Exercising while traveling presents a unique challenge, and the solutions (or excuses we make) can depend on a variety of factors such as:
- Location and terrain of where you’re staying
- Whether it’s safe to be in the streets alone
- Budget and cost of gym/classes
Traveling often can be stressful on the body; though you may put your best efforts into staying healthy, it’s easy to cite a variety of reasons for falling off the healthy diet/exercise wagon (i.e.: “I couldn’t fit a 44LB kettlebell in my carry-on,” “Soylent doesn’t come in 3oz travel containers yet,” the grocery store is too far away, Snickers bars don’t spoil as fast as spinach does).
Also, we sometimes adopt an all-or-nothing attitude that can chip away at our resolve. I find myself thinking, “If I don’t have time or energy to complete a full 30 minutes to an hour of exercise, I shouldn’t even start.”
Options seem limited without consistent access to a gym. When I happen to be traveling to a place that is not as safe or has a climate that is not as conducive to outdoor activity, I struggle to find alternatives to running.
Some things I’ve learned so far:
- Use your body weight.
Calisthenics (squats, lunges, pushups, planks, etc.) and other exercises are great. The New York Times wrote about the 7 Minute Perfect Workout, which can be a good place to start.
Per a friend’s suggestion, I’ve also been learning some primal-style workouts, such as animal flow. Though initially it looks a bit funny because you’re mimicking animals, it’s an incredible total-body workout that requires no equipment.
- Just 10 minutes of exercise will make you feel good.
Pick 3-5 exercises and do each for either a certain amount of time or a certain number of reps. Tabata and other types of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) only take a few minutes and, trust me, you’ll get a work out. You don’t have to work out for an hour to reap the benefits. Doing a little bit daily will get you in the habit!
- It’s okay to take breaks in the middle of workouts.
I often feel the pressure and urgency to do a lot of cardio or a lot of exercise concentrated in a period of time. If you’re traveling for vacation, use this luxury of time to pause in the middle of workouts. Survey the beautiful landscape, meditate for even a few seconds. I’m writing this during a pause while sitting in the middle of a yoga mat before I finish up today’s workout.
- Low impact movements can have great effect.
Taking the time to do just a few sun salutations or pilates series leaves me feeling refreshed and it helps me accomplish my goal of daily movement. Your daily routine doesn’t have to include burpees and heavy deadlifts to be effective! Learn modifications for exercises to fit your fitness level and body type.
- Pair exercise with another habit.
One of the oldest tricks for developing habits is pairing it with one that is already pretty solid in your life. I’ve always done my “toothbrush dance,” but my electric toothbrush now provides 2 fully-timed minutes of standing around, twice a day. So I do little barre-style squat pulses (very safely) while brushing my teeth. Embarrassing, maybe, but kind of fun and productive for the perpetual multi-tasker.
- Set measureable (and reachable!) goals.
I loved a friend’s suggestion of doing a small amount a day and making the goals reachable. I try to do at a minimum 20 lunges on each side, 20 pushups, 1.5 minutes of plank, and of course my toothbrushing squats. I also try to practice my headstand or handstand at least once daily.
- Ask others for help, suggestions, or accountability.
I’ve learned so much from friends just by asking for help or suggestions on what they do while traveling. It’s also nice to have travel buddies who want to stay on track, and we can keep each other accountable for doing regular fitness activities.
Being able to travel has been (and still is) one of the most amazing and life-changing privileges in my life. I am grateful for it every day. More than anything — have fun, watch the sun rise and set, and rejoice in feeling the wind on your face no matter what direction it takes you.