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Difficulties and tribulations are a common part of travel, conquering each one is its own reward that fills you with self-confidence. We face many of these difficulties on the road, but perhaps the most common one, and the one that plagues me the most is a little something called travel fitness.
I’ve been a health nut for quite a few years and I’ve ventured into the whole calorie counting fad along with every “30-day” workout routine you can Google, but I’ve always struggled with fitness while I’m traveling. I give myself easy outs like “You’re on vacation, you can eat what you like!” or “It’s just one meal!”
It’s easy to get off track when I travel and then I’ll come home and run to the gym as fast as I can, just so I can become depressed over the previous progress that I’ve since lost.
If you do something similar, we have to wonder, what happens when we travel for extended periods of time? We can’t keep up the unhealthy habits, especially with the added stress of travel.
Picking up a new habit is hard, so make sure that you can win!
Any time that you’re trying to do something new in your life – whether that’s dropping soda or learning a new skill such as meditation– it’s paramount that you make it easy to win in the beginning and incrementally increase towards your goal to develop habits that sticks.
There are tons of tools to help you on this path, but let’s start off with an example…
Batman is a heavy soda drinker and consistently puts down 3 or 4 a day, now he wants to cut his habit, eat cleanly, and head to the gym so he can look more like Ryan Reynolds.
So he quits his bad habit cold turkey, eats super clean, and begins working out. He’s feeling good, his confidence is coming back, and then a few weeks in he breaks down and gives up. He picks up his old habit of pounding soda instead of bad guys – feeling dreadful and like a failure. He was so pumped up and excited for this new change that he dove all in and couldn’t sustain that new way of life. What happened to Batman?
Batman’s problem was that he took on WAY too much at once and his body, physically and mentally wasn’t ready for it. The change was too drastic and he gave up. So how can you avoid being like Batman and develop habits that actually stick? (Okay, if you can be like Batman, be fucking Batman. But not “give up on a new diet and fitness plan” Batman. Cool? Cool.)
Your body can only take so much change at one time – so start small. The smaller you get the better, don’t be afraid to get on a micro level. So what should Batman have done? He should have created some sort of plan on a tool like Coach.me (formerly Lyft).
The first week he should have continued his eating and lifestyle habits like normal, except drink one less soda a day. The next week he should have focused on getting down to one soda a day, the following week two or three a week, until he’s just left with his cheat day, Saturday.
He follows the same type of plan during this time with eating more veggies, cutting processed foods, and finally a few weeks in – hitting the gym! Batman is now ready for some scissor kicks to the Jokers head. Booyah!
So what can we learn from Batman?
The human body struggles with picking up new habits, especially when it involves doing something that doesn’t seem fun. So do what you can to create challenges and make new habits fun.
Do less than you think you can do. If you think you can run on the treadmill for twenty minutes in the beginning, do it for ten. It’s all about getting comfortable and making it easy so each week you can slowly increase your goals and watch your new habit form like magic *throws glitter all over you*.
You can even get friends involved who share a common goal. If you and a friend want to start eating healthy, start sending each other pictures of everything you eat and my guess is that you’ll think twice before eating bad food out of both disgust and embarrassment. I recently started doing this with bread. Any time that I want a delicious piece of peanut butter toast, I have to send a picture to my sister.
Another way is to create stakes. If your goal is to gain 10 pounds, create a time limit that puts both pressure on you and motivates you. Once you have that locked down, hand a trusted friend money to hold onto.
Here’s the catch: If you fail that goal, that friend has to give the money to an organization you’re against (such as the KKK, WBC, etc…) and that will give you a pretty powerful reason to gain that weight!
Just make sure that the amount of money you give your friend is enough to where it will sting, stakes are here for a reason, so don’t go easy on yourself.
Now onto eating healthy…
Finding the right travel-friendly diet for you.
There are many different trains of thought on how you should eat. There are thousands of diets and fads out there and frankly, it gets confusing as hell.
Health is something that I’ve always struggled with until I found two diets that I fell in love with. I’m not saying that these diets are the best out there, but from the research I’ve done on them for myself, they have both done wonders for how I look and how I feel.
Better yet? They are both travel-friendly.
The Slow-Carb Diet:
The current diet that I’m slowly working myself into right now (progressively as discussed above) is a diet that was popularized by the legend himself – Tim Ferriss.
The Slow-Carb Diet has helped hundreds of thousands of people stay in shape and even drop impressive amounts of weight (try 100+ pounds). If you are trying to lose weight, the first month of this diet will very likely help you lose 10-20 pounds of fat. (If you’re wondering where I’m gathering this info, it’s from Tim Feriss’s book The 4-hour Chef, which teaches meta-learning through cooking and give you some epic S.C. recipes to test. If you want to take a gander at it, you can here.)
The diet is broken down into three meal categories. You can choose one or more things from each category to build your meals out of.
|Chicken||Black beans||Mixed vegetables|
|Fish||Pinto beans||Sauerkraut, kimchi|
As you can probably ascertain from the list above, this diet is fairly limited and will get you on the fast track to health.
A few dietary restrictions which makes this diet a bit challenging at first is you cannot have bread, pasta, rice, grains, potatoes, or fruit. Why not fruit you might ask? Fruit has fructose in it which for reasons I’m by no means an expert in adds additional body fat through glycerol phosphate.
Before you take on this diet, you’re going to want to research it more yourself, at the bottom of this article there are resources for you.
The Paleo Diet:
I first learned about the Paleo Diet through the wonderful writing of Steve Kamb, founder of NerdFitness.com (which I highly suggest exploring the nerdy depths of after this article). There are many things I love about the Paleo Diet, from the health benefits to the culture that surrounds it. That’s right, I said culture.
The main idea of this diet is that we are eating like our ancestors before us, like cavemen and cavewomen!
Did cave people eat processed foods or lattes?
Of course not! (Unless they could travel into the future, then IT IS a possibility.)
With the Paleo Diet you’ll be getting back to your roots. Here’s what the diet breakdown looks like as referenced from Nerd Fitness:
|Chicken||Olive oil||Tip: limit if trying to cut weight||Eggs (Omega-3 enriched)||Sweet potatoes|
[Random thought…I’m beginning to grow an odd obsession with charts.]
Now that you know the basics, I’ve included resources at the end of the article if you’re interested in possibly testing it out for yourself.
The Paleo and The Slow Carb-Diets have differences and similarities and which one is better I cannot say. I’ve tried both and from my personal experience Paleo is easier to get into and follow, especially while traveling, but Slow-Carb may yield better results for you. It may be worth testing both and digging into some literature from either Tim or Steve. (Note: there are other advocates for these diets, but after spending dozens of hours reading both of their material the past few years, it’s who I trust and can vouch for.)
A few final tips on dieting:
- Don’t just travel with these diets, make them part of your every day and have them carry over.
- Have one day a week (mine is Saturday) where you pig out on whatever you wish, guilt free. Even if you have a few cheat meals during the week from having no other options or simply giving in to temptation, make sure to take advantage of your cheat day. It does wonders to keep you on track and get you into the health mind-set for the upcoming week.
- Buy foods in bulk. For the Slow-Carb Diet I will go to the store and buy (2) 2.5 dozen packages of eggs for around $4 USD a pop and I’ll pick up bags of frozen chicken breasts. I get about 10 breasts per $10 USD. For my snack food I’ll do bags of carrots, avocados, and $0.79 cans of veggies. For the Paleo folks out there the same can go for you. There’s no reason diets have to be expensive!
- Eat the same 3-4 meals every day. Yes, it’s boring, but this will keep you on track. You can typically always find eggs, chicken, and veggies wherever you travel – that’s two meals right there. For people who are cooking their own foods, learn to utilize spices like cumin, lemon juice and garlic (popular among world class chefs), ginger, and olive oil. It does wonders for your food.
- Drink a lot of water and make it better by adding a lemon slice. I don’t buy into the whole 6-8 cups of water a day and I’m not sure if there’s actual evidence for that or if it’s a myth perpetuated by society, so you’ll have to be your own judge on how much water to consume. My philosophy is to only drink water, tea, coffee (my one crux), and one serving of alcohol per night (1 glass of wine, 1 12 oz beer, 1 shot).
Alright, so we’ve discussed dieting and a few tips and tricks, now let’s break down into some routines! Are you pumped?? I’m pumped!
Depending on where you’re staying you may not have access to a gym, so these workouts are designed for people who do not have a gym where they are staying or for people who prefer to do body-weight exercises versus traditional weight training.
If you’re unable to do an exercise on the list, look online for the beginner’s equivalent. For example, let’s say you struggle with doing push-ups, start off my doing them on your knees and slowly progress toward full ones. You get the idea.
These can all be done three days per week or as you see fit.
Disclaimer: I am not a fitness expert and these workouts are based on routines i’ve found to be helpful. Also, it’s my own opinion on the difference between beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts. I am not a doctor so please consult yours if you feel that any of these might be detrimental to your health.
Beginners Hotel Room Workout: (source)
Jog in Place – 1 Minute
Jumping Jacks – 25
Air Squats – 15
Crunches – 15
Jog in Place – 1 Minute
Front Kicks – 10 Per Side
Air Squats – 20
Crunches – 20
Light Stretching – 1 Minute
Jog in Place – 30 Seconds
Jumping Jacks – 15
Air Squats – 15
Light Stretching – 1 Minute
This workout is pretty minimal and will be a good starter for anyone who wants to kick-start their fitness while traveling and has no idea where to start. It’s great because it doesn’t take that long to complete (so you really have no excuse not to do it!) and it will get your heart rate up and jump start your metabolism if you do it in the morning. Do this routine twice in a row and feel free to take a 2-3 minute break if you need it in between the two sets. If two sets is too much for you, just start with one and build yourself up.
Intermediate Hotel Room Workout: (source)
Note: I slightly modified this workout to make it fit better for an intermediate level.
Jumping Jacks – 1 Minute
Mountain Climbers – 30 Seconds
Foot Fires – 30 Seconds
Lunge Jumps – 30 Seconds
Jogging in Place – 1 Minute
Push-Ups – 20
Triceps Dips (off of a chair/bed) – 20
Rotation Pushups – 5
Triceps Dips – 15
Push-Ups – 15
Plie Squats – 1 Minute
Sumo Kicks – 10 Per Leg
Fire Hydrants – 15 Per Leg
Leg Lifts – 10 Per Leg
Air Squats – 1 Minute
Double Crunches – 15
In Out Abs – 20
V Twists – 30
Bicycles – 20
Leg Lowers – 15
This workout takes a bit longer than the one above and will work your whole body well. Feel free to swap certain exercises to equally difficult ones that work the same muscle groups such as Double Crunches for Sit-Ups.
Advanced Hotel Room Workout: (source)
Mountain Climbers – 8x 20 Seconds (with 10 seconds off in between each, tabata style)
Triceps Dips – 3x 15-30 Reps
Incline Push-Ups – 3x 10-15 Reps
Decline Push-Ups – 5x 5 Reps
Luggage Rows – 3x 15 Reps Per Side
One-Legged Prisoner Squats – 3x 5-8 Per Leg
Plank Saws – 2x 5 Both Feet Down and 5 (10 total) For Individual Feet
Burpees – 8x 20 Seconds (with 10 seconds off in between each)
Plank to Push-Up – 3x 10
Wall Squats – 3x 30 to 60 Seconds
I love this workout for its creativity and intermixed tabata training. If some of these are too easy for you, feel free to throw in hand stand push-ups, attach your luggage to your back as you do push-ups (or if you have a companion you can have them sit on you), and do multiple sets.
So what other forms of exercise are out there?
Running: My favorite form of exercise while I’m traveling is running. Not only is it great for exercise, but it’s a cool way to explore the new place you’re staying in and even get some ideas for things to do. I love this form of exercise so much that I’ve worked hard to increase my fitness level so I can go on 5-10 mile runs to explore a bit longer on my feet. My favorite running tool is called Map My Run. It keeps me up to date on my run times and distance through audio and visual. It even maps out the routes I run via GPS and tells me other app users routes for that area. (It’s also free!)
Tai-Chi: I’ve dabbled in Tai-Chi for a few months earlier this year and learned how to perform 24 forms, which is a common Yang style exercise. Tai-Chi is meditative and calming and if you choose to learn 24 forms, it takes roughly 5-8 minutes to go through the movements once learned. If you’re unfamiliar with Tai-Chi and want to learn, look for a local instructor or group. You can also grab DVD instruction from Dr. Lam. His material is easy to follow and I enjoy his breakdowns.
Yoga: As much as I would love to talk all about Yoga to you, alas, I have never done it before outside of a terribly done “Downward Dog” that would make the Yoga Gods look down at me in spite – though I would love to begin a program. From the legions of people that I see doing it with just a mat, I would say that it’s a definite travel fitness option. It’s impressive how difficult some of these moves can get.
A few final words…
Fitness plays a huge part in my life and it’s always been difficult for me to keep that up while I’m traveling, but with the diets and exercise routines it’s become much easier and i’m hoping that it will for you as well. I’ve gone through hundreds of articles online and it seems like I could never get anywhere with them, so I hope that with this article most of your travel fitness issues are solved and when you come back home you feel even stronger, healthier, and sexier than before you left.
Make sure that you practice these routines at home before you travel, you can even do one right now! Don’t just bookmark this article (though I would really appreciate it!) and try it all out when you get somewhere – it will be too much at once with the new setting and with throwing in new routines and/or diets you’ll be set up to quit.
If you gained any value out of this, please share it on social media with the boxes to the left to spread the word and help other people. I’d really appreciate it and it’s the best way to pay me back for putting in the time it took to write this. Thanks in advance.
What do you do when you’re traveling to stay active? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Paleo Diet Articles:
Hotel Room Workouts:
Welcome To Headed Abroad
- Travel Fitness: Hotel Room Workouts, Travel-Friendly Diets, and Developing Habits That Stick
- Want to Save Money in Lahaina, Hawaii? Here’s how.
- Being Kidnapped, 16 Years of Travel, and Writing Practices with Wandering Earl
- Your Guide to Safe Travel, Travel Insurance, Solo Travel, and More
- Business Traveler? Look No Further.