It’s tough to stay in shape while traveling the world. You’re in new environments, different time zones, and lack access to the comforts of home. There is often no kitchen or gym at your instant disposal while abroad. People ask us how we stay in shape when we travel and the truth is we make a conscious effort to live a healthy life.
It’s easy to fall into a bad habit while traveling whether that’s consuming nutritionally poor food or too much alcohol. If there is one tip I can give it’s to consider diet as your first line of defense.
Then you have active holidays that can be more exciting than the leisure kind. Both Cameron and I strive to maintain a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle. So we’ve made a habit of picking up hobbies we can take on the road and partake in active holidays such as snowboard, surf, yoga, or treks.
I love life and hope to enjoy it when I am old and grey, but that means staying healthy now in my twenties. The truth is it can become fairly easy to integrate a good diet and workout habits into your adventures around the world. Here are the strategies and tips we use when we travel to feel vibrant and healthy!
Tips for Health & Travel
Maintain a healthy diet
I believe that having a good diet is the first step towards staying in shape. Doctors say that almost 80% of weight loss relies on diet and 20% on physical activity. However, when you’re traveling it can be really hard to maintain a consistent diet – we know!
If you are staying in hotels chances are you won’t have a kitchen to cook your own food, and if you find yourself in places with amazing cuisines you’re going to want to eat out. The most important thing is to fuel your body with the right foods it needs. You are what you eat! We make it habit to eat nutritious foods whenever possible. Seek out menu items with lots of fruits and vegetables and less meat and carbs.
This is a no-brainer and I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Drink lots of water. There are so many health benefits of consuming plenty of water. Some travel related benefits include better ability to cope with jet-lag and a better immune system. It’s also a good idea to stay away from sugary fruit drinks and sodas when you travel (and at home).
When presented an option always choose water or soda water if you like carbonation. We typically drink out of the taps when we travel and travel with a few water bottles so we don’t waste plastic or money.
When we are in places where the water is questionable we stock up on huge jugs and refill our water from there. My favorite water bottle to have is the Lifestraw Go since it filters out 99% of bacteria.
Use the hotel gym
If there’s a gym where we are staying we make the effort to use it every day. Most chain hotels always have a gym that is open 24 hours and many small boutique hotels are opting for a fitness center now too. We even had a safari lodge with one! When we book Airbnb’s we make note of the apartments with fitness centers or parks nearby and give preference to them in our choice.
Get a Chromecast
I usually need someone telling me what to do to enjoy the full effects of a workout. So, when I travel and there’s a television I pop our Chromecast in and stream workout videos right from YouTube. Good workout videos on YouTube are generally 30-60 minutes and don’t require a lot of space. My go-to channel is POPSUGAR Fitness, but there are plenty out there for whatever kind of workout you are after. If I need some motivation, but don’t have access to a TV I’ll browse Pinterest for good at home workouts and follow those.
One word of warning, some chain hotels use private networks that don’t work with a Chromecast; however, an increasing amount of hotels are installing smart TVs these days.
Have backup exercise workouts
There are a few backup exercise workouts that I can always do when I’m bored, waiting at the airport, or just want some quick activity. These workouts don’t need much room or equipment and only require a few minutes. They’re all based on calisthenics and using your body weight.
A few go-to’s are:
- Running in Place
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain Climbers
- Push Up
I also really like Fitdeck cards for new exercises.
Base your travels around an activity
Active holidays are never boring, get you in shape, and are fun for everyone. We just got back from a huge snowboard trip and never set foot in the gym, however, we were getting active on a mountain every day for five-seven hours. Sometimes hiking along the mountain in thick snow at a high altitude, talk about a workout. Other good active holidays can be based around surfing, yoga, mountaineering, and cycling trips. If you’re getting involved in extreme adventures you need to make sure you have travel insurance and be prepared for the unexpected.
Stay out of the cities
Cities are great for sightseeing, history, dining, and art. That being said, I like to get out of the city when we travel. This not only gives me a chance to experience suburban life, but usually, it involves long walks, day hikes through mountain scenery, and generally more activity. Don’t get me wrong cities are great for constantly walking around, but it’s also easy to become inactive in them too.
Walk around those cities
When you do find yourself in the city skip the taxis, buses, and metros and walk to your destination instead – it’s the best way to explore a new place. If you’re on a holiday just take walk aimlessly for a while until you stumble across something new. We’ve found some of our favorite neighborhoods and spots by getting lost in a new city.
Book places with kitchens
The easiest way to moderate your diet is to prepare your own food. There’s no way to know exactly what ingredients are in your food unless you are the one preparing the meal. When we travel we prefer to stay in Airbnb’s and full apartments solely so we can have our own kitchen. I love going to the local market and purchasing fresh produce to cook later. If you’re in a foreign country it doesn’t mean you won’t get to eat like a local because you’ll still be using the local products.
Moderate your drinking
It goes without saying that alcohol isn’t exactly a diet drink. I’ve known backpackers that easily put on 15 pounds on their around the world adventures solely because of their drinking habits. When you are traveling it’s easy to meet people and share a drink at the bar. It’s a vital part of traveling and I recommend everyone have social drinks out.
However, consider going out and limiting yourself to one drink at the bar or allocating one night a week to be your bar night. If you find yourself putting on the weight from drinking try skipping the beer and wine and drinking more light cocktails like vodka & soda.
Eat out to try the food
Eating the local food is another very important part of travel. It would be sacrilege to go to Naples and not eat pizza, Thailand and not eat pad thai, or Morocco and not try tagine. Eating local cuisines is essential but do so in moderation.
Like drinking, try to pick certain days to eat out, or only have one meal a day out and consider getting healthier restaurant options. Eat out to try the food, but don’t make eating out part of your daily life. Or travel to places where the local food is healthy like the Mediterranean, Nordic regions, or Japan.
Book places with free breakfast
The one thing I hate is waking up with no food in the fridge – and most of the time I have no fridge when I travel. I like to eat a nice, complete, and healthy breakfast but that’s hard when you’re in a new place and have to venture out for breakfast with no clue where to start. When you finally do find food you’ll ravage it since you’ve now worked up an appetite to find it.
I give booking preference to hotels that offer free breakfast so I don’t let my stomach sit empty for too long in the morning. I want to jump start my metabolism and breakfast is the best way to do that, plus coffee and tea is a must in my morning. Some people also travel with a travel blender which is a great idea if you have room in your suitcase and love smoothies.
Opt for the stairs
Actual stairs trump the elevator or escalator. If you have no heavy luggage there is no excuse not to take them while trying to stay fit. Whenever we’re in the airport we opt for the stairs and don’t follow the herd to the escalator.
Drink tea or coffee
It’s been said that drinking coffee can lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes, reduce the risk of colon cancer, and improve cognitive function. Some studies have also shown that drinking coffee works against brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. To top it off coffee and tea drinkers are less prone to obesity.
Tea contains antioxidants that help protect the body from the negative health effects. Green Tea is said to be a good caffeine substitute for coffee while ginger tea and peppermint tea help fight motion sickness and sooth your stomach. Both tea and coffee aid your digestive system and help keep you regular if you know what I mean. 💩
I guess what I’m trying to say is pick your poison and become a tea or coffee drinker (or both). We love both! Just be careful of adding too much milk and sugar.
Stock up on protein bars
When you travel it can be difficult to coordinate every meal. If you are traveling on a budget it’s even harder as eating out is usually not a cheap endeavor in places like Europe and North America. We like to travel with protein bars always on hand to keep ourselves from getting hangry come lunch time. Trust me – you won’t ever regret having protein bars in your daypack and you can pick that up at any grocery store.
My favorite protein bars are Larabars because they are made with minimal ingredients and not a bunch of chemicals I can’t pronounce. Buying in bulk will save you money, but add weight to your backpack.
Get a Fitbit
The best way to track your movements is by getting a Fitbit or something similar. I received my Fitbit last Christmas and can’t believe I have never had one before. What better way to count your steps, calories, sleep, and heart rate than a flexible wrist strap. I love that they can monitor my sleeping patterns – which is great in new time zones. With that data, I can set healthy bedtimes and alarms to wake up.
Here’s the latest FitBit model which has all the bells and whistles. If you don’t want to spend that much consider a generic one. This is the one I have which is more affordable and extremely durable.
Head to the park or beach
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world there is almost always a park, beach, or public place to get active outside. We love parks when we travel as many around the world whether it be Europe, North America, or Asia feature fitness equipment like pull up bars or even bikes. If there is no fitness equipment at the very least you have room to walk, run, jump, and practice calisthenics. Not to mention there are a ton of health benefits tied to being outside or in nature.
Invest in travel-friendly workout gear
While airlines may not appreciate 10 lb dumbbells in your luggage there are a few workout accessories that are great to travel with. We both personally travel with resistance bands. Cameron has these ones which he loves and I have more yoga-inspired ones. They weigh almost nothing and are tiny.
If you can fit it I would also recommend traveling with a yoga mat so you can work out on any surface. We also picked up ajump rope and gliding disks somewhere along our travels and can use that just about anywhere. If you are into swimming then bring your goggles.
Don’t forget to bring clothes that are good to workout in. I always travel with yoga pants, sports bras, and breathable tank tops. One of my favorite brands to buy yoga pants from is Yoga Democracy. Yoga Democracy carries yoga pants that have fun designs, yet they are still extremely durable. All their gear is made from recycled nylon from material like the fishing net that damages our oceans. So yes, they are eco friendly, USA made, and sweatshop free! Use the code TWP20 for 20% off.
Don’t forget your shoes!
A few years ago I thought I packed well on a trip to Cyprus, Turkey, and Italy. I packed flip flops, dress shoes, and hiking shoes. The one thing I didn’t bring that I wish I had? Running shoes. I thought I would be hiking by day and if I want to go for a run I would in the hiking boots. Just one day of running in those and my feet were killing. Moral of the story? Don’t neglect to bring real running shoes when you travel. We recently made the switch to trail running shoes such as the Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 that allow us to go hiking, a run, or a combination of both.
Get the appropriate amount of sleep
You may not have a strict schedule when you are traveling so it may be tempting to stay up late and cut yourself short on sleep. Streaming services like Netflix can make it easy to stay up binge watching when really your body would be thanking you if you got a full nights sleep. You probably know this, but it’s recommended to get a seven to eight hours of sleep per night to keep your body properly energized. Aim for this amount of sleep when you travel – it will make your days in a new place more fun. Fitbits can help with keeping a good sleep schedule!
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