How to Exercise While Traveling

When you travel, exercise normally becomes one of your lowest priorities. You have limited time in a destination and you’ve got other things to do than exercise. If you’re traveling for leisure, you’ll want to go sightseeing, shopping, and eating. If you’re traveling for business, you’ll have meetings and social functions to attend. If you’re traveling with your family, you’ll need to take care of all your kids’ needs before you can even think about your needs. In any travel situation, there always seems to be an excuse not to exercise.

The results of not exercising while traveling have large ripple effects when you return home. You become heavier, lazier, and less energetic. Any fitness routines you had before your trip are difficult to resume at normal levels because you’ve lost motivation to exercise.

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Exercising while traveling is a daunting challenge, but with a little fortitude and commitment, you’ll be able to stay in shape and look and feel better on your return home. There are many ways to exercise on the road, even without the convenience of a hotel gym.

Here are some examples of how you can easily integrate consistent exercise into your travels:

  • Walk – One of the best ways to see a new city or town is by foot. When I visit a new destination, I will walk for miles and miles on my first few days there. The time will pass quickly because everything I’m seeing while I’m walking is fresh and new.
  • Run – If the conditions are right for running (i.e. open roads, few cars, few stray animals, minimal pollution, good weather), then put your running shoes on and hit the road. I’ve watched many beautiful sunrises and sunsets while running on the streets of different destinations in the world. 
  • Swim – Sometimes swimming is a more optimal cardio option. If you have access to a swimming pool or a calm, warm ocean, dive in. You’d be surprised how swimming for extended periods of time can actually start slimming down your waist line.
  • Hike – If your destination has hills and mountains with hiking routes, then start climbing. To have local experiences while exercising, I’ve done everything from hiking the rolling hills of Hangzhou, China in the morning to hiking to the summit of Mt. Fuji in Tokyo, Japan, in the middle of the night, to catch the beautiful sunrise over the clouds.
  • Bike – Some destinations are better setup for bicycling than others (i.e. bike lanes, bike rentals, flat terrain). Taipei, Taiwan has a great daily rental program for bikes where you can swipe your card, pick your bike, and park it any bike station within the city. My wife and I biked our way through most of Taipei, and stayed fit in the process.

So how do you actually stick to a fitness schedule while you’re traveling? Here’s a few tips to keep up a consistent exercise routine:

  • Set an exercise schedule that is most convenient for you. Put an appointment on your calendar, similar to a meeting with a business client or colleague. Make a date with yourself and show up. The key is to setup a time that is convenient for you to actually get your exercise done. I’ve found that early mornings are easiest to get exercise done, especially any outdoor activities. The weather is cooler, the sun isn’t as high, and I have more energy in the mornings. Figure out what your optimal time is to exercise, stick to your schedule, and do it.
  • Vary up your exercise routines. Doing anything over and over can get pretty boring very quickly. I used to run every day when I was in California training for a marathon. The weather was cool and open roads were conducive to running. While traveling in Thailand, I scaled down my running considerably due to many factors including hot weather, pollution, stray dogs, and lack of running paths. In running’s place, I biked, swam, and climbed stairs in the apartment complex we were staying at. And when the weather was cloudy and cooler, I’d put on my running shoes and run a few miles. Mixing up my exercises helped me stay consistent in my every day fitness routine while traveling.
  • Do a mix of cardio and strength. Don’t forget about the strength exercises. If you have access to a gym with machines, you’re set, but if you don’t, you can get creative with your strength exercises. Push-ups and sit-ups are good ways to stay in shape without any equipment. If you don’t have access to any weights, think about bringing a pair of elastic exercise ropes to use for resistance training. And if you want to work on your stretching, flexibility, and muscle tone, yoga and pilates are also easily done in the convenience of your room.

Once you make exercise a priority in your travel schedule, you’ll look and feel better and you’ll have more energy in your travel days. And once you return home, you’ll ease right back into your fitness routine, since you didn’t miss a beat while you were on the road.

Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.

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