OK. I’m going to tell you a secret. I got lazy. I became so laid-back, I was practically reclining… I loved going wherever I wanted, doing whatever I wanted and eating whatever I wanted. That is the backpacker lifestyle and I settled into it with ease, but this mentality has caused my health and fitness to suffer.
Keeping fit whilst traveling anywhere, either interstate or abroad has been one of the most challenging things I’ve had to try and maintain on this journey. As someone who was at their peak physical fitness before leaving London, I’ve been both disappointed in myself for letting my strength and cardio ability deplete more than I wanted, but I am also incredibly proud of my perseverance to strive to regain this fitness and ensure I make time no matter what country I am in, to try to fit in a few workouts each week, when it’s possible. I set a goal before leaving London to either retain my current fitness level or improve it. Now that I’m back on track it’s time to start improving and setting new goals, that’s for sure!
I think the main problem people experience whilst traveling is finding locations that can accommodate for their fitness needs. We can all make excuses and say that, yes I hiked up mountain so-and-so this week, or I laid in the water at the beach and did a bit of paddling, so obviously that’s enough to keep me going. Right? WRONG. You’d be surprised how quickly your aerobic capabilities and muscle mass decline within the first 2 weeks of you stopping your regular fitness regime and I have definitely felt the changes after 3 months without the consistency of my weekly gym classes.
For a bit of background on myself, fitness has always been an important part of mine and my families life. Not only does it help me to enjoy my adventures climbing those mountains, trekking rocky terrain, and swimming for hours on end, but it makes me happy. The rush of adrenaline and air seeping into my lungs as I pound the pavement in a netball game, or pushing to beat my average rep within a timed set is what keeps me coming back for more. I know others dread working out and it might not be for them, but do realise that even 15-20 minutes a day of light exercise is useful, especially to build up strength when you have to carry a heavy backpack all on your lonesome!
Now, I’m not writing this post as a vain attempt at compliments, nor to receive comments to tell me I don’t need to obsess over fitness. I know my limits, my strengths and my weaknesses. My abs are not as defined as they used to be and I’ve gone a bit soft around the edges. My arms are the hardest area for me to tone, so seeing them grow in size after all the work it took me to achieve a look I was happy with has been hard. This is why this post is here for people to relate to, as well as to provide alternative options from the gym whilst traveling.
Hopefully what I have found useful can help assist you to maintain your goals or get you back on track. Below I’ve written a few tips and tricks on great devices to use whilst backpacking and also as an encouragement to myself to keep going. I can assure you that none of these options will take up lots of room in your pack, are inexpensive and won’t require lots of space to complete your workout. Also, If you have any other exercise regimes you use while traveling, please feel free to share as I always love a change in my own routine to keep my up motivation and work new muscle groups!
Resistance Band Training
(stock photo – not my image)
These bands can come in all shapes, sizes and resistance levels. I specifically chose one with handles, rather than just the flat rubber band style that is often used for stretching. This is so that I could do more strength related workouts. This particular style helps to replicate the use of weights when working out if you place your feet or arms on the band. I love this nifty little workout tool as it is VERY light weight, can easily fit into your pack and can be used indoors or out.
Besides being such a helpful tool, the resistance band is unbelievably cheap and can be sourced from a variety of fitness stores, or for ease just purchase one off Amazon! Even if you aren’t traveling it’s well worth it to invest in one of these little beauties, as its main purpose is to use it if you’re unable to get to the gym, don’t want to be locked into a monthly contract and prefer the privacy of your own home (or hostel/hotel room of course).
(stock photo – not my image)
No joke, literally one of the best apps I have found and actively use. This app has so many options from cardio to yoga, core to stretching. The way this works is you can select which style of exercise you’d like to complete, then set your preferred time frame, ranging from 5 minutes to 1 hour. The app will commence by giving a 5 second intro to the exercise and will then give a 30 second timer where you continuously repeat the exercise shown. I personally love that it gives a warning with 10 seconds remaining on the clock of what the next exercise will be and then counts down from 3 so you’re prepared to stop. No thought on your behalf is necessary if you’re the type of person that doesn’t want to create your own exercise routines.
SWORKIT also have a great separate add-on app dedicated entirely for abs and core strength. I like to use the original app first to do a high intensity cardio or strength session and then add on a different abs or core routine after for 10-20 minutes. The Yoga section of SWORKIT is fantastic for a gentle approach to exercise on days you want to work on stretching, flexibility and core strength. Again the app provides an entire routine within the set time frame you select.
I currently only use the free level of this app, but you are more than welcome to pay to unlock further routines and receive your own personal trainer. For me, my budget is small and I also have my own personal routines I can use, so this is just enough when I feel lazy and don’t want to create my own workout, but definitely makes me work just as hard, if not harder than my own workout routines.
Bed Workouts (No, not that kind!..)
(stock photo – not my image)
I’ve seen a lot of videos floating around, mainly on Facebook, of different routines you can do with minimal space in say, a hotel or hostel room and using only the bed. I’d remind you to please only do this with a single or double bed, not with a bunk bed as I’d hate for you to injure yourself hitting your head, but I can bet the story would be funny to tell if you did!
You can easily look up these routines online, even heading to Youtube for some options, but please note that majority of these include leg focused exercises such as step ups onto the bed, squats, reverse burpees and elevated lunges. The list could go on and on, so if you have injuries to your lower body like I do with my knees, then potentially don’t use these routines as often or try to add in some ab and arm related exercises such as hip thrusters with shoulders propped on the bed, or elevated pushups to minimise the focus on your injury.
10 x 10 x 10 Workouts
(stock photo – not my image)
These routines are great for repetition to build strength as well as toning your body, depending on the exercises you choose. You can keep it as basic as you like, such as squats, lunges, pushups, sit ups etc. The main goal is obviously to do 10 different exercises, with 10 reps in 10 sets. By the end you will have done 100 reps of each individual exercise and hopefully feel thoroughly worked out. This style of workout I find helps to provide consistency and although the exercises can be basic, please ensure you are doing the exercise correctly for the best result and to minimise injury. You can find pre-made 10 x 10 x 10 routines online by googling it and selecting the ones you like best, or think up your own using some of your favourite exercises. I like using the pre-made ones cause like I said, I’ve gotten lazy and I need the motivation!
Running(stock photo – not my image)
This one definitely isn’t for me as I am not a runner. I hate running as I get easily bored, but I like to incorporate it into warm-ups, or doing short distance sprints and would happily do aerobic style exercise at the gym such as Body Attack. I just can’t jump on a treadmill, or run laps for hours on end. Others however love the release and time on their own to think, so why not map out a route in the city that you’re in, put on your trainers and get going. I have a few travel buddies that have set goals, such as running a few kms each day. One friend also likes to include crossing at least one well known bridge within the international city they are in. This is a fun way to make exercise interesting and continue to maintain your fitness levels if static workouts aren’t your thing. It’s also nice to say you’ve run across a famous monument and I’ve been told it’s a great way to get your bearings in a new city.
I hope this has been insightful and given you some great new options to test yourself whilst traveling abroad, or even at home if you’re just not a gym or sports fan! For me, I personally love exercise and it has been great to have some consistency back in my days, and ensuring I take personal time out for myself.
I will say that I do have to try to remember not to berate myself too much if I go a few days without doing some form of a workout and that goes the same for my readers. We should of course be ENJOYING ourselves when out seeing the world, although I’ve been enjoying myself a lot lately! I know that sometimes I just have to ‘treat yo self’ because if an asteroid comes shooting out of the sky to blast us all away, or if I were to get hit by a bus crossing the road, I know I’ll be happy for having that ice-cream cone.
♥ Love from Leah