STAYING FIT WHILE TRAVELING
May 24, 2018 / By Nate Wisan
It’s not always the easiest thing to do. Staying fit, that is. It can get even more complicated on the road. Travel makes proper nutrition, consistent sleep, and finding a gym almost impossible. However, keeping up general fitness even without a gym is very doable. It only takes 20-30 minutes of exercise a day in order to keep moving towards your fitness goals. You may not put on 10 lbs of muscle in 4 weeks, but you can improve your cardiovascular health and endurance.
Below you’ll find a list of my 6 favorite exercises while traveling, and where and how to perform them. Then at the bottom you’ll find a sample 20-minute workout that will will leave you exhausted and happy.
Body Weight Squats
Unlike my large and powerful friend in the above photo, you don’t need weight in order to perform squats. Using weight is an excellent way to build more muscle tone and size, but you may not have that option while traveling. I once walked 500 miles across Spain without seeing a single gym…weights were nowhere to be found. To perform an “air squat”, which is simply a body weight squat, squat as you normally would when working out. I suggest find a number that will tire you out, say 20 reps, and then do four sets separated by a minute of rest between sets.
Push-ups: the old standby
Push-ups are a phenomenal exercise for building upper body strength and tone. Very little space is needed in order to conduct a proper push-up, and by moving your hands closer or farther from the center of the chest one can change the angle of the pecks being worked. If you can only do four exercises, squats and push-ups should be two of them. Squats for the lower body, and push-ups for the arms and chest. Try 10-15 reps, take a one minute break. Rinse and repeat for a total of 4 sets.
Pull-ups (on stairs):
Pull-ups. If there is one excellent exercise for your back that doesn’t require anything beyond a bar, a strong branch, or a staircase, the pull-up is it. It’s one of my favorite exercises to do if you only have time for one back exercise. Although finding a pull-up bar may be difficult while traveling, most large cities have jungle gym parks for children, and you can often find a flat piece of equipment on which to do pull-ups. If that doesn’t work, then look for a strong branch. If that also fails, look for a staircase. You might be able to stand below the staircase, reach up and grab a stair above you, and perform pull-ups that way.
Do a training set* followed by a one minute rest, and then three more training sets, each separated by a minute break. (*a training set is an amount of pull-ups you can do four times in a row, with a minute break between each set. For example, if you can do four sets of 5 pull-ups, then each training set is 5 reps.)
Travel story: I performed pull-ups on the stairs above me as I walked down the hundreds of stairs leading from the viewing platform at the Eiffel Tower back to the ground. Running down the stairs got my cardio engaged, and the stops for pull-ups meant my upper body got a workout as well.
Sit-ups. Enough said! They are excellent and they work the core beautifully. A strong core directly contributes to good running from, body posture, and a killer six pack. A proper diet is essential for a flat, strong stomach. But so are abdominal exercises such as sit-ups. Do them!
One of my favorite ab workouts, and one that requires nothing more than a WiFi connection and a smart device, is Eight Minute Abs on YouTube. Although a little corny, and with eight minutes of horrible elevator-style music, the workouts are excellent.
I added running to this list because it requires very little equipment and builds excellent cardiovascular endurance. I’ve even seen men on their lunch break in Spain running in jeans and dressy sweaters. Why? I asked them that, and they said they didn’t need all the fancy running clothing we American’s use. Fair enough. Whether you prefer jeans or athletic shorts, running is an excellent way to stay in shape while traveling.
Travel tip: I usually go for a 3-5 mile run the first night I arrive in a new town. This allows me to get to know to know the town, and if I pass somewhere cool looking, I then have a place to explore in depth the next day.
Like it’s more aggressive cousin above, walking provides a way to burn calories, tone the leg and butt muscles, and see the sights and sounds of whatever town you are staying in. It requires nothing more than the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet. It’s relatively low impact on your joints. Go for a walk today. You might just like it!
Wrapping it all up
If you only have a few minutes in which to workout while traveling, doing a mixture of squats, pull-ups (if you can find something on which to pull yourself up), push-ups, and sit-ups will help you maintain and improve your fitness. If, however, you want a serious program that is guaranteed to make the sweat melt out of your forehead, then use the below workout. I have performed it tens of times and it never disappoints.
Please Google any exercises you are unfamiliar with.
All exercise should only be performed after approval to perform such exercise has been granted by a competent medical professional licensed to provide such advice.
When traveling I highly recommend staying fit. It’s too easy to enjoy soft couches, breezy hammocks, and endless food and gelato choices. A good workout that breaks a sweat need not last longer than 20-30 minutes. Invite your travel companions or hostelmates. You may make a friend while staying fit. Enjoy and break a sweat!