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Don’t Forget to Pack Your Sixpack
Our fitness habits tend to fly out the window (or porthole, or whatever) when we travel, but that’s no excuse to not stay fit. With these eight tips for how to stay fit while traveling, there’s no need to leave your six-pack behind.
You might even pick one up as a souvenir!
How can we be so sure?
Because they work for us. We drink our own Kool-Aid. (Sugar-free, of course.)
9 Fun & Fast Tips to Stay Fit While Traveling
1. Hard and Fast Rules
Do High-Intensity, Low-Duration Workouts
To get and stay fit, more isn’t better.
Harder and faster is better.
It’s possible to get the same health benefits of a 45-minute jog in as little as 60 seconds of all-out exertion if you go balls to the wall.
World-renowned exercise physiologist Dr. Martin Gibala proved this. His team surprised the world with a 12-week study that found that subjects who worked out doing just 60 seconds of all-out exercise (in three 20-second sets) enjoyed the same health benefits as subjects who did 45 minutes of continuous medium intensity exercise.
While one minute of exertion is surprisingly good for fitness, Gibala recommends 10 hard minutes for maximal health benefits.
Example 20-Minute Workout
Here’s an example workout that meets that criteria:
- Warm up with 3-5 minutes of moderate exercise (jogging, bear crawls, skipping, slow burpees).
- For one minute, do burpees / mountain-climbers / stair runs / spinning / anything as hard and fast as you can.
- Rest for one minute.
- Repeat this minute-on, minute-off cycle ten times.
- Do some cool-down stretches.
- Get back to traveling.
Exert yourself as much as possible during each interval. The harder you go, the more you benefit.
To learn more about the surprising science behind interval training and get some workout inspiration, I highly recommend you read Dr. Gibala’s book, The One-Minute Workout.
2. No Weights? No Worries!
Strength Train With Your (and Your Friends’) Bodyweight
Compliment your interval workouts with some pure strength training to stay fit while traveling and stay strong.
Not only do strong, lean muscles look good, but they burn extra calories and protect you from injury.
But how to find heavy enough weights when you’re on a remote beach or in a foreign city?
Easy. Look in the mirror. There in the reflection—you—is one heavy-ass weight.
No matter how strong you are, I guarantee there’s a bodyweight exercise for every muscle that will leave you hobbling for days (in a good way).
Not Heavy Enough For You?
If you really don’t think you’re heavy enough to build strong muscles with bodyweight training, here are a few tips:
- Do one leg or arm at a time. If you think one-armed pull-ups and elevated shrimp squats are still too easy, join the circus.
- Use momentum to make it harder by doing explosive exercises like jumping or sprinting.
- Use your travel companion to weigh you down with exercises. Do piggy-back sprints or have them sit on you while you do push-ups.
3. Eat As Much as You Want (Just Not Whenever You Want)
We’ve all heard a million times that diet is even more important than exercise.
That sucks for those of us who want to stay fit on the road.
Eating is arguably the best part of traveling. To not gorge on all the local treats would rob us of a big part of the travel experience. Without it, we might as well travel in virtual reality.
Luckily, we don’t need to compromise on what we eat to stay fit when traveling.
We just need to compromise on when we eat.
If we limit ourselves to eating twice a day, and take some days off eating entirely, we can stay fit, pretty much no matter what we eat.
Why Eating Less Frequently Works
As Dr. Jason Fung explains in his book, The Complete Guide to Fasting, amazing things happen to our bodies when we limit our feeding frequency:
- Our metabolism speeds up (i.e. we feel more energetic, and burn even more calories)
- Our hunger hormones die down (so our urges to snack dissipate)
- We consume fewer calories overall (since we can only fill your stomach so much)
- Our alertness peaks
- Our body gets used to burning fat for fuel
- We get sexy
How to Break Your Addiction to Snacks
I used to think it would be impossible to cut down to two meals a day, and that I’d die if I went a whole day without eating.
But now I can fast for five days with ease.
The trick was to start small, rewarding myself for cutting out snacks by eating bigger meals. In no time, it became easy, I was never hungry anymore, and I saw results.
For a bunch of simple, easy-to-understand tips on fasting that’ll make you not want to eat, check out my Water Fasting Tips from A Guy Who Learned the Hard Way.
Or get a copy of Dr. Fung’s book, The Complete Guide to Fasting, for the complete details.
4. Get Sweaty With Others
Join Local Fitness Classes
Not only does it help us stay fit while traveling, it’s a travel experience in itself.
We meet locals, discover new forms of exercise, and often visit parts of towns most tourists don’t.
Plus it’s often free! Many of these classes and gyms let you do your first session without paying a dime.
Or Just Workout With Travel Buddies
Try some of these 7 fun but intense partner exercises for a full-body workout that Kim and I do regularly and often drag friends into doing, too.
5. Try Unusual Terrain-ing
Take Advantage of Unique Environments
Forget going to some soulless gym that’s no different than the one you go to back home.
Create an unforgettable workout by getting outside and taking advantage of the unique terrain of the place you’re visiting.
Here are some examples of unusual terrain-ing from our recent travels:
- On Colombia’s Pacific Coast, we converted our hammock into a workout device.
- In Lamu, Kenya we did sprints up and down the dunes and joined our new friends Awham and Captain Jawad for a swim to Manda Island.
- On the vast tidal flats of Savary Island, BC we sprinted, threw rocks, and rolled logs.
- In Northern Quebec we walked along the bottom of the lake holding stones.
- While staying at a luxurious villa in Phuket, Thailand we invented a refreshingly cool pool circuit workout. Watch the video below.
The opportunities for unusual terrain-ing are as endless as the variety of geographies on this planet.
6. Lace ‘Em Up
Explore More by Running and Hiking
At home, Kim and I aren’t avid hikers and avoid jogging entirely.
On the road, we transform.
We actively seek out nearby trails, especially ones with views and waterfalls and we run around cities aimlessly.
Often, this is how we make our favorite discoveries, stumbling upon unexpected scenes that we could have never found out about any other way.
And, as an added bonus, it works up an appetite to eat more food.
- As I write in my 55-Item Fine-Tuned Packing List, get black runners so you can wear them when not exercising too and save yourself having to pack an extra pair of shoes.
- Make sure to pack your runners and a set of sports clothes in your carry-on (if you’re not wearing them already).
- Download Maps.Me to find offline trail maps everywhere in the world. It’s free.
- Download your Google Maps for offline use. Our Top 9 Google Maps Tips has the simple steps.
Our Favorite Fitness Toys We Take Traveling
- Foam Roller. This isn’t always packable when we’re traveling carry-on. But if we travel for more than a few months, this is a necessity and helps our muscles recover quick.
- Lacrosse ball. Feels so good for massaging sore muscles.
- Elastic resistance bands. We always pack a couple of these. With a bit of creativity they can make any exercise harder or easer, they are useful for stretching, and we even use them as leashes to hold each other back when sprinting.
- Phone Pouch. Holds my phone tight to my belly or small of my back when running around with it.
- Wireless Headphones. Kim and I both have Plantronics Backbeat Fit wireless headphones. My pair just bit the dust after 3 years of heavy use and I’ve already ordered new ones.
7. Don’t Break Your Budget if You Break Yourself
Ensure You’re Insured
By staying fit you reduce your risk of injury and sickness, but you’re not invincible.
So get travel insurance.
It’s boring and a “waste of money,” but if something goes wrong, you definitely don’t want to hurt your finances even more than it hurt your body.
Your credit card might cover you for up to a month. Be sure to check the policy. Or, if you’re Canadian like us, check out our research on the Best Credit Cards for International Travel.
How to Find the Best Plan for the Lowest Price
To potentially save yourself a couple hundred bucks and not be too overwhelmed, read our 8 Simple Steps to Finding the Best Travel Insurance.
It’s geared towards Canadians, but the steps and tips apply to everyone.
8. Plan to stay fit while traveling
Include Fitness in Your Travel Planning
If you don’t plan to stay fit while traveling you won’t.
It may sound stupidly obvious, but most of us rarely do it. We research activities, restaurants, and hotels in advance, but let our future selves sort out exercise when we get there.
But then, when the time comes to work out—surprise, surprise—our future selves decide they’re too busy or tired.
Do your future self a favor. Add exercise to your travel planning.
Search for outdoor workout areas and boot camps or classes you can join (see: 4. Get Sweaty with Others). If you can’t find any, look for parks or soccer fields for sprints and intervals and stairwells to jump up and down.
Also, look for accommodation close to these areas. Ask if they have blenders or cooking facilities so you can make healthy snacks with delicious local produce.
Don’t Stress About Staying Fit When Traveling
Exercise should relieve your stress, not increase it.
If you’re feeling stressed and not at all in the mood for a workout, relax. Get a good night’s sleep, maybe do a bit of yoga or stretching, and don’t sweat it (literally) until the next day.
With long-haul flights, never-ending bus rides, line-ups, and cultural hurdles, traveling can be stressful enough as it is.
Also, give yourself credit for all the walking you’ll likely be doing. Walking on its own may not get you as ripped as Brad Pitt in Fight Club, but it’s better than the endless hours of sitting you probably do back home.
- Avoid whirlwind trips where you’re changing hotels every day. Yes, travel time is precious and your bucket list is long but from our experience you’ll enjoy your trip more (and have more energy to stay fit) if you deeply explore specific destinations rather than spreading yourself thin across many.
- Don’t sacrifice sleep. You might have more hours in the day if you sleep less, but they’ll be significantly worse and your fitness will deteriorate no matter how hard you exercise. If you don’t believe me, read the book Why We Sleep. It 100% convinced me to never sacrifice sleep again.
10. If You Liked These Tips and Want More
Get On The Unconventional Route
We want to help you find fun but effective ways to stay fit while traveling.
And, if you’re still not convinced, read Why You Should Ditch the Gym to Work Out Outside.
Find Your Next Step to Extraordinary
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