Stay fit while traveling cover photo of Kim showing how it's done
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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. If you follow 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.)

stay fit camps bay beach volleyball cape town
We travel pretty-much non-stop and these are the tricks we use to stay fit and have fun doing it.

Disclosure: If you click our links to buy the two books we wholeheartedly recommend below not only will they help you get fit by they’ll fatten our wallets (…by approximately 40 cents per sale). 

8 Fun & Fast Tips to Stay Fit While Traveling

Click the little arrows to expand and read more detail about any of these tips to stay fit while traveling that interests you most.

1. Hard and fast rules

Do high-intensity, low-duration workouts

More isn’t better.

Harder and faster is better.

We can get the same health benefits of a 45-minute jog with as little as 60 seconds of all-out exertion.

World-renowned exercise physiologist Dr. Martin Gibala proved this, and 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, Gibala recommends 10 hard minutes for maximal health benefits. Here’s an example workout that meets that criteria:

  • Warm up with 3-5 minutes of moderate exercise (jogging, bear crawls, frog hops, slow burpees).
  • For one minute, do burpees / mountain-climbers / stair runs / 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 then 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, I highly recommend you read Dr. Gibala’s book, The One-Minute Workout.

Instead of a long, boring jog, Kim sprinted up and walked down this hill in Medellin 15 times.

2. No weights? No worries!

Strength train using your (and your friends') bodyweight

If you want to stay fit while traveling, compliment your interval workouts with some pure strength training. 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). And if you really don’t think you’re heavy enough to build strong muscles, here are a few tips:

  1. 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.
  2. Use momentum to make it harder by doing explosive exercises like jumping or sprinting.  
  3. Use your travel companion to weigh you down with exercises like piggy-back sprints or having them sit on you while you do push-ups.
Your body is heavy enough for most strength training, but for further difficulty throw another body on top!

3. Eat as much as you want, just not whenever you want

Fast intermittently

Diet is even more important than exercise if we want to stay fit while traveling.

That sucks because 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. 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 amazingly fit, no matter what we eat.

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

You may think it’s impossible to cut down to two meals a day, and that you’d die if you went a whole day without eating. I used to think the same. But now I can fast for five days with ease.

Just start small, rewarding yourself for cutting out snacks by eating bigger meals, and you’ll see results in no time.

For a bunch of simple, easy-to-understand tips on fasting that’ll make you not want to eat, check out this post. Or get a copy of Dr. Fung’s book, The Complete Guide to Fasting, for the complete details.

my breakfast during my 3 day fast
Chris’ typical breakfast while traveling. He only eats a couple times a day when traveling, but when he does, he devours just about whatever he wants.

4. Get sweaty with others

Join local fitness classes

From boot camps in Nairobi, to CrossFit gyms in Mexico, to jiu-jitsu classes in Panama City, Kim and I love finding local workouts to join.

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.

Speaking of which, check out Kim’s FRDM Athletics Facebook page to see if you happen to be in the same part of the world as us and join one of her high-intensity workouts.

We try to look for group workouts everywhere we travel.

5. Try unusual terrain-ing

Do workouts that take advantage of your unique environment

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:

The opportunities for unusual terrain-ing are as endless as the variety of geographies on this planet.

stone training workout
Beaches with rocks like this are perfect for some unusual terrain-ing

6. If you break yourself, don’t break your budget

Ensure you're insured

By staying fit you’re reducing your risk of injury and sickness, but you’re not invincible. And if something goes wrong, you definitely don’t want it to hurt your finances even more than it hurt your body.

Get travel insurance.

If you’re only going away for a short while, you might be able to be covered for free with your credit card. Just be sure to understand what’s covered and what’s not.

And if you’re traveling for longer, playing professional sports, or doing high-risk activities, you’ll need extra insurance. To potentially save yourself a couple hundred bucks and not be too overwhelmed, click here to check out our 8 simple steps to finding the best travel insurance. It’s geared towards Canadians, but the general tips apply to everyone.

Chris' dad jumping off waterfall in Costa Rica, hopefully covered by travel insurance
Look into travel insurance before you leap into any travel activity.

7. Plan to stay fit while traveling

Keep fitness in mind when planning your trip

If you don’t plan to stay fit while traveling you won’t.

Duh.

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. Then, when the time comes to work out—surprise, surprise—our future selves decide they’re too busy or tired.

Do your future selves 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 and ask if they have blenders or cooking facilities so you can make healthy snacks with delicious local produce.

Kim working out in Bangkok
In Bangkok, we planned to work out at a local outdoor gym, Lumpini Park. It turned out to be a highlight of our stay!

8. Relax!

Don't stress and don't overdo it

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.

Here are two sub-tips:

  • 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.
relaxing in hammock
Traveling can be stressful. Read a book on exercise when you’re too tired to sweat.

9. Get On The Unconventional Route

We want to help you find fun but effective ways to stay fit while traveling. Check out our pool, rock, and underwater workouts, stay tuned for more tips and ideas and don’t be shy to leave us questions in the comment boxes below.

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and scroll down to the foot of the page to get a monthly dose of inspiration to think extraordinarily.


How About You?

Let us know what you think about these tips, any questions you might have, or any tips of your own in the comments.

We really, really appreciate it when you do so.


Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use special links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we'd recommend anyway. It costs you nothing, so we’d be crazy not to.

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5 comments

    1. I feel you Megan. I guess it’s a question of mentality. We don’t find it hard at all because, as we wrote, exercise is one of the ways we have fun, explore, and meet people while traveling.

      This depends on the type of vacation too. If you’re moving from place to place every day, you’re gonna be too exhausted to exercise, but we’d strongly advise against traveling that way anyways (as we wrote in our travel tips).

  1. I’m really surprised you didn’t mention putting on your runners and just getting out and exploring! It is the best way to see and experience a new place. You don’t have to be in an area that’s special… it’s all different and interesting. Running is optional but it does let you see more in less time. I think the best advice of all is ALWAYS HAVE YOUR RUNNERS IN YOUR CARRY ON!

    1. Thanks Mary, a.k.a. Mom. You’re right. It seems almost too obvious to me, but that could be because you trained me for it to be second nature. We’ll add it to the post!

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