I’ve been traveling for more than 5 years now and a lot of people have been asking me how to stay fit while traveling — after all, I have such a haphazard lifestyle and it’s hard to stay on top of my healthier habits.
I usually answer this kind of question with irony and hints of embarrassment (I’m still bad at handling compliments) but after yet another email from a reader the other day, I thought that it was finally time for me to get over my coyness. That’s why now, I’m putting up a post about it as I officially answer this question once and for all.
But first, let me just say that this ‘how to stay fit while traveling’ post is not here to tell you to be thin. I’m just here to tell you to be healthy.
Nor am I here to tell you that I am the kind of person who has divine abs and a rocking ass (woot, I wish I have those!). I’m not even a freak of workouts because, despite the fact that I am fit, I’m not insanely muscled or toned — which is fine because as long as I’m healthy, that’s enough for me.
But of course, with that in mind, this doesn’t mean that I have managed to stay fit like this with no effort at all and with due thanks to a crazy metabolism rate (nope, I don’t have that either, and my age now is not helping). After all, I always put effort and I still get unfit if I let myself go. Therefore, even if I lack the discipline to form rock-hard abs, I rather have the discipline to stick to some habits and routines in order to maintain my current healthy form… and I’m going to share those tips with you!
Besides, I still and always will care for my health AND my body. I’m not going to spew B.S. or lies and tell you that I don’t care about how I look because I do. Let’s face it: we all care, and it’s absolutely fine to care about your physical state as long as it doesn’t get waaaay into your head and as long as it’s not your only motivation.
You see, I simply chose to try and stay fit because it makes me feel better, and it does make me better — mentally and physically. I’ve seen enough real-life horror stories and I want none of that — I want to live a long life and avoid diseases for as much as I could!
So… how to stay fit while traveling?
I simply form a routine as I ensure to make good choices — if not pick the lesser evil — in whatever I do or consume. Mind you, I don’t do any strict dieting program, so rest assured, the steps below are things that you can also easily execute in order to maintain your well-being as you travel! Here we go…
How to Stay Fit While Traveling
» Always choose to go by foot
Walk as much as possible
Avoid the urge to take the nearest bus, tram, or train to get to your next destination if in case it’s just a few kilometers away. Do NOT give in — just put on some comfy shoes and do it on foot! In this way, you will get some exercise AND you will also save some money from your travel fund.
- Other than doing your own ‘tour’, look for FREE walking tours in the city that you’re in! There are a lot of them out there and a quick Google search will easily lead you to one.
- I know that the walkalator in the airport looks so tempting, but don’t get lazy. Walk with your own might! It might not seem much, but small efforts can do a lot if put all together.
- Do night walks too. It’s an amazing experience and it’s one of my favorite things to do whenever I’m in a new place. There are scenes at night that can make everything look so magical so try it out from time to time!
- If your flight is delayed, instead of waiting in your seat, choose the act of doing a stroll around the airport.
Take the stairs
I know the feeling of laziness that overwhelms you whenever you see a flight of stairs in sight — even more so when you’re out traveling. I get that all the time. But I always try to remember what ‘Nike’ would say: Just. Do. It.
Taking the stairs is truly a great way to do cardio and a great way to build your body strength especially if you want to keep in mind how to stay fit while traveling. Moreover, choosing to do this often leaves you with less of a crowd. In fact, in every city that I’ve been to, almost no one takes the stairs if there’s a nearby escalator or elevator).
- Taking the steps one at a time burns a lot of calories but if you want to develop better muscles that can help burn more calories for you in the future, it often helps to do two steps at a time.
- If you want a total workout, you can run up and down a flight of stairs for 20-30 minutes! It’s tiring but the payoff is absolutely great. You can either do this in your hotel or hostel, or in any landmark or attraction that has stairs.
The thing about hiking is that it’s not only an effective workout but it’s also a great opportunity for experiencing and seeing new sceneries in your destination (especially if the area is centered more on nature and the outdoors). Truth be told, doing such activity may even make you feel like you’re not working out at all.
This is but another great way for exploring the new area that’s around you and it’s often called a ‘sightseeing run’. So try to make it into a routine to break out into a run at some point in your day (early morning is typically best so that you can leave the rest of the day for your other travel activities).
- I love using the app RunKeeper.com for tracking my runs. Come try it out too!
- If you’re on the beach, for a more intense ‘run’, try to do it ankle-deep in the water.
» Be resourceful & take advantage of any workout possibilities
Use the hotel’s gym
This is a given, but do try to keep this in mind because I know how easy it can be to overlook it. From my experience, there have been so many instances in the past wherein I ignore the gym in the hotel that I’m staying in just because I’m having too much of a good time. But now, I always remind myself that with my travel lifestyle, it’s hard to find the right equipment while on the road so I should take advantage of a fitness center (even more so when it’s free) whenever I’m near one — so you should too! Try to do it early in the morning so that you don’t waste your day exploring the city.
Don’t have a gym at your accommodation? Make do with floor exercises.
Don’t have weights? Use any item you can grab and make use of it; otherwise, do MORE repetitions of your exercise or do more difficult workouts.
Do ‘active’ activities
Ever seen people playing football on a field? Or a group of people practicing Zumba or Tai Chi in a park? Or have you heard of a yoga retreat happening nearby you? Well go and ask them if you could join! In this way, you’ll meet a lot of the locals too which will make for good travel memories and stories. There have been so many times that I met interesting people by asking them if I could join their game — most of which happened on the beach since I love joining a good match of beach volleyball!
Make full use of parks & playgrounds
Apart from reliving your childhood by enjoying the swings and slides, I mentioned this because there are times wherein these places have makeshift workout equipment that can give you a good workout time. So go and try out the pull bars, weights, skipping ropes, etc… anything that you can find!
» Basically the main idea of this section is to remind you that there are a lot of things around us that can help us execute a good exercise. How to stay fit while traveling, you say? You just need to be resourceful and aware at all times!
» Choose to be active
Do more outdoor adventures
Biking, skiing, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, wall climbing, and so many more! There are tons of activities that you can try while you travel and it helps to pick active itineraries to keep your blood pumping.
Surely, if you’re naturally adventurous, this tip would come as a natural response to you so it won’t feel like such a ‘workout chore’ at all!
If you want to do a tour, involve yourself in activities that don’t feel like exercise (even though they technically are). Examples are muay thai training in Thailand, dance lessons in Seoul South Korea, and so much more.
» Develop a routine workout
The thing about learning how to stay fit while traveling is that you have to instill a constant and solid routine that you can commit to every day (if not every other day). So for example, if doing regular runs is not your kind of thing, you can choose to do a regular stationary indoor or outdoor workout.
Some of the things that I do are as follows and you can pick one of the three below for a day, and then the other the next day, etc.:
- ABS: (10 repetitions of each) Regular Crunches, Bicycle Crunch, Crunch Twist, Reverse Crunches, Vertical Leg Crunch, Long Arm Crunch — and then lastly, do a 1 minute Plank
- LEGS & CORE: 20 Squats, 30 Lunges, 40 Calf Raises, 50-second Wall Squat, 100 Jumping Jacks, 50-second Wall Squat, 20 Squats, 30 Leg Raises, 40 Sumo Squats (wider feet position than a regular squat)
- DANCE WORKOUTS: You can do this right inside the comfort of your hotel or hostel room, and there are tons of free videos on YouTube for this. (Make sure that you vary the workout every day so that you are exercising all muscles in your body. Go for at least 30 minutes’ worth of exercise.)
TIP: If you’re having a hard time accomplishing the number of repetitions, it’s absolutely fine! Do it gradually until your body slowly eases into the exercise you’re doing. For example, some of the crunches above can be tough especially if it’s the first time in a long time that you have tried to exercise your muscles for this. As you go on though, feel free to do more of the repetitions than the standard counts that I’ve mentioned above! Just always remember to never push it, okay? If you ever start to feel a different ache in your body, feel free to stop since it might do you more harm than good if you force yourself.
Yoga is another routine workout you can do. Some people would often bring a yoga mat with them as they travel but that can be quite bulky. If a hotel gym is not within your reach or budget, you can try to use alternatives like your towels or your sleeping bag; but just remember to be careful while using them since the grip that it could give compared to yoga mats would not be the same (still, it works).
» Keep in mind to eat healthily and to live well
Living healthy and working out go hand in hand — one can’t be done effectively without the other! Always remember this.
When it comes to food, I know how it can be even tougher especially when a lot of food abroad can be too oily if not fatty. This doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in those; you definitely can! However, leave most of your days for healthy eating.
Some things to take note of are as follows…
- Eat as many vegetables and fruits! We all know this but I’d like to put it up here to really stress its importance. Avoid dairy and grains for as much as you could too because those are harder for your body to digest.
- If you can cook your own food in your hostel or accommodation, then, by all means, take advantage of it!
- NEVER miss breakfast. A lot of people think that skipping breakfast saves them calories but that is NOT true. There are a lot of benefits to eating breakfast (even more so when it’s a heavy one because it will help stave off your hunger longer) but some of the two most striking points that you should remember are that:
- It improves your metabolism and provides you with energy for the rest of the morning. Remember, you have not eaten anything during the time you were asleep for 8 hours so your body NEEDS to refuel once you wake up.
- It will regulate your overeating tendencies for the rest of the day. For instance, if you don’t eat breakfast you will tend to eat too much for lunch because you didn’t pack up on the right nutrients beforehand. So no matter if you’re in a rush, try to grab something to bite before you go (a banana, yogurt, bread, etc.)
- As I’ve already mentioned, it really can’t be helped if we’re suddenly faced with a bad or non-healthy meal and it’s totally fine to consume that for one day. BUT make sure that your next meal is healthier! Try to never eat two bad meals in a row.
- Stay hydrated! It promotes healthy skin, suppresses appetite, boosts metabolism, and so many more. So try to follow the age-old rule of at least 8 glasses a day. It really helps, I’m telling you!
- Try to never ‘undereat’ or overeat. I can understand if you’re a budget traveler, but it’s important to maintain a balance so as not to upset your metabolism levels. And as for overeating, if you’re someone like me who gets hungry every so often, resist the urge to eat a lot of stuff in one meal alone as it’s better to eat a normal quantity with frequent small healthy food/snacks in between (such as a protein bar or a fruit).
- Stay away from sodas and minimize your intake of alcoholic beverages. I know, I know… in traveling it can’t be helped that you’re often faced with parties or whatnot but just try to keep it down.
» BONUS: Choose activities that work best for you, but try to go for variety as well
Certainly, when learning how to stay fit while traveling, it’s not like I do everything that I have mentioned above for every single day. I just make do with what I can because what’s really important is that I remain and continue to be active!
Though of course, in order to motivate yourself to keep doing what you do, it helps if you do more of the things that you actually enjoy.
For example, I typically dislike running. So in order to maintain my ‘workout’ routine, I would opt to do more indoor exercises because that’s what works best for me. Still, variety is also important so I try to mix those exercises. (Abs for Monday, legs the next day, and then core, etc.)
But then, even if I generally do indoor exercises as a routine, I mix it up too from time to time so that I can exercise all of the muscles that I have. That’s why on some days, I would do various activities like running (even if I hate it), swimming, hiking, etc.
• • •
I’m starting to sound like a broken record now, but when it comes to learning how to stay fit while traveling, it really just all boils down to 3 things: practicing discipline (no matter how small), picking the lesser evil (when it comes to eating and mobility), and committing to a routine (because eventually, it will just become second nature to you!).
But then again… the best part about traveling is that oftentimes, as long as you keep up the adventurous spirit, the activities that you will be doing will end up keeping you fit!
Plus: try to relax and don’t stress too much about staying fit! These tips are generally more applicable if you’re traveling non-stop like I do, but for short spurts of travel, it doesn’t hurt to have some cheat days.
Now, I’m obviously not asking you to have a killer body since curves — and flabs are absolutely fine (I have those too, you know! Unless of course you already have a killer body, then go you!). But what I’m just trying to promote here is health.
We need to care for our bodies especially since there are a lot of forces that can make us ‘feeble’ or sickly in this kind of traveling lifestyle and I wouldn’t want you to suddenly suffer from injury and disease if your body’s strength, tolerance, or immunity goes down.
So there it is. With all that said, I now leave you with the best wishes for your journey and I dearly hope that this post about how to stay fit while traveling will help keep you in great condition. Cheers!