Staying fit while travelling.
As the avid lifestyle designer you are, I can almost guarantee that travel and fitness are high on your priority list but as we all know, combining the two can be quite the task.
In a world where drinking every night can become normality, getting up with a killer hangover and forcing yourself through a gruelling training session is near impossible. Not to mention the fact that you may not even come across a gym on your trip.
Before you realise it you’ve returned home from your epic adventure with a hard-earned beer gut and barely the strength to curl anything more then a pint to your ever-thirsty mouth.
If this is cool by you, and by all means each to their own, then there is no reason to read on but if you want to maintain your fitness and physique while you travel, then this may be the best post you have read in a while.
It’s time to build your Nomadic Body.
Have a plan in place before you go.
To avoid the battle of the bulge and actually stay fit while travelling you need to have a realistic plan in place that you will stick to throughout your trip. By realistic I mean one that allows you to do everything you want, while also kicking your butt on the days you train.
In my opinion, training 7 days a week is unrealistic while travelling, on the other hand, having just 1 session a week won’t get you the results you desire. Finding balance is key and training every second day seemed to mesh best into my travel schedule. Find what works for you and stick to it, but I wouldn’t go below 3 sessions a week.
Obstacles stopping you from staying fit while travelling.
There are a few obstacles that make training while travelling harder, so identifying them beforehand will help you to work around them. These are the ones that I found the biggest hurdles:
- Infrequent or no gyms in the area you are staying.
- Running in unfamiliar areas.
- Endless supply of cheap alcohol.
- Long bus rides.
- Diet disasters.
- Confusing recreation for a training session.
- Finding motivation to train while everyone else is chilling in hammocks.
There are others but dealing with these 7 will give you the best chance of sticking to your program and keeping your mid-section fat free.
Now, how to deal with them:
- Gyms: There is nothing you can do in a gym that you can’t do with bodyweight circuits. The change will be an added shock to your muscles if you have consistently used weights in the past, increasing muscular development. Having the freedom to train anywhere is something that you will likely continue after your trip too. Take a resistance band with you for even more variety of exercises. Strength gains are also very much possible from bodyweight circuits – just look at a gymnast and you will see what I mean.
- Running: The fear of getting lost in a new city when out on a run is best handled by running in a straight line. Leave your hostel and run left without veering off the road. At the halfway point of your run, turn around and run back. Next time go right.
- Drinking: Alcohol abuse is without a doubt going to be your biggest hindrance in staying fit while travelling. A friend of mine drank every night on his trip and no matter how bad his hangover, he would always train when it was time to. If you can do that then great, but that didn’t work for me. What I found to be the best solution was drinking on the nights that I didn’t have to train the next day. That way I got to enjoy the party scene but also had a quality, hangover-free session on the days I had set. Some days though you are just going to have to pull your drunken-ass out of bed and sweat out the alcohol from the night before – just fucking do it!
- Bus rides: Nothing drains your energy like an 18 hour bus ride. To cater for this (and save money on accommodation) I made sure I always travelled on overnight busses. That way I was rested when I arrived at my destination and I had the whole day to train. I could either get it out of the way in the morning or spend the day relaxing and do it in the evening.
- Diet: 80% of your results are going to come from what you put into your body while travelling. You can’t out-train your fork, especially when you are surviving on the typical backpacker diet of one shitty meal a day followed by 20 beers. Make it a priority to fuel you body with clean, whole foods and take advantage of the cheaper prices if you are travelling in a poor country. For $5-$10 a day you can make at least 3 protein and vegetable packed meals. If the hostel doesn’t have a kitchen then go to the local markets and eat there. The servings are huge and the food is delicious. I repeat – 80% of your results are going to come directly from your diet, eat accordingly.
- Recreation: Just because you went hiking for the day doesn’t mean you can skimp out on your training session. Recreation is something we do for fun, training is something we do to reach specific goals and achieve progress – don’t confuse the two. Stick to your program as if your 6-pack depended on it, because it does. Train first thing in the morning if you plan on having an active day, to avoid doing it later when you are tired.
- Motivation: Being the person in the hostel that is constantly training can be quite unnerving sometimes. People will be impressed with your commitment but always eager for you to join them drinking beers rather than sweat out a session. The best way to deal with this is to motivate them to join you. Having a training buddy makes the session more fun and the beers taste that much better after a good sweat.
How to workout while travelling.
Remember earlier I said you need to have a realistic plan in place for when you travel? Well the same applies to your actual training times. In my opinion, it is unrealistic to expect yourself to train for an hour at a time and continue to do it over your whole trip.
The key to developing a routine you will actually stick to is having short and sharp sessions that you can finish in under 30 minutes, 45 minutes max if you include a run with your workout. The best way to do this is with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Check out this full body workout you can complete in 15 minutes for an idea of what HIIT is.
Keeping with the theory of training every second day, you will have four sessions a week to complete. In my split I trained my whole body each session with a focus on 1 muscle group each time.
- Full body + leg focus.
- Full body + chest focus.
- Full body + back focus.
- Full body + arms focus.
Depending on what your goals are you can design your program appropriately. I wanted to focus on maintaining muscle mass while hitting my cardio system during the circuit.
This is the program I followed:
NOTE: I always travel with a resistance band so my program will reflect that. I highly recommend them as they are lightweight and take up minimal space in your backpack.
Full Body + leg focus. Repeat x 3 with 30-60 seconds recovery after each set. Optional 15 minute run if feeling like it.
- Lunges x 20 each leg.
- Squats x 20.
- Plyo push up x 10.
- Pull ups x 10 (done on a swing, tree, bar, or bus stop).
- Drop squats x 10.
- Glute bridge x 20.
- Frog pumps x 20.
- Lateral deltoid raise with band x 15.
- Mountain Climbers x 50.
- Crunch + Bicycle x 40.
Full Body + Chest Focus. Repeat x 3 with 30-60 seconds recovery after each set. Optional 15 minute run if feeling like it.
- Diamond push up x 10.
- Push up w/ twist x 10.
- Squat to shoulder press w/ band x 20.
- Pull ups x 10
- Reverse fly w/ band x 15.
- Spiderman crawl x 10.
- Incline chest press w/ band x 15.
- Pec fly w/ band x 15.
- Jump lunges x 10 each leg.
- Oblique crunch x 20 each side.
Full Body + Back Focus. Repeat x 3 with 30-60 seconds recovery after each set. Optional 15 minute run if feeling like it.
- Close-grip chin ups x 10.
- Supermans x 15.
- Standing row w/ band x 15.
- Mountain climbers x 50.
- Burpees x 15.
- Tricep dips x 30.
- Reverse fly w/ band x 15.
- Anti-rotation plank x 45 secs
- Decline push ups x 10.
- Lateral squat x 10 each leg.
Full Body + Arm Focus. Repeat x 3 with 30-60 seconds recovery after each set. Optional 15 minute run if feeling like it.
- Diamond push ups x 10.
- Bicep curl w/ band x 20.
- Jump lunges x 10 each leg.
- standing row w/ band x 15.
- Tricep extension w/ band x 20.
- Dips between chairs x 10.
- Squat to shoulder press w/ band x 20.
- Single-leg glute bridge x 10 each leg.
- Pull ups x max.
- Crunch to bicycle x max.
Keep a record of your workouts and note how many reps you do for every exercise. Each week you repeat the workout add 1 more rep to each exercise.
This is the program that I last used while I travelled and is just a guideline for you to follow. Feel free to modify it however you want to suit your goals and needs but remember to make your program realistic and attainable.
Tips and tricks for fit travellers.
- On days that you are travelling by bus take pre-made snacks and even meals with you. Apples, bananas and nuts are a favourite of mine. If you get a chance take a container with a big stir fry of protein and vegies on the bus. This will keep you away from the junk food at every bus stop you pass through.
- Cook in your hostel kitchen as much as possible. It’s cheaper, you can load up on all the good stuff and you can eat as much as you want.
- Allow for deviations in your plan. The beauty of travel is that you can really do whatever you want – be spontaneous and have an unforgettable time. If this means delaying your workout by a day then so be it. Just don’t make it a delay every day. Play hard, party hard, train hard.
- If you are shy about being the only person training at your hostel, do it first thing in the morning before everyone else is up and about but trust me, soon people will want to be joining you and you will have a workout buddy every few sessions.
- Give a little, take a little. Don’t be so rigid with your program that you feel like you are constantly saying no to things. I implore you to do everything that you want to – even if that means working out hung over or eating super healthy to make up for the 3 hamburgers you devoured at 4am the night before.
- Keep it simple. Maximise the good things such as meats, nuts, vegetables, salads, whole foods and water. Minimise the bad things like processed sugars, fried foods, alcohol binges, junk food and soft drinks. Pareto’s Law of 80/20 is your guideline – 80% good/20% bad.
- Stay active whenever you can. Hike, surf, run, sand board, rock climb, go canyoning, swim, mountain bike, climb trees, jump off things, explore cities by foot, skateboard, take a bike tour or even travel completely by bike.
Do you have an adventure coming up? Do you travel with work? What do you struggle with while on the road? How long are you travelling for? Do you have a question regarding staying fit while travelling?
Leave a question in the comments below and I will help you how ever I can.
Staying fit while travelling doesn’t have to be the impossible task that so many think it is. Plan ahead, stick to your program, eat accordingly and have an amazing time – it’s really that simple.
– Dane Bergman.