Keeping fit on the road: How to travel and stay healthy

Keeping fit on the road: How to travel and stay healthy

staying fit on the road

It’s all too easy to give up on exercise while traveling.

“But wait! I move all the time, walking around, hauling packs, adventuring..”

Sure, you move. But that’s not enough to keep up the healthy (physical) lifestyle that long-term travel can obliterate with it’s wanton dietary and time-schedule demands.

Because of this, I’ve compiled a list of 5 ways that you can stay fit on the road, with nothing but your pack, your legs, and a sprinkle of creativity.

1. Body-weight workouts

Everyone knows about push and pull ups. Even those with access to a gym consider them a necessity for any successful fitness routine.

Stay fit while traveling

However, they’re not enough as far as body-weight exercises go, because they don’t involve the legs. To engage the whole squadron with the extra weight of all those banana pancakes you’ve been scarfing, think about adding a few of the following workouts.

  1. Wall sits – Can be done against any wall. Keep your back straight and shoulders back as your legs assume a posturing of 90 degrees, with shoulder width as the ideal place for your feet. Keep your hands, shoulders, and neck relaxed and maintain a neutral spine. Three sets at one minute each. Add weight to your lap when the workout gets too easy.

Stay fit on the road

2. Wall squats – line up straight with your body against the wall (in the opposite position from the wall-sits mentioned earlier). Keep you knees and arms up against the wall as you squat down to 90 degrees. This is much harder than it would seem and kicks the hell out of standing body-weight squats. Do as many reps as you can without sacrificing form.

Stay fit on the road3. Pistol squats – An advanced movement for those without knee problems. Put your arms out in front of you with your shoulders relaxed and squat all the way down with one leg (going past 90 degrees while still balancing on the mid-foot). Maintain balance as you use the momentum from muscle contraction to spring yourself back up to a standing position. Switch legs once form declines. Add weight in your hands when this is no longer a challenge.

Stay fit on the road
Pistol squats

4. Dips – a set of twin beds works fine for this. Put your legs on one bed, knees straight, toes pointed towards the ceiling, and put your hands (palms down) on the other one. Feel your triceps flex as you lower on you arms to ninety degrees and come back up. The higher you get the legs the harder it will be. Don’t bounce on your way up or lock your arms at the top, as elbow problems can arise with repetition.

2. Pack routines

If you’re traveling long-term you probably have a backpack that isn’t light. Though you’ll likely want to put it down after a hard day, here I entreat you to pick it up and get ready to work on the beach-muscles.

Do your best to equalize weight on both sides of the pack, and remove anything that would make this hard to do.

  1. Curls – Grab a ski poll or broomstick and hang the backpack from it’s top loop across the middle. You should now have equal amounts of stick on either side of the pack. Arrange your hands at the desired angle and perform a bicep curl from lock-off position. The challenge here comes from keeping the stick level (stabilizer muscles) while maintaining form as the pack goes up and down.

Stay fit on the road2. Lateral raises – For the shoulders. Light weight here is best, maybe even just the pack. Take your bag in one arm and, keeping that arm straight, raise it up to the level of your collarbone either in front or to the side, making sure to control the weight as it moves up and down with your arm. Make sure not to internally rotate the arm as you come up.

stay healthy while traveling

3. Skull-crushers – For the triceps. Loop your stick through the pack in the same way, this time holding it over your head. Flex your arms back at the elbow while keeping the upper arm in place and bending to 90 degrees. Triceps kickbacks work with a lighter pack if you want to mix it up.

4. Front squats – Hold your pack against your chest, cradled in your arms as if they were at the upper reaches of a curl. The pack balances on your biceps as you squat down to 90 degrees. Make sure not to let your knees cave inwards or travel out past your toes. Flex your back and abs as you keep your chest out on the way down. Your bottom half moves, not your top.

Stay healthy while traveling

3. Cardio

Hiking around with your bag is not enough to whip you into cardio shape. Jogging and running are great ways to see a new place in a different way – you’ll cover lots of ground and stay healthy doing it. However, jogging and running aren’t the only ways to get your heart pumping on the road.

  1. Jogging – If you’re not already a jogger, start on flat ground and avoid concrete. Make sure your shoes are sufficient, start slow, and don’t up your mileage by more than 15 % per week. Once you’ve done that, get out there in the big city or idyllic village you’re in and pound some pavement (just kidding, pound something that won’t cause shin splints). If you’re near a beach, sand is great for your joints. If there’re trails, the variation in terrain will add spice to your run.

人, 运行, 路, 景观, 草, 荷兰, 磨机, 树, 桥, 圩田
CAVEAT: Running in polluted places like big cities with low environmental standards will do more harm than good. If you’re in Northern Thailand during the burning season, for example, stick to burpees in your room.

2. Stair sprints: Those familiar with High Intensity Interval training (HIT) know how effective it is. Shoot up four or five flights as quickly as possible and then head back down slowly. If you burn out and start to jog than you’re heading up too many floors– cut back the volume, but not the intensity. Between 6 and 10 sets is best, and you’ll train harder for explosive cardio-power in the time it takes to stroll to the grocery store.

Stay fit on the road

3. Hiking and biking – This is the fun stuff. Hiking with a pack on hilly terrain is going to pay off big if you do it enough. If you’re at a hilly destination, or generally travel to mountainous regions, get out once or twice a week. If you want to shirk those pesky public transportation fees, invest in a bicycle and bring it around with you (not always feasible, but many cities also have bike sharing programs).

骑自行车, 把手, 伍兹, 自行车, 演习, 森林, 活动, 运动, 自然, 骑

4. Diet and ABS

We  want to eat like pack-horses when traveling because VACATION. It’s OK to do this once in a while, especially after an hour pack-workout. However, you’ve got watch it  try not to make a routine of eating like a barbarian.

Watch for oily foods and empty calories, as well as things that are just too sweet – those are the things that’ll make you feel sluggish and sap your workout motivation. Pizza, pasta, sandwiches, pad thai, on the other hand? Don’t kid yourself and say you won’t eat them – I know you will.

泰国的填充, 饿, 面条, 美味, 大虾, 曼谷, 泰国, 海鲜, 城市, 亚洲

Just supplement with fibrous leafy-vegetables (kale and spinach) and switch your deserts to local fruits. It’s not about denying yourself when it comes to food – it’s about not gorging and avoiding the snacky little empty-calories most of us love.

Just remember, your diet is intrinsically linked to your mood and motivation – so eating terribly will have a negative effect on you trip, just the sort of thing most travelers wish to avoid.

On the positive side, exercise will work up the sort of appetite that’ll help you try a little of everything.

Athletes should eat one gram of protein per pound of body-weight everyday to gain and maintain muscle growth.


Hydration is the granddaddy of dietary wellness-cures. Water is the your system’s primary lubrication. Too many people I’ve met tend to hydrate with beer and fruit juice, which doesn’t do the trick. You’re most dehydrated in the morning, so chug a glass as the sun rises. Remember that your system can only absorb 8 oz of water every 15 minutes.

平静, 水, 清除, 喝, 玻璃, 玻璃, 液体, 圆, 倾斜, 通过, 成立

ABS – Though I didn’t mention the abdominal muscles above, I’d entreat you to work them out often. Abs are built for resilience, so you can hit them 2 or 3 days a week to start and up to 5 days a week after you’ve built a strength-base. There are thousands of ab routines out there to choose from. Very few utilize any equipment besides a pull up bar. Remember folks; Dad bods will never be ‘in’.

stay fit on the road

5. Sleeping and partying – Keeping up morale

Riff-raff time-zone switching and normal sleep patterns don’t get along well. As soon as you switch times zones you should seek morning light and get your body adjusted to the schedule of the place.

Nap, but don’t exceed 45 minutes, as this will interrupt your night-time sleep and delay the acclimatization process. Conventional sleep wisdom says takes 1 day per every hour of time-zone change to fully adjust. However, I’ve found that sleeping strategically on the plane and napping at proper times allows you to adjust faster.

媚眼, 睡眠, 暂停, 沉睡中, 工人, 工作, 午休, 国家行动方案, 累了

Movement and seeking light at new destinations is just as important – you may miss a full night of sleep, but if you can crash at dark and sleep for 12 hours you’ll be adjusted (mentally, at least) within 2 or 3 days.

Speaking of sleep: it’s dreadfully important. Your body rebuilds itself and releases growth hormones during your REM cycles. Travelers, on the whole (at least those who aren’t in hostels every night) have the luxury of choosing their own sleep schedules. Use that to your advantage, and do your best to stay consistent.


As an adage goes, you can’t put a price on morale, and you’re probably going to party. Some of us, even those with the strictest routines, are going to party hard.

Now, I must advocate for drinking alcohol no more than twice per week and totally avoiding belligerent drunkenness. If you simply must go all-out in quest for a stomach pump, don’t do it more than twice a month.

Otherwise, wine and a few beers here and there should do. Hydration is key when drinking; I’ve avoided hangovers from 15+ drinks by being utterly fiendish about my water consumption, both during and after parties.

欢呼, 饮料, 喝的酒, 根啤酒, 美好的时光, 庆祝, 祝贺, 认识到, 喝

You don’t need to compromise between your overall fitness and traveling, especially long-term travel where you can stay in a single destination for longer than 3 days. Whether you’re in it for general well-being or a devoted athlete, there’s no reason traveling should impact your health negatively.


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