I hear this question a lot: “how to stay fit while traveling”? What are the top tips to stay on your fitness journey despite your location? Well, you will be pleased to know that it is easy. And it does not require you spending every single day of your trip in the gym either. Sit back, relax and enjoy your ultimate guide to staying in shape on the move.
Rule 1: Do your research!
People do tend to overlook this simple step. Most people who plan the travel itinerary themselves, limit the planning to the “best things to see” in a given country. Similarly people who buy tours from a tour provider usually end up not looking at anything else at all because the travel itinerary and all relevant information is provided by the tour organiser. Although from the travel perspective both above mentioned options are great, they do not provide you, as a fit traveller to be, any information on key things that are important if you wish to stay fit and healthy while traveling. The information that you do need to, and should, research in advance is the following:
- Accommodation you’re staying in has a gym?
- Breakfast provided at the hotel?
- Closest and cheapest fitness and sport opportunities around?
- Duration of the trip?
- Environment you’re going to be in?
Accommodation details are always important. For example, having a gym in your hotel could save you a lot of time and money as you won’t have to waste any valuable time of your trip looking for a place to exercise, travelling there and back and trying to fit that around the schedule. The closer the opportunity to stay in shape on the move is, the more chances there are that you’ll take this opportunity.
As trivial as the breakfast question is, it is an important one. We all know that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. It helps to stimulate your metabolism and keep a constant energy level throughout the day (which helps with the calorie burn rate too!). Having a breakfast option in a hotel ensures that you get some decent food in your system (they had European breakfast even during my travels in India) and that you get your metabolism ready for the day.
In case your accommodation does not have a gym or breakfast included, that’s still not the end of the world as long as you complete point C – research at least a few fitness opportunities and / or healthy food options nearby. Luckily enough, in the 21st century you don’t have to do much of the work yourself – such blogs like Fit On Trip provide all this information for you.
Finally, always also think about the duration of the trip and the environment you’re going to be in. For example, in a 3-day journey to Luxembourg you might have fewer fitness options compared to a 19-day trip to Japan, so think about your time to potentially get some fitness in on your trip in advance. The environment also plays a big role because of cultural differences and simple opportunities for fitness you can find in a given country. Morning exercise on the beach in Thailand, gym in China, hiking in Vietnam…
A simple A-B-C-D-E can help you to stay Fit on Trip, so next time you’re traveling, you know what to do!
Rule 2: Prepare
Things did not change much since school times – you still have to do your homework… This homework is especially important if you wish to stay fit and healthy while traveling. In addition to packing your suitcase and checking the weather, you also have to think and plan the following key cornerstones of your fit trip: food, technology and fitness equipment. If you have the means, take at least a few things that will ensure you staying on track.
When I pack, I focus on the following:
- Food: taking healthy snacks with me (rice crackers, protein bars, nuts and fruits…), packing lunch if possible and, obviously, taking some water!
- Technology: we live in a high-tech age – time to use it for fitness too! Install an app on your phone to track steps and count the calories you intake. Buy a smart watch or borrow one. Download an easy exercise guide that you could do quickly in your hotel room. Options are unlimited.
- Fitness equipment: it all depends on your trip (might be harder if you’re backpacking), however if there’s an opportunity, you could also take some light fitness equipment with you that does not take too much of your luggage space. A skipping rope or resistance bands work perfectly in this case.
Whatever you decide to do, everything starts with planning and preparation.
Rule 3: Nutrition is the key
If you are traveling in a new country the most important thing, undoubtedly, is experiencing what this new culture has to offer. However, that does not mean that you have to indulge on Chinese baozi (steamed buns) on a daily basis during your trip in China. Trying and enjoying is a must. Overdosing in big amounts is risky.
In life it is all about the finding that “golden middle” – a point where you still enjoy a new cuisine but still make conscious decisions food-wise throughout your journey. If you are planning to try Japanese sweet buns in the afternoon, simply skip the bread and pastry stall during breakfast. If you ate too much high-in-fats-and-carbs foods, such as pizza, choose a salad for dinner. Yes, salad!
Finally, limit the alcohol and soft drink intake. A mojito is 242 kcal and has 25 g sugar (that’s the daily intake for an average adult according to the World Health Organisation), Fanta orange is 96 kcal with 23g sugar (again your daily sugar dose…). Water has 0 calories and it is also needed for all sorts of health benefits 😉.
Staying fit and healthy while traveling is easy… As long as you think twice about your food choices!
Rule 4: Take all opportunities to move
Sounds easy? You would be surprised how quickly people tend to forget all their fitness goals once on holiday. Do you take stairs or the lift to your hotel room? Do you drive/take a taxi/a train to your desired destination or walk at least a bit? Do you go to the gym or for a run while on the trip? Do you cycle around the city to explore it or take the “hop on hop off” bus? If your answer to all questions is “yes”, well, you are winning the game!
It is very easy to quickly to go into the mindset of “it’s holiday, I need/ deserve some rest” or “I’m traveling, and this is hard already”. If you are cycling around the Europe making miles daily or climbing Kilimanjaro, then you definitely deserve some rest on your spare time. Other than that – just try to think how much you are actually tired versus how much you are just simply lazy 😊
By no means you have to sacrifice the entire trip, especially if it is a short one, trying to do as much exercising as you can in attempt to staying fit while traveling. The conscious fit traveller enjoys the journey whilst taking every opportunity to move – and usually there are at least a few!
Rule 5: There is no bad place to exercise
In addition to taking every opportunity to move (going for a quick run or a walk before breakfast does magic), don’t be limited to the “standard” exercise locations, such as the gym, sport and fitness classes. Going to a fitness centre nearby is always great, especially if it is on the way, however if you wish to spend less money and enjoy your trip as much as you can, aim to use any location as your workout location. Why not:
- Have a circuit training or a nice stretch session in the park;
- Use Calisthenics equipment (i.e. the pullup bars you can find in the park) to do some bodyweight exercises;
- Try a quick workout in your hotel room (you would be surprised how many exercises you could do using a chair!);
- Enjoy Yoga on the beach;
- Workout on the rooftop (tried that in NYC and can confirm, it’s officially awesome…).
These are just a few examples out of many, so use your imagination! Location-free exercising can be way more enjoyable, is free and also time-efficient. With so many benefits of the location unrestricted fitness, why not to do it?
Rule 6: Take advantage of the environment you’re in
People often limit themselves not only with the exercise location, but also with the exercise ideas. A gym looks pretty much the same all around the world (well, perhaps with exception of India where I had some very memorable experiences in local gym with not a single equipment properly functioning – it was still an experience though!). Hence if you’re, for example, backpacking in Thailand, why not to try Muay Thai: Thailand’s national sport? When exploring Iceland, why don’t you check out a Viking workout? Or at least visit a sumo wrestling tournament in Japan to get inspired….
It does not matter which country you are in, there are plenty of ways how you could stay fit while traveling and enjoy a new experience at the same time. Just remember to do the research (Rule #1!) before your trip 😉
In summary, as unexpected as that might sound, travel can be a great time for fitness. It could provide you with some fantastic exercise options and memorable locations. Take every opportunity you can to stay fit while traveling – there will be many!