One of the biggest drawbacks of travel is its effect on your health. As a travel blogger and fitness enthusiast I’m very familiar with the struggle.
When you travel, all of the healthy habits and routines you’ve worked so hard to develop are thrown into disarray. The restaurant food you rely on is notoriously high in calories and fat—and even if you were disciplined enough to maintain a regular workout routine at home, that routine is obliterated by the schedule changes and uncertain access to exercise facilities that inevitably come with travel.
Despite the challenges, staying in shape on the road is not at as hard as it may first seem. In fact, it’s nearly as easy as staying fit at home if you know what you’re doing.
Your body is built to stay fit through unassisted movements like running, swimming, and climbing. A gym is nice to have, but it’s not necessary. All you really need to exercise is your body, a small space, a basic understanding of exercise, and bit of willpower. If you’re really ambitious, you can also bring one portable piece of equipment to broaden the variety of exercises you can do.
For most people, the biggest barrier to working out is mental. Overcoming the mental barriers to working out is difficult at the best of times. The complications that travel create add to this problem.
So, in this article I’m going to explain how you can overcome both the logistical and mental barriers created by travel that prevent you from working out, so that you will be equipped to stay in shape anytime, anywhere.
Invest in a Travel-Friendly Workout Outfit
Minimalism is key. In order to work out conveniently on the road you need to ensure that your workout gear doesn’t encroach on the space you need for everything else.
You need to pack one workout outfit, no more, no less. That’s one shirt (or sports bra), one pair of shorts, and one pair of shoes. Those clothes should be made of a synthetic fibre (they pack small and dry quickly after a wash) and be comfortable enough for any workout. Bonus points if you can implement your swimsuit into the outfit, which covers even more bases. It’s also good if these clothes are appropriate for other vigorous activities like hiking or biking.
I pack one pair of loose-fitting swimming trunks, a sleeveless polyester jersey, and a pair of lightweight nylon river shoes. Altogether, the outfit is less than $100.
The Laundry Hack
Repeatedly using the same workout clothes is going to get smelly fast and doing laundry on the road is a pain. This is not only a logistical problem, but also a mental one. I’ve many times put off exercise because I didn’t want to deal with the smelly clothes.
Then I figured out the laundry hack and never looked back.
After exercising, I take my workout clothes into the shower with me, give them a quick, brisk hand-scrubbing, rinse them thoroughly, and hang them to dry. This is why I choose workout clothes made with synthetic fibres, as they dry much more quickly than organic ones (wool excepted). This way my clothes get a decent cleaning each time they’re used and I get to put off the inevitable search for a laundromat until another day.
It’s hard enough to get up for a 6 am run when you’re at home. It’s even easier to justify hitting the snooze button when the moment you wake up you realize you’ve just arrived in Madrid and you don’t know where you can go running.
The most crucial part of any training program is a strong mental game. You have to be able to ignore all the excuses that day-to-day life provides for skipping your workout. Travel creates even more challenges than already exist at home. Adapting to the limitations of travel is key to maintaining a strong mental game.
Here’s how you do it.
Learn How to Exercise Anywhere
I rarely visit the gym anymore. For me, it’s more of a treat than a necessity.
Instead, try learning exercises that can be done anywhere, most commonly calisthenics, bodyweight exercises, yoga, and running. Learning to exercise anywhere—without (or with minimal) equipment—is key, because it eliminates most excuses for not working out.These kinds of exercises—combined with my TRX or resistance bands—comprise almost all of my workouts.
Know the Tools
Staying up-to-date on new technology will also help you overcome barriers to fitness.
For example, technology has made running in unfamiliar places very accessible. I have a watch with GPS that will tell me how far I’ve run, so I don’t have to calculate the length of my running routes. Also, offers a crowdsourced list of running routes created by users around the world, making finding a good local running route easier than ever.
Stay Alert and Be Creative
Get in the habit of watching for workout opportunities. Parks, playgrounds, and schoolyards are great places to switch up your workout. Monkey bars are also chin up and pull-up bars. Benches and picnic tables are perfect for box jumps. We often forget that stairs are an analog version of the treadmill and that swimming pools too small for doing laps are still perfectly fine for water resistance exercises.
Keeping an eye out for local sports opportunities, such as hiking, biking, playing soccer, taking martial arts lessons, and the like, is also a good way to diversify your workouts.
Changing up your routine is generally considered to be good for your overall health and will break the monotony of your normal routine. Once you get used to looking for workout opportunities, you’ll start seeing them everywhere.
Buy (or Build) a Portable Gym
At home with my TRX, which is my usual workout regardless of whether I’m travelling.
If you want to add more variety to your exercises, there are a couple of travel-friendly items you can throw in your bag that will add dozens of new options to your workouts.
The first is the TRX system. Both of these can be mounted to a standard door and can be used almost anywhere. I usually only travel with one of the two, but I own both so that I can switch them up.
Here are two photos of my entire workout kit—clothes, shoes, TRX, and resistance bands—both packed and unpacked.
This is pretty much all I ever use to work out, even at home.All my exercise gear takes up about as much space as a shoebox.
Find the Motivation
There’s a saying in the fitness community: “The hardest lift is lifting your butt off the couch.”
The moment that you think about going to work out is probably the most crucial moment of your workout. It’s the moment when you decide whether you are going to get up and go, or put it off for another day.
It’s important to stay disciplined and exercise when you can, but it’s also important not to overdo it and punish yourself for every missed workout. Nothing kills motivation faster than guilt.
Unexpected detours, delays, and random inconveniences are a part of travel. So are unexpected friendships and opportunities. Whether caused by a delayed flight or an unexpected dinner invitation, it’s important to be realistic and not punish yourself when travel genuinely does prevent you from working out.
In those situations, you need to give yourself a pass. Not doing so can result in guilt and anxiety, both of which are counterproductive.
And don’t forget to treat yourself to a random day off once in a while.
Everyone deserves the pleasure of staying in bed and binge-watching Game of Thrones from time to time.
Travelling soon? Make sure you travel smart. Find out how to plan ahead for your health.