be great to hear how you keep fit while traveling as well.