How to Stay in Shape While Traveling

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Whether you’re already in a solid fitness/workout routine, or you like the idea of getting in shape while traveling, this page is for you.

One of the best things about traveling is that it breaks you out of your daily routines and forces you to have new experiences. A lot of the time, this is a good thing, as many of these routines that we find ourselves in are old, stale and possibly not very good for us.

Unfortunately, if you’re in the habit of exercising/working out regularly, going traveling will probably also mess this routine up (which is a bad thing), as you won’t have access to your local gym (and all the machines/weights inside) or whatever it was that you used during your workouts.

Fortunately, it is still possible to stay in shape while traveling, but you’ll have to adapt your regular exercise routines to your new environment.

The Problems of Staying in Shape While Traveling (and How to Solve Them)

So how can you adapt your exercise routine so that you can do it anywhere in the world?

It all depends on what your workout involves, but most people’s exercise routine combines one (or more) of a few basic things (i.e. cardio, lifting weights, etc.).

Here are some of the most common problems that people run into when trying to stay in shape whilst traveling (and how they can be solved):


Let’s say you like to use a treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical trainer during your workout. What do you do if you can’t find these machines to work out on during your travels?

This is a fairly easy thing to combat, as doing cardiovascular activities on the road is pretty easy.

If you think about it, all of these machines (treadmill, elliptical trainer, exercise bike) were all based on based activities (walking, cycling, etc.) that you can easily do whilst sightseeing or exploring a city.

By avoiding bus tours, walking instead of taking local transport and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, you’re already half way there.

Many cities also have places where you can rent out bikes for the day. Cycling through the bridged-streets of Amsterdam or on an off-road trail in Argentina can be exhilarating, not to mention great exercise.

Staying by the beach? Why not go for a run along the beach at sunrise? Or go for an afternoon swim in the sea?

Although I’m an advocate of lightweight backpacking (and packing only what is necessary for your trip), one item that I do recommend bringing (if you’re a fitness freak) is a skipping rope. These are lightweight, take up little room in your bag and skipping is a fantastic cardio exercise.

Running in Paris

Weight Training

Carrying a bunch of weights around in your backpack isn’t feasible for most travelers, meaning lifting weights isn’t an option (unless you can find a gym).

How do you get around this?

Use the weight of your body instead. By doing push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges and crunches (and anything else you can think of) you can work out every part of your body by using your own weight as leverage.

Secondly, carrying a heavy backpack around (most people’s backpacks will weigh ⅓ and ½ their body weight) during your trip will result in a good level of exercise. During my time traveling I can’t even remember how many times I’ve had to carry my heavy backpack up and down a hill to get to the hostel or a train/bus station.

If you usually work out using a kettlebell (and are a disciple of the ‘kettlebell swing’), it’s fairly easy to make your own T-handle (which works the same way as a kettlebell) that you can take apart and fit into your bag and use that instead. For information on this, check out this page regarding how to construct your own T-handle for $10.


Playing Sports

Let’s say you play sports regularly for your local team and it is your primary method of staying in shape. Unless you’re traveling with your whole team, how do you substitute this while traveling?

This can be a little more tricky than the two above (cardio and weight exercises), and you may have to substitute other activities (such as jogging) if there are no opportunities to play sport abroad.

That being said, every country in the world plays a sport of some kind, and although they might not play YOUR sport, there will definitely be plenty of opportunities as long as you’re open minded.

For example, the hostel I was staying at in Los Angeles organised a weekly basketball game at the court opposite.

Also, during a 3-day trek into the foothills of northern Thailand, we (i.e. the people on the tour) played a football (soccer) match against some of the locals in the small village we were visiting.

Locals are often more than happy to teach you their native sport and are grateful to have people to play with. Also, you’ll be amazed at how many sporadic games for football I’ve seen develop from the simple act of one person pulling a ball out of their bag. One minute they’re kicking it around with their friend, and the next minute there’s a 10 vs 10 game going on.

Football As determined as you might be, it’s highly likely that the routines you have at home will change when you go traveling. This is a good thing, so embrace it. The trick to staying in shape during this period is to be creative and open to change.

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