A lot of people might not realize it, but after a few months of traveling one of two things happen. You either become fitter, or you become unfit. This obviously depends on a large number of factors including your perception of yourself. If you’re a triathlete/basketball player/etc. and you quit training when you started traveling – you’re probably going to be/feel less fit. On the other hand a couch potato will definitely lose weight once they get on the move (subject to eating habits, obviously :)).
The challenge, for most of us, though lies in achieving balance. How do we maintain a decent level of fitness while traveling ? It becomes very hard to control your diet while you’re traveling as everything isn’t available everywhere and you can’t carry 20kgs of brown rice with you. (though carrying that might have the added benefit of getting exercise as well as eating better ;))
So how should you do this ? Well, there are three basic guidelines you need to follow for fitness while traveling. (or just general fitness)
- Eat well
- Sleep well
Eating well is probably the most important part of fitness. If you’re the kind of person who eats brown rice, doesn’t take sugar, eats only brown bread – get used to the fact that you probably won’t find these things on the road. Case in point – Through most of our travels in Latin America, brown bread/rice/sugar has been pretty hard to find. The locals here like eating a sweet (read: sugar loaded) white bread.
Well, you’ve got to eat so these things become unavoidable, but the key lies in supplementing your diet. Fruits are ubiquitous almost everywhere (except Cuba). You can definitely grab an apple, a banana, and something else every day. This should keep your vitamins in check and give you a healthy boost every day.
Another good opportunity that might be worth exploring is to cook your own meals. After a few month’s of travel and eating out, your system will surely be exhausted and it’s always a good idea to whip up a salad for yourself now and then – just so that you get all those necessary veggies! A good side effect of this is that you’ll probably end up saving money too! We’ve made it a principle to stay every now and then in places that have equipped kitchens so that we can cook ourselves some delicious grub. Hostels with kitchens are plentiful, so make sure you take a look to see what you’re getting!
Sleeping well is sometimes pretty tough on the go. Unless you’re hopping between 4 and 5 star hotels, you’ll get your share of bad mattresses, bed bugs, ugly smells, rats under your bed, and other interesting stuff that’ll keep you awake. However, given the active nature of full time travel (lot of walking, hiking, mountain climbing, etc.) it’s extremely important that you get some good sleep. Seize the opportunity! If you land up in a place with a comfortable atmosphere and a nice bed, it’s nap time! This will keep your batteries charged and your enthusiasm peaking!
Travel fatigue is another issue that affects people when they’re on the move. If you’re hopping from place to place every day, then this will definitely tire you out – whether you notice that or not. Experts call this ‘travel stress’. It’s a funny term because most people associate traveling with de-stressing or relaxing. It’s important to dial back the travel itinerary for a few days and spend a day at home/in your hostel. Activities day after day will eventually leave you feeling like you’re unable to cope, so it’s definitely a good idea to take a ‘weekend’ from traveling sometimes.
Budget travel does often include a lot of exercise. From lugging your backpack from place to place, to walking miles to catch your next bus, you’ll generally be pretty active. However, exercise generally comes in two broad flavors:
- Cardiovascular Exercise
- Weight training / Anaerobic Exercise
Now, you’ll probably be getting plenty of Cardio with all the walking/hiking/swimming/mountain climbing. However, weight training is definitely an issue. Without access to a proper gym, it’s usually challenging for people to take on weight training.
But.. BUT! There are a few body weight exercises that will help you set some goals and achieve them, all the while increasing your strength and endurance. Here are a few simple exercises that do not need *any* additional equipment except yourself and a floor.
Everyone knows what these are and you can pretty much plonk down and do a few every day. Focus on starting with whatever you’re comfortable with and increasing your numbers/sets over time. This will keep you focused on achieving something and at the same time give you a pretty good endorphin rush!
I’ve worked myself up to about 200 pushups per day (done in sets of 50-75) but I haven’t yet got the discipline to do them that regularly. :(
The plank is an excellent (and often under rated) core strength exercise. You simply place yourself in the position shown in the image and hold it for as long as possible. Again, as with pushups, this exercise is best done with increasing goals/targets over a period of time.
There’s a pretty encouraging twitter hashtag that you can tweet at everyday once you achieve your planking goals ;) Tweet at #plankaday once you’re done with your daily ritual! It’ll keep you going!
This is one of the best full body workouts that you can do with just your body weight. It’s also a pretty good cardio workout since it *will* make your heart rate go up and make you breathless pretty fast! As with the others, start with a minimum and ramp up as you go forward.
You’ll look like this lady in no time!
Yoga is pretty great for muscle strength and flexibility. Again, you only need your body weight most of the time. It’s good to take some Yoga classes and learn some asanas before you start traveling (or even while traveling). Then, you can continue to practice and become stronger. If you have the means, a Yoga instructional video might also be of some use if you can fit it into your routine.
If you’re able to successfully do all the things mentioned above, you should stay quite healthy while you travel. Obviously, there are other important things such as staying warm, not drowning, not falling off a mountain, etc. that might help as well!
If you’ve got any tips to share, do please leave us a comment as I’m sure others would like to know what you’ve got for them!
Stay safe, and stay healthy!