Keeping on top of workouts when traveling is harder than an advanced calculus class. Whether it’s a vacation, a business trip or long term travel, we all struggle to exercise effectively away from home.
How many times have you gone on vacation and thought ‘man, I need to exercise otherwise I’ll be a mess after this trip!’?
Or are you a regular business traveler, living constantly out of hotel rooms? It’s hard to get into a routine, right?
Imagine traveling the world for a year or longer…
There are some serious health issues at stake over long periods without exercise and balanced diets. Aesthetically, body composition changes but it’s more important to consider the magnitude of internal impacts.
We know from experience just how crucial it is to have an exercise routine throughout long term travel.
So, we’ve put together our 5 favorite ways to get that all important workout nailed when away from home!
Why Is It Important To Improvise Workouts When Traveling?
Exercise is critical to the human body functioning effectively. Whether that’s a slow walk or a 30 minute beastly HIIT session, we all need exercise to lead long and healthy lives.
Every one of us has personal exercise goals. On vacation or long term travel, it is important to maintain the level of exercise that works for you.
You don’t have to run a marathon and enter the world’s strongest man competition. It is about maintaining rather than building or improving. Realistically, your goal should be avoiding muscle dystrophy and packing on the pounds through poor diet.
For those taking short term vacations of just a few weeks, working out will apply primarily to those who usually implement a thorough exercise regime. We suspect you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise!
Do you run 5 times a week or hit the gym most mornings? Vacations are awesome but you will lose momentum and the set back will take a few weeks to counteract. The remedy is to motivate yourself to try a few of these types of workout while on the vacation!
Long term travel is a different matter altogether. It becomes less of a maybe and more of a necessity. Here’s what happens to the body with no exercise over long periods:
- Muscle Degradation
- Weakened Bones
- Anxiety / Stress
- Depression / Agitation
- Slower Metabolism
- Trouble Sleeping
- Lose of Stamina and Flexibility
We don’t intend to scaremonger as these effect only happen over longer periods with no exercise. But be under no illusions, they all come eventually!
We won’t get into complex health complications that can occur as a result but you get the picture. Exercise is vitally important for long term travelers.
Improvising workout routines at home has never been more important. COVID-19 has forced many of us to consider how we adapt our usual workout routines to a locked down society. All of these workout types are perfectly suited to trying new exercise methods at home.
Do I Need Any Equipment To Exercise On Vacation Or Travel?
Absolutely not! The key is to improvise. Be creative and adapt to your surroundings.
For instance, one of our favorite ways to improvise workouts when traveling is to use our full backpacks for weight. We lunge, squat, push, pull and lift our backpacks for a full body workout. You’d be amazed at the muscle groups you can target!
While a nice set of 15, 20 and 35 lbs dumbbells would be ideal, you might have a few issues with airlines and mobility!
Alternatively, use chairs and beds in hotel rooms for incline / decline. Use kitchen work surfaces at 90 degree angles for improvised dips. There is always a way, you just have to find the motivation.
For shorter vacations or business travelers, just try to fit in a few days a week to keep you ticking over. Longer term travelers have to find consistency along with that all important keyword – routine.
Cardio is a very general term for exercise and can be defined in different ways but all of the exercise types listed here are ultimately a variation of cardiovascular exercise. They all involve body weight exercises but use whatever you can to add weight where appropriate.
You should aim to raise your heart rate and breathing rate while challenging your cardiovascular system. Simply put, a walk to the office bathroom is not classed as cardio, but shoveling deep snow off your drive is because it will make you to work harder.
The following workout styles are perfect for hotel rooms, beaches, parks or anywhere else you can find open spaces.
Here are 5 different ways you can get stuck into exercise on vacation, business or throughout long term travel.
Traveling Workouts 1 – Old School Steady State Cardio
Okay – without getting technical – when you think of the word cardio what comes to mind?
Probably jogging, cycling and swimming, right? That’s because they are the classic steady state aerobic exercises associated with what we all know as cardio.
Cardio is much more than a slow jog and we will get into those shortly.
However, it is hard to beat a good old fashioned run isn’t it? There is no thought process required into how to make an effective workout using a backpack or concern about over/underworking a specific muscle group.
You simply stick on a decent pair of running shoes, turn on your favorite music and move your legs.
Running is one of the easiest ways to workout on vacation, a business trip or traveling long term. Fire up google maps and plot a route through urban or rural environments. In Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe, we would just run up and down gorgeous beaches every morning!
Even if you just get out for 3 early morning runs a week, you will feel immeasurably better for the effort. We all know exercise releases endorphins which aid with wellbeing and positivity.
The key is to push yourself with running. Break out of your comfort zone where possible. There are ways to change up the goals with running by occasionally adapting to Fartlek (sprint, walk, jog – repeat) or intervals.
Limitations include climate and safety. Don’t go out running in a dangerous place! If it’s too hot or cold wherever you are visiting, consider that running outside might not be your best option.
Traveling Workouts 2 – Tabata Fun HIIT
Take your exercise plan up a level with an awesome HIIT Tabata workout. We love this style of working out as it impacts both the cardiovascular and muscular systems (aerobic and anaerobic), it’s fun and keeps your mind occupied.
You know sometimes when a long run can get a bit boring? Not with Tabata!
The best thing is that you can create your own versions of this type of exercise and you can do them in your hotel room, in a local park or at the beach!
Each exercise typically lasts 4 minutes and here’s one example of how Tabata can be set up:
- 20 seconds of high intensity working out / 10 seconds rest / Repeat 8 times / 1 Minute break between exercises
You could do push ups, sumo squats, burpees, mountain climbers on Monday and choose 4 different exercises Wednesday. Pick another 4 Friday and mix in another exercise style over the weekend.
Using the example above would involve:
- 20 seconds push ups, 10 seconds break, 20 seconds push ups, 10 seconds break (6 more times to make 8) – 1 set complete. Take a 1 minute break and move onto sumo squats.
Alternatively, you can modify the process to suit your workout goals. For example, 2 exercises per set and include a challenge for the 1 minute break. Something like this:
- 20 seconds burpees, 10 second break, 20 seconds burpees, 10 seconds break, 20 seconds side plank left, 10 seconds break, 20 seconds side plank right, 10 seconds break – first set done.
It’s entirely open to interpretation, full body workout or focus on a specific target area such as core, glutes or upper body.
Tabata is perfect for hotel rooms when traveling and the limit is your own creativity!
Traveling Workouts 3 – Circuits Beast HIIT
Circuit training is a staple exercise style for many and there’s no wonder. A shorter workout with better results? Who doesn’t want that?!
Circuits usually consists of a number of ‘stations’ whereby you work at maximum output for 1 minute at each station – with no breaks in between – until you complete the set, then take a 1 minute break.
Here’s an example using 4 exercise stations covering upper, lower, compound and explosive movements at maximum effort:
- 1 minute push ups, 1 sumo squat, 1 minute jumping lunges, 1 minute stationary sprint, 1 minute rest – 1 set complete.
By not taking rests in between, you can get a monster workout crushed in under 30 minutes. Including a high intensity explosive sprints for shorter time will help to torch body fat, especially around the mid-section.
The more confident, stronger and fitter you get, the more stations you can add in to your routine!
Sometimes if we can’t be bothered to come up with a Tabata routine, we will just point to an area in the hotel room and say ‘push up station’, then point to another and say ‘squat station’ etc. It’s a simple workout!
You can improvise adding weight to your hotel room circuit by putting your heavy backpack on your back. We do a ton of these and they work!
Traveling Workouts 4 – Online Fitness Program
As the world moves into a digital age and we can do more or less anything from our desk sat in our underwear, it’s no surprise that online workouts are getting bigger and bigger every year.
Throw in a lock down, leaving us with few options but to improvise home workouts. How many of us have been following new workouts online? Almost everyone!
Even before this pandemic, when were road tripping North America, we had gotten right into following workouts online. Sometimes it’s nice to let your brain rest and just follow what a person is doing on the screen!
There are services such as beachbody on demand that offer a multitude of exercise options from yoga to heavy weight lifting and everything in between. Subscriptions to these services are much cheaper than paying for gym memberships. You can pick up beach body on demand for US$ 99 annually. How much do you pay for your gym?
Ever heard of insanity or T-20? Stick with these programs, you will look and feel awesome!
In between each time we travel, we do a program like Lift 4 that uses dumbbells to help re-build muscle that we’ve lost on our previous trip.
Youtube has hundreds of awesome workouts that you can watch for free if you don’t want to pay anything at all. Of all the youtube videos out there, all you need to do in find a handful that you really like and work for your training goals. That’s it, you’ve cracked it!
Vacation, business trip or long term travel – you will have a smartphone, iPad and / or laptop. As long as you have a good internet connection you can stream your workouts in the hotel room.
Traveling Workouts 5 – Relaxing Yoga
Last but certainly not least is our favorite way to unwind after a long hike or travel day. Yoga has always been popular but it is on the rise as the entire wellness craze is exploding.
Yoga works wonders for the mind and body. Not only does yoga attack muscle groups that we don’t usually target but it also relieves stress and anxiety.
Don’t think of yoga as just a super flexible woman balancing on one leg on a beach during a sunset. Although that is a lovely image to conjure up, yoga is just as easy to do in the hotel room. Get on Youtube or buy a subscription to any service you like the look of.
When traveling, you will find gyms in cities but they often charge hefty price tags for day passes if these are even offered at all. But one thing you won’t struggle to find is yoga classes. Have a look online at local classes wherever you are visiting. Be careful to check the exact type of yoga class because there are many variations!
We once ended up in a super relaxing yoga class in Bali where we both fell asleep!
There you have our 5 favorite workouts to keep in shape and stay healthy while traveling.
We hope you are inspired to try one or all of them on your next vacation. If you are long term traveling, don’t wait until you get home – start your workouts now!
Happy Work Out,
Mark and Kristen
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Mark and Kristen Morgan are travel, hiking and photography experts. Over the last 6 years traveling full time, they have explored more than 40 countries and 30 US states.
Their work has been featured in USA Today, Gestalten, Get Your Guide, CityPASS and Condé Nast Traveler along with various other publications.