How I Stay Fit While Constantly Travelling

Staying in shape is hard under even the most ideal circumstances. Life always seems to be getting in the way of eating healthy and making time to exercise.

And travel makes staying in shape even harder.

I’m an adventure travel blogger, and I find it incredibly hard to stay fit on the road. It’s not easy to maintain a healthy diet when you’re constantly eating in restaurants—often in countries where you’re not even sure what food is available. And when you’re constantly moving from one country and time zone to the next, where you don’t know where to find the closest gym or running track, sticking to an exercise routine is next to impossible.

Despite these obstacles, over the years I’ve developed a pretty good system. There are four main barriers to keeping fit on the road:

  1. Eating healthy
  2. Exercising consistently
  3. Dealing with smelly workout clothes
  4. Keeping your exercise gear light, compact, and easy to pack

Here’s how I deal with those problems.


1. Eating healthy on the road

Spinach, chicken & pomegranate salad | Photo credit:
Spinach, chicken & pomegranate salad | Photo credit:

I don’t like eating in restaurants—the food tends to be greasy and heavy on carbs. There are healthy restaurants out there, but you can’t seek them out every time you arrive in a new city, especially when you’re in a country where you’re not familiar with the cuisine.

Here are some staples I rely on to maintain a diet that is high in protein and fruits and veggies and low in fats and sugars.

Eggs: Almost always available, a good source of protein, and healthy (especially when hard-boiled)
Oatmeal: Ubiquitous in Western hotels and a good option when nothing else is around
Yogurt: Available in most countries and a healthy source of protein, but only if it’s sugar-free and low-fat
Fruit: You can’t go wrong with fresh fruit
Nuts: Can be found anywhere and are a great healthy snack
Black coffee and tea: Provide zero calories, and give you more energy for burning them
Vegetable soup: Nearly every culture has some form of this nutritious low-calorie, low-fat dish


2. Packing and maintaining workout gear

My workout gear. Morning coffee for scale | Photo credit: Matt Gibson
My workout gear. Morning coffee for scale | Photo credit: Matt Gibson

You need your workout gear to be compact, light, and low maintenance. Here’s what to buy:

Men: One pair of good quality swim trunks and one workout shirt made of a comfortable synthetic fibre (like a basketball jersey). The swim trunks will be functional enough for all your athletic needs and will be your swimsuit. The whole outfit will dry quickly and pack extremely small.

Women: One pair of synthetic bottoms, one workout bra, and one synthetic top. Unfortunately, this outfit won’t double as a bathing suit, but it will pack small and dry quickly.

Shoes: Ditch the bulky sneakers and buy minimal river shoes. Synthetic river shoes (made for walking in water) dry quickly, are constructed like minimalist running shoes, and pack as flat as a pancake.

I recommend synthetic fabrics because they pack small and are easy to keep clean. You only have one set of workout gear, and you don’t have time to constantly wash it.

After you work out, just take all of your gear in the shower with you. Throw it on the floor and give it a good rinse while you shower. Then wring it out and hang it up. Synthetics dry quickly. Your outfit won’t be perfectly clean, but you’ll be able to use it several times before you need to wash it properly.


3. Effective exercises you can do anywhere

TRX in action | Photo credit: USAG Livorno PAO via Flickr
TRX in action | Photo credit: USAG Livorno PAO via Flickr

It’s widely (and strangely) believed in our culture that the only way to exercise effectively is to go to a gym. That’s totally wrong. The only people who need weights are bodybuilders. Anybody else can get in great shape without ever setting foot in a gym.

These are effective exercises that anyone can do anywhere (and nearly all of them are done by professional athletes).

  • P90X (give this workout a try for a sample)
  • Yoga (my friends and I like Brian Kest Power Yoga)
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • High interval training (Zuzka Light got me started on this)
  • Resistance-band training (YouTube is full of workout videos)
  • TRX (The variety of exercises you can do with these is amazing)

I’m partial to the TRX system, which is simply two adjustable straps with handles on the ends. They can be attached to a door, post, or other stationary object so users can leverage their bodyweight in a myriad of ways.

I love mine. I haven’t stepped into a gym since I bought it, and I feel like I’m getting better workouts than ever before. I also carry a set of heavy resistance bands because they’re easy to pack and allow for a few angles of resistance the TRX doesn’t.

Now, all my workout necessities (clothes, shoes, towel, resistance bands, and TRX system) fit into a bag that is smaller than the average shoebox. And I exercise more efficiently and conveniently than if I were to go to the gym. There’s no travel time, and I never wait for a machine. I can set up my system in a hotel room, work out, shower, and be ready start my day in under an hour.

The same is true of the other exercises I mentioned above.

Very few people actually need a gym to get fit. The ability to exercise depends not on the facilities available but on your knowledge of exercise and the effort you put in.

My entire travel workout kit. Morning coffee for scale.
My entire travel workout kit. Morning coffee for scale.


Preparing for your next trip? Don’t forget travel insurance.

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