How to Stay in Shape During a Long Trip

Working out while traveling (photo credit: Dustin Snipes)

Staying in shape during a long trip is a real challenge. Heck, I know something about it. I spent most of the past two years backpacking in an exotic country. So, how can you train properly when you are on the move every three days? What kind of equipment should you bring in order to train as effectively in a crappy B&B as in a five-star hotel? And maybe the most difficult question of all: how can you stay motivated when you are on the other side of the world?

After many tries (and a whole lot of fails), I put together a simple guide that answers all these questions.

What is your goal?

First of all, let’s be totally clear. If you work out all year round, doing nothing for your two-week vacation in Mexico is probably a terrific idea. Your body will thank you, and you will be refreshed when you get back home.

However, if you plan to travel for more than three weeks and take up ambitious physical challenges you have set up for yourself, you will have to find a solution. Want a concrete example? If you dream about performing a human flag before the end of the year, a long break on the beach might cost you a lot.

Bring the RIGHT equipment

Now that you are sure that this post is for you, here are three things you MUST put in your bag before leaving.

1. Foldable gym mat

Foldable gym matThe foldable mat is THE most important piece of your gear. Light and compact, it allows you to do almost any type of floor exercise without fearing a cold, dirty or stone-hard ground. Plus, it gives you a welcoming area for the (must-do) stretching exercises at the end of your workout.A gym mat is a way to always have stable, familiar basic equipment. Honestly, when I didn’t have a mat, I always told myself, “Of course there will be a sheet, bedspread or towel I can use to do my exercises.” Well it’s not that simple. If you travel on a budget, you will probably stay in cheap hostels where 90% of the time they will just give you some sheets for your mattress. If you are lucky, your hosts will also provide a towel that will likely be too thin to effectively cushion the exposed parts of your body (backbone, knees, etc.).

Whatever the case, it’s easier to motivate yourself for a workout session knowing that you have a well-fitted mat and not an uncomfortable pile of old rags. In short, it’s light, super-effective and really, really cheap.

2. Foldable Pushup Bars

Foldable Pushup BarsDoing bodyweight exercises on the floor is okay, but quite limiting if you have reached an advanced level. Let’s take the example of good old push-ups. You can vary the position of your arms as much as you want, but the limited range of movement will improve muscular endurance more than muscular strength. Pushup bars are the ideal solution to significantly increase the difficulty of your exercises. Buy the foldable ones, and they will fit perfectly above your mat at the bottom of your travelling bag. A must-have.

3. Fitness Gloves

Fitness GlovesThe gloves allow you to take advantage of an unfamiliar-so -may-be-dangerous environment. If you miraculously find yourself in a hostel where there are beams you can use to do pull-ups (trust me, it’s extremely uncommon), it is far safer to use gloves to prevent your hands from unexpected injuries. Ok, I can hear you, clever, resourceful Reader, retort that you can find a solution anyway, say, with a rag. In real life, after a long day visiting museums and what not, it is easy to find excuses to skip the training. With fitness gloves in your bag, you won’t have any excuse!

Bonus: durable and strong travel bag

Perfect! You should own one already! As a general rule, going on a long trip with a lousy bag is a bad idea. Remember that you will be able to use your bag as a weight lifting alternative. You just have to tune its weight with your stuff or with things you find in your location (water bottles, rocks, etc.).

Training with the whole deal

Training with the whole deal

Tips to go the extra mile

Choose the right time slot

I am going to bring the motivation issue up again. It is really hard to be in a workout mood when the first reason for your travel is leisure. If you improvise your training sessions, they will likely be infrequent. Here is a typical situation: you can’t find the strength to do it in the morning so you think, “Tonight after the tour, I will definitely do it.” The problem is, after long hours of sightseeing, you and your travelling mates will want to try the famous locally brewed beers sold right next to the hostel. And boom, say good bye to the day-end workout!

Once again, the objective is not to ruin your vacation with sport but to find the right way to stay fit and still be on track with your ambitious physical goals. I advise you to choose only one moment in the day to train and then respect it during the trip. If you decide that an intensive 25-minute fitness session will be done after waking up, then strive to do it during the first days. Sticking to it will get easier. This way you won’t find yourself “trying” to work out every day.

Work out session: keep it short and effective

During your trip, your time will be your most precious resource, so save it as much as you can! You ought to do high intensity internal training (see the famous Crossfit workouts).

Jason Statham's Take On Exercise

Can you feel the rhythm?

You bring your music when you travel, right? Excellent. The simple fact of being on your own mat listening to your own tunes will recreate a familiar environment that will be dynamic and highly motivating.

Are you an electro music fan, by the way? Then you must listen to Walshy Fire’s and Mr Evens‘ mixtapes!

There is strength in union

I will conclude this how-to guide with the best type of motivation: training with other people. If one of your travel mates also wants to stay in shape, the best thing for you both is to organize intensive shared training on a regular basis!

Still want to stay fit during your long trip? It’s up to you now! Bon voyage and courage!

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