How to stay in shape while traveling?
When you’re in your hometown, either in Paris, London or New York, you always have your little habits. Commute, work, sleep. Tuesday it’s yoga class. Thursday, working out. Saturday let’s go jogging, to get rid of the alcohol I had the night before. Sunday a crossfit session to stay in shape. In fact, we’re so used to our daily/weekly routine that we don’t even think about it. Everything is automatic, yeah that’s it, we’re on autopilot.
But what happens when we decide to start long term traveling? Go from one city to another, travel in different countries? Spend hours in a bus/train/flight? Having a new roof over your head every week? All this is disrupted once you hit the road, there’s no more point of reference, and it’s really hard to stick to a daily routine. We meet new people every day, we taste local food everywhere we go, we go out, we drink… And there’s so many things to think about (itinerary, where to sleep, what to see…)! Stay in shape? Not a priority at all. Actually it’s complicated to stay fit. However it’s possible to stay in shape. With the right state of mind and with good habits, it’s possible to burn calories, and not even realize it! Let’s talk about it now!
Walk to stay in shape
This is something that is within everybody’s reach. For the lazybones who don’t like to go jogging, who don’t like physical efforts, who don’t like doing sports in general, this is something very simple, and impressively effective, walking! In general, when you start traveling, you walk a lot more than in your hometown. We discover a new city, there are areas to explore, a museum to visit, a monument to see, a park not too far to chill…
The famous free walking tours (a walk where a local shows you the city where you are, his/her city!). They’re a good start, because they usually last several hours! You’re not only walking, you also learn about the city you’re visiting! The best restaurant in town is one mile away and you plan to go there? Don’t take the bus (or the subway, or the taxi!), just walk! You’ll exert yourself, and you won’t even realize it! Moreover you’ll discover your new environment. Why travel if you don’t get to see where you are?
Stay active to stay in shape
Walking is a way to stay active, but this is not the only option! The most popular way to stay active is of course to go jogging! Very effective to stay in shape, especially if you go in the morning! Don’t forget to pack running shoes! Those who don’t like to go jogging still have other options. Like riding a bike for example to explore a new area, or just to wander in the city. Another thing for those who don’t like to go jogging, pack a skip rope. Very good for cardio! And it doesn’t take a lot of space in your backpack. Hiking is also effective, you burn a lot of calories, and it’s good for your heart and your body in general.
Running up and down loads of stairs is perfect, your whole body’s gonna work for your well being. Just find a place with LOTS of stairs (monument, your hotel…), and run up and down the stairs as fast as possible. As many times as possible in 20-30 minutes. After this, you’ll be exhausted, but your body will thank you! You can also exercise in your hotel room (or in your dorm, if you have enough space). Push-ups, abs exercises, squats… And of course, systematically climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator or the escalator.
Some fitness centers propose having a free discovery session. Just go. You know perfectly well that you’ll never go back (and the employee at the gym knows that as well…), but at least you’ll have all the equipment needed there, for free. Sometimes, it’s possible to pay just one session at the gym. It’s often the case in Southeast Asia, where you won’t pay more than two euros for a session. You get the point, you need to stay active, move your body! It’s better if you’re active while having fun, not realizing you’re burning calories!
Eat well to stay in shape
Staying active is almost useless to stay in shape if you don’t eat well. I have to admit this one is really hard. Especially for someone like me, who loves to eat. Sometimes we are in areas where people’s eating behavior is completely different from ours, and in places where they eat a completely different way. This can be problematic… We need to start by checking closely what we eat, and cook our own meals if possible (when we’re not hanging out in town with our new “friends” met at the hostel). It’s cheaper than eating outside, and we have a better control over what we eat. You should above all eat meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits…
Avoid pizzas, sodas, candy, fast food, bread (bread is ok, but not too much!). Just like home actually! A lot of backpackers eat mostly rice and pasta on the road. It fills your stomach and it’s cheap. It’s ok, as long as you don’t eat just rice and pasta! The thing is, don’t restrain yourself on the road, don’t content yourself with soups and cauliflowers, but find the right balance.
On the road, sometimes we don’t have choice, and we eat unhealthy food. Anyway you won’t gain 20 pounds because of one bad meal. But if you eat poorly on a regular basis, this bad habit will make you gain weight. You should really avoid two bad meals in a row. Devour a whole pizza if you want to (especially if you’re in Italy!), but pay attention the next days and be active! I don’t think it’s a good idea to start traveling if you don’t enjoy your journey a bit. I mean… If you don’t live it to the fullest!
Avoid heavy drinking to stay in shape
This one can be hard for some of you guys. But you already know, drinking too much can seriously damage your health! And your waistline! Enjoy responsibly! In some countries (and some parts of the globe), you won’t have any choice, there’s no alcohol! But in the touristic areas, known for their good parties… It gets difficult!
You meet new people easily, everybody’s motivated to go out and have some drinks together, there’s that do-gooder who keeps paying drinks to the whole group, alcohol is flowing… End of the party, because of the alcohol, you’re hungry, and we’re ready to eat anything, because you’re hungry, because you want to eat, because you’re hun… Holy shit! A McDonald’s! And it’s open!!! Yep, you understand. You just want to eat, and after partying all night long, fast foods will be the only option, everything else is closed. Alcohol + junk food = disastrous to stay in shape…
All right, all right… I’m not saying you should stop drinking (a drink… or two 🙂 doesn’t hurt). Once again, you need to be careful. Cocktails (mojito, pina colada…) are the most calorific. Avoid them. Same thing for the alcohol mixed with energy drinks, not good at all to stay in shape. Beer is aight, but not good for your belly. Wine, non-mixed hard liquor and light beers are the “best” choices, as long as you drink in moderation. Therefore avoid heavy drinking every night!
The best thing to do is to drink some water between each drink, to avoid hangover the day after. And if you followed my advice, and there’s some music in the bar, stay active and burn those extra calories on the dancefloor! From what I read, you release endorphins doing so. “But I don’t know how to dance…” We all know how to dance… after a few drinks 😀
Track your activity to stay in shape
Nowadays, we have a lot of activity trackers (watches, wristbands…) allowing us to track our activity : number of steps, sleep, weight evolution, blood pressure. You need to see this as something fun, like a game. It’s proven, people who track their activity tend to exert themselves more, very useful to stay in shape. I use the Withings Steel HR. I love it because it doesn’t look like a geek device. Download the app, and let’s go! Think about it, very handy!
Other tips to stay in shape
- Drink a lot of water. You stay hydrated and it’s an appetite suppressant
- Drink tea. Good for your health
- Get some rest. It’s been proven, lack of sleep is fattening. Do not hesitate to take a nap if needed
And don’t forget to enjoy your journey above all! And indulge in food every now and then, YOLO (you only live once), that’s what the kids say! From what I noticed, those who have good habits on the road, are the ones who already adopted good habits in their hometown. So, before a long journey, try to adopt good habits. You’ll be able to say “Stay in shape on the road? Easy peasy!” And please, do not hit the road without a travel insurance!
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