10 Tips to Stay Travel Fit
You are fit, strong, heathy and now you are off to travel the world!
You are worried that you will put on fat, lose muscle, gain weight, lose your fitness and become unhealthy.
Does this sound like you? First of all, don’t worry so much.
If you are already at the stage where you regularly exercise, workout and eat healthy, then this trained habit will not just stop overnight. However, you will have to change or adapt these habits to suit your new environment(s).
If like me, you love the thought of trying new foods from around the globe and deep down you are a true foodie at heart, then your diet will inevitably change when you start travelling. We all want to have our cake and eat it and this only gets worse when you travel. Just remember not to have too much cake!
Let’s face it, who wants to travel several thousand miles around the world and skip that special local dish or that weird looking desert just because it’s not paleo or because it’s doesn’t fit with your no carb diet. I certainly don’t!
On the other hand, don’t just throw away all your hard work and dedication so that you can eat an over zealous pudding every evening or drink to excess five times a week. It’s all about finding a balance.
First of all, let’s talk about the word ‘fit‘. Generally speaking, when people talk about ‘fitness’ or being ‘fit’ they are talking very broadly. Fitness can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Looking and being fit are often completely different things.
For the purpose of this article and what I believe the average person means when they say this term, let’s just go with fit equating to somebody with a relatively low body fat (around 10%), of reasonable cardiovascular endurance, body strength and functionality in terms of range of movement and flexibility. Let’s keep it simple for now.
Even if you didn’t exercise or train before you started travelling, my tips are still applicable to those wanting to begin their journey of being active and healthy. There’s nothing stopping you from starting today! So get off your but and do it!
Anyway, here are my 10 tips to to stay travel fit!*.
1. Don’t stop exercising
This one might seem simple and obvious but it’s surprising how easy it is to just stop exercising, working out or staying active all together.
There’s so much else to do. Sight seeing, meeting people, using transport, sleeping, eating, partying… the list goes on and on.
Try to find that hour or so every other day to squeeze in a workout, a run, yoga or whatever form of exercise you enjoy. The key is to maintain the habit and your mindset. If this is all new to you then it’s about forming new habits and embedding exercise into your lifestyle.
You could try some useful cues to embed the desire to be active, such as leaving your training clothes out on display before you go to bed or having an array of pictures and quotes to inspire you. Set yourself some small goals that may lead to a bigger overall challenge and tell people about it. Subconsciously you will already be heading towards that goal as soon as you do little things like this.
2. Use local gyms, beaches, parks and hotel rooms
Local gyms are cheap, handy and a great way to get up close and personal with locals.
They can enhance your travel experience as making friends in a gym often leads to a greater insight into the area, a unique piece of advice or an interesting thing to do. Just make sure the gym is relatively safe and clean first.
I’ve had two very interesting experiences using local gyms myself. One involved a barbell to the face, which resulted in a speedy, motorbike ride on the back of Cambodia’s version to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s motorbike. The other resulted in a short interview and photographs by a well known Asian magazine in Malaysia, both great stories to tell for different reasons. One was a lot less painful than the other though!
You are not going to find a local gym everywhere you go and you may not even be the sort of person that wants to use one. That’s fine. Your new gym, studio or whatever you call it, is the environment close by and suitable. The key is to utilise your surroundings.
Beaches are great to run on, parks have ample space to do anything and hotel rooms are perfect for short high intensity interval sessions.
You’ll even find equipment to use at many of the parks. Lumpini park in Bangkok is a prime example of this. There’s free, generic fitness equipment to use and even a muscle beach style outside gym for anyone that wants to do some body building.
3. Buy some basic equipment and get inventive
Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to pack a set of dumbbells in your back pack, unless you stupidly want to.
I’m talking about making a small investment into a speed rope, resistance bands, Olympic Rings, press up bars or anything else that’s light, compact and easy to carry.
If I had to choose just one thing, I’d pack a skipping rope. They can be used alongside many different exercises and they are super light, flexible and compact. There’s a reason why boxers still use this tried and testing method of exercise.
You don’t even need to take a single piece of equipment away with you when you travel. There’s plenty around you to use. Just use your imagination and think outside the box!
You can use bars, trees and ledges to do various exercises, like pull ups and chin ups. You can use chairs and table side drawers to do dips on. You can do elevated press ups using your bed and so on.
One of the simplest and most effective pieces of equipment in your armoury (apart from your own body) is your heavy-ass backpack! If you are travelling for a prolonged period then it should weigh anything from 15kg to 20kg and if you’ve got a small backpack, well that’s even more equipment you can use.
You can add and take away weight from your bag so easily. Add filled water bottles or books to increase the weight or just take a few things out to decrease it. The exercises you can do with your backpacks are endless. Just try to distribute the weight evenly and make sure there’s nothing in your bag that can break easily or leak.
Some of my favourite exercises are back squats, thrusters, military press, push press, single arm bicep curls, double handed bicep curl, chest press and tricep press.
4. Eat high carbohydrate meals after you exercise and high fat / protein other times
Try to eat your meal with highest carbohydrate intake after you exercise. Eat high fat, high protein, and low carbohydrate meals during all other times. It’s simple really.
I won’t go into the science behind this tip but after you workout, your body needs to refuel. Eating carbohydrates straight after you exercise means that they will be utilised for replenishment and not contribute to excess calories. Point 8 elaborates on this technique.
Chances are that you will be eating a lot more carbohydrates than you did when you were back home, but to combat that, you should be living a more active life as a traveller. See point 10.
5. Do Some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
There’s enough science and evidence out there to prove that HIIT is a highly effective method when it comes to losing fat. The workouts are short, intense and help to speed your metabolism up.
HIIT is a form of training that aims to raise the heart rate very high through strenuous exercise. You often work as hard as you can for a time frame of 15 to 60 seconds and then you rest for the same amount of time.
The exercises are normally body weight based and relatively simple. For example, press ups, squats, sit ups, lunges, mountain climbers, etc. Movements can become more advanced or weight can be added in order to make the sessions harder and stimulate further increases in strength and fat loss. In any form of training it is key to increase the stimulus or your progression will plateau.
CrossFit is a very popular strength and conditioning method of training and uses HIIT workouts to improve metabolic conditioning. It’s a great way of training if it’s done correctly (like anything) and if you enjoy this style of training then why stop. If you are looking to start CrossFit or you fancy some workout ideas then pop along to www.crossfitchewvalley.com which is based in my hometown of Bristol and ran by a great team! I should know, it’s where my journey with exercise started.
If you’re not already doing HIIT, then add 3 or 4 sessions to your week. There are plenty of videos on YouTube and articles on google that outline workouts you can do. One of my personal favourites are the videos by The Body Coach. He also gives you great tips on what you should be eating before, after and on non-training days.
6. Intermittent Fasting
In recent years the research and evidence proving that Intermittent Fasting is an effective method for fast loss and various health improvements has grown.
“Fasting” basically means not eating or drinking anything apart from water for a certain duration. There are a number of methods where fasting and eating times vary so do your research online before you start a particular method.
In the space of 24 hours some people may fast for 16 hours (8pm to 12am) and eat all their meals in the remaining 8 hours (12am to 8pm). This is often referred to as 16/8 fasting. Other methods reduce the eating time frame to just 6 or even 4 hours. Another popular method is to have one 24 hour fast per week but this requires strong will power.
Probably the most popular reference to intermittent fasting in the media today is the 5:2 diet. It requires you to have two fasted days a week where you eat no more than 500 calories and then five days eating a normal calorie intake. I’m not a massive fan of this method as some people end up gorging on their non-restricted calorie intake day but if it works for you then go for it.
As mentioned before, I’m not going to drill down into the science behind intermittent fasting but if you are interested, a quick google search should educate you and www.leangains.com is a great resource.
Training fasted is also a great way to create a calorie deficit and to speed up that metabolism which is what we’re aiming for if we want to achieve fat loss. So set that alarm nice and early and smash your next HIIT session in a fasted state and then refuel with a high carb breakfast straight after.
7. Limit Alcohol and Junk Food
While travelling it can be very tempting and easy to fall into the trap of drinking alcohol and eating junk food every day.
There are lots of new people to meet and bars are great hangouts to make some new friends. Socialising and alcohol seem to go hand in hand and if you are a solo traveller, you’ll most likely find yourself having a few drinks every evening.
Fast food is easy to grab if you have a long days travelling ahead of you or if you just need a quick western fix. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing either of these things but if you’re wondering why you’ve put on some extra fat then it’s probably because of the extra calories from these two sources.
Try to limit your intake of alcohol and junk food to one day, weekends perhaps or opt for a low calorie alcoholic drink like vodka and diet coke instead of beer as the calorie difference is huge. Apart from the excess calories alcohol is going to contribute, it is also going to stunt fat loss, reduce your chance of building muscle and reduce your will power with regards to junk food.
When it comes to junk food, there’s plenty of fresh street food vendors to choose from so you really don’t need to eat junk and you should really be trying the local cuisine rather than hunting out the nearest McDonalds, KFC or Subway.
If, like me, you have a serious sugar tooth then try to reduce your intake to one or two days a week, say weekends or just have small fixes every so often. Don’t get in the habit of having a desert every time you eat as you’re bodies sugar cravings will just grow. You could even give up sugar altogether… or maybe not.
8. Carb Cycle
Carbohydrate cycling is a great method to improve fat loss. Plan your week with a cycle of low, medium and high carbohydrate intake days.
Obviously have your highest intake of calories when your more active and your lowest when your not.
This again, is a proven method for fat loss and helps to speed up your metabolism. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that eating less will equate to less body fat. Yes, you may lose weight by eating less but you won’t necessarily lose body fat. These two factors are very different.
To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit and to lose body fat you need to speed up your metabolism and sometimes create a calorie deficit depending on where your starting point is and what your goal is.
If you want to learn more about fat loss then I recommend visiting www.benlowrey.com. Ben is a enthusiastic, knowledgable and results driven personal trainer among many other things. He specialises in fat loss and is own personal journey is one to draw your own inspiration from. I managed to catch up with Ben during an informal interview and he shared some great information on this topic.
Please check out the video below and feel free to comment as interviews may be something I do more of in the future.
9. Learn Body Weight Exercises (Calisthenics)
Calisthenics has grown ten fold in terms of popularity in recent years. You only have to look at the amount of followers some of its advocates get on social media to see this.
So what is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics is basically body weight exercises. The difficulty of the exercises span from a simple press up to an impressive planche. For example a beginner may perform an air squat, an intermediate a jumping squat and an expert a pistol squat. Again, increased stimulus through exercise progression is key here.
Many of the exercises make use of bars so you will see a lot of pull ups, chin ups, muscle ups, dips and other similar movements incorporated into a workout. The exercises can become very advanced and movements by the elite are put on show at events like bar masters.
I’m not expecting you to be an expert so start of easy with exercises such as air squats, sit ups, jumping pull / chin ups to lay the foundation and start building strength.
A strong advocate of Calisthenics is another Bristol born enthuastic, George Kelly. George began this style of training after having his first child and struggling to find time between work and his new responsibilities.
Adapting to to suit his new time constraints, George began using parallel bars and anything he could do body weight exercises on. Parks were particularly handy when he took his young child to the park and even noticed on Instagram that he’s set up his own rig. George is always happy to help and if you follow him on Instagram at he’ll be sure to answer any of your questions. Check him out here www.instagram.com/next_generation_calisthenics/
10. Travel Actively
Last and not least, travelling actively is a great way to stay fit and in shape while travelling or backpacking.
Get yourself out there and active. Walk places instead of taking transport, challenge yourself with treks and climbs, mountain bike to attractions or enter a local challenge such as a marathon or sporting event. The possibilities are truly endless.
So that’s it, my 10 tips to stay travel fit!
There really is no reason why travelling should stop you from exercising so don’t make excuses and get out there!
I hope you enjoyed the article and please feel free to share any comments or experiences you may have.
*Please note that this article is for the average person who is relatively fit and active. Unfortunately it doesn’t consider elite athletes, body builders or any other specialised discipline.