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 seven 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.)
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).
1. Hard and fast rules
Do high-intensity, low-duration workouts
As world-renowned exercise physiologist Dr. Martin Gibala has shown in studies, and summarized in his book, The One-Minute Workout, 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.
Gibala and his team surprised the world with their 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.
We’ll be posting all sorts of unusual (but efficient and effective) interval workout routines soon. Subscribe below to keep updated.
Meanwhile, give The One-Minute Workout a quick read.
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:
- Use momentum to make it harder by doing explosive exercises like jumping or sprinting.
- 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 your travel companion to weigh you down with exercises like piggy-back sprints or having them sit on you while you do push-ups.
3. Eat as much as you want, just not whenever you want
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.
There are a whole lot more tips and tricks to make infrequent feeding easier. I’ll save those for a future post (sign up below to be notified). For those who can’t wait, get yourself a copy of Dr. Fung’s book, The Complete Guide to Fasting.
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.
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.
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.
Back to basics at a not so basic outdoor gym in Medellin. 🤸🏽♀️ Find out where you can see men in tights, chicks with fake boobs and butts, and 70 year old men, working out in harmony on the top of a mountain. ✨✨✨New post up on Cerro de las Tres Cruces. ☝️Link in bio!
A post shared by The Unconventional Route (@theunconventionalroute) on
Here are some examples of unusual terrain-ing from our recent travels:
- 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.
- While staying at a luxurious villa in Phuket, Thailand we invented a refreshingly cool pool circuit workout. Watch the video below.
- In Northern Quebec we walked along the bottom of the lake holding stones.
The opportunities for unusual terrain-ing are as endless as the variety of geographies on this planet.
6. 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.
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.
Don’t stress and don’t overdo it
With long-haul flights, never-ending bus rides, line-ups, and cultural hurdles, traveling can be stressful enough as it is. Don’t make a tough day worse by stressing out about having to get a workout in.
Exercise should play a role in relieving your stress, not increasing it. Get a good night’s sleep, maybe do a bit of yoga or stretching, and don’t sweat it (literally) until the next day.
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 certainly better than the countless hours of sitting you probably do back home.
Shoot for three workouts a week while traveling. But if more important stuff gets in the way, don’t worry about it.
And on a related note, avoid whirlwind trips where you’re changing hotels every day as much as possible. 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.
Bonus #8: 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.