keeping in shape while traveling

The Ultimate Guide To Staying Fit While Traveling

June 01, 2018

Nowadays, many people make fitness their top priority. I know I do.

However, I never let "keeping fit" hold me back from doing what I want in life, whether that’s regarding work or having fun like traveling.

Likely, if you are reading this, you make fitness a constant in your life without fail too. So you probably want to know how to travel and keep that going.

Personally, I like to travel for extended periods of time. When doing this, it is harder to maintain balance and consistency, in any sense of the word. Which is very much necessary for staying in good shape, especially if you are trying to gain muscle.

I’ve been asked many times, "how do you stay in such good shape while traveling?" I usually joke by stating I get most of my protein source from some sort of exotic animal.

I’ve had friends commend me for “looking bigger” when coming home from trips like it was some impossible feat. In fact, for every trip, I never gained more than I would have if I stayed home. I just stayed consistent, and with that, I didn’t lose any gains and my body fat percentage dropped giving me the perception of looking bigger.

When traveling, I am forced to change up my style of training (usually from heavy lifting to more plyometric/bodyweight work) which causes me to have new types of gains. With each trip, I am actually improving my overall fitness and well-being this way (I will get into how I do this below).

I started offering advice to my friends who travel a lot. They told me the fact that I was doing the same routines and having the same mentality on my trips was motivating...and if it was working for me, it would work for them…and it did. They are making some serious progress in their fitness while on their extended (3+ months) travels.

Most people get lazy when they travel. This is the biggest mistake. This is usually the only mistake. If you make fitness a priority, potentially the biggest priority of your trip, you will surely achieve any fitness goals while traveling. And just because fitness is your priority, that doesn't mean you have to hold back from doing what you want on your trip. You can make time for everything.

I wrote this article which is 4,000+ words because I wanted to go into serious detail where I felt necessary about staying in shape while traveling, and to give you as much information and strategy as I could to help you succeed at keeping in shape on your trip. This has worked for me and my friends and family. All of these tips, recommendations, and training plans can apply to any kind of travel, whether that’s business, backpacking, resorts, hotels, or road trips.

Stay fit, there should be no excuses.

Here are my 9 essential tips for staying fit while traveling:

I’ve also included effective workout planning methods in tip 3 that you can use to create all types of workouts on your trip. 

1. Fitness Goals While Traveling

Are you trying to bulk up? Are you trying to cut, get shredded? Are you trying to increase your speed, power or explosiveness? Making fitness goals should be the first step when planning 'fitness' for your travels.

If you know your goal(s), you can plan for it. It’s that simple. More to come on planning below.

What about gaining weight and putting on muscle when you travel? i.e. 'putting on mostly fat' for the majority of people.

As you can imagine, or know from experience, putting on muscle mass while traveling is really tough, like really, really tough (putting on fat is easy though)...Why? Because of two things, inconsistency in your diet and not being able to lift "heavy"... which is why cutting and maintaining on the road is much more achievable...unless you have the money to eat right and get into a gym or use free weights somehow no matter where you are.

With that being said, most of the time I recommend travelers to focus on keeping in shape and lowering body fat while traveling, rather than putting on muscle...

But that doesn’t mean you can’t put on weight while traveling, because you can. If you want to build muscle while traveling, it is definitely possible. But again, you must prepare for this and make it a priority on your trip.

For example, protein packaging made to pack up in a suitcase so you can always reach your protein intake levels.

I’ve decided to do special tips for people who want to gain muscle while traveling and I will highlight those as MASSIVE TIPS (that sounds strangely erotic…keeping it). By the way, I write all of my articles as if I am speaking, so you will notice my strange quirks as I won’t edit things like that^ out. 

2. Workout equipment for traveling

If you have been lifting weights regularly for some time you’ll want a few tools on your trip to help maintain and/or grow. What can you take on your trip that is portable, lightweight and effective? Well, I know of and use a few tools.

a. Resistance bands (the heavy duty loop resistance bands), really all you need is one (recommended: 1" width size band - most versatile) but having multiple sizes opens you up to a wide variety of exercises. You can get a brutal full body workout with them anywhere. Also, they can be used to assist, not only resist. If you have troubles with bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and dips, this is the perfect tool to give you the extra push you need. Strap them up at any bar in any city and you are good to go. By the time you come home your pull up game will be strong (one of your fitness goals for your vacation maybe?). Did I mention, you can stretch and work on mobility with bands too? Too versatile.

b. TRX. Suspension Trainer - This is another great tool to have for your trip. Pack it up and pull it out on any door or tree or bar that you can find. Another great full body tool.

c. Speed Rope. Metabolic conditioning? Check. Footwork? Check. Really, cardio is the easiest thing to manage on a trip…just start running. But with a speed rope, things get a little more interesting. Plus it’s a great skill set and will improve your footwork tremendously.

d. Massage balls for mobility and trigger point therapy.

You really only need your body weight, however, having some tools like the ones mentioned above is always nice. It will give you a lot more options for your training plan.

Other honorable mentions are as follows:

jump rope while traveling

3. Get your workout plan in order.

It’s great to try new thing and keep your workout fun and creative, but your overall workout plan should be pretty consistent for at least 6-8 weeks for you to see results, not to mention analyze anything in regards to your performance.

Prepare a journal to keep track of diet and workouts.

I am a big advocate of keeping track, but I don’t let it determine my day, week or workout completely. It’s good to keep track on your trip to see where you can improve in terms of diet and effort of your workouts, it also allows you to add progressions each week accordingly.

However, personally (like everything in this article), sometimes I take what my body is telling me into account. Be in tune with your body, some days you may need more calories or you may have more energy for a tougher workout. Keep track but don’t let it rule your day. No one wants to be counting calories at every meal on their trip - Unless you are one of those kinds of people. Nothing wrong with that.

If you are looking to gain muscle on your trip, you will need to continue lifting heavy, and you will need a gym or some heavy free weights in addition to your portable fitness tools. If possible, getting in the gym two times a week is ideal, three times would be great. If you think you can manage this on your trip, you should definitely do it. Plus it's pretty fun to check out different gyms and training facilities across the world.

When you are in a new area of a city, you can easily pay a one day pass or…

MASSIVE TIP

If you go in and talk to gyms, especially Crossfit boxes, they are happy to do one day free passes. Do this every day at a new place and you will never stop lifting heavy, and for free.

How to get daily or even weekly free passes to gyms anywhere in the world? Offer them to post on social media and tell them about your travels and how you are only in the area for a week (or whatever it may be) and see if they are willing to work with you as your budget is tight. Tell them you will write a very nice review on their gym...Anyways, once you get in, do your heavy lifts!

To sum all this up, try and keep track as best as you can while also being flexibile to how you feel that day or whatever the day throws at you.

It takes less than 1% of your day to keep track.

Take 5-10 mins a day to write everything down and then spend 15-30 mins a week looking it over and planning to adjust and add progressions where necessary.

You might be wondering, how would you look at and see where and why you need to adjust or progress?

Well, if you weren’t sore in certain areas of your body but you were in others, I’d say more effort needs to be put into your workout for that muscle group. If I noticed I was feeling tired or taking longer to recover from being sorer than usual, I’d probably give myself a rest day and make my workouts slightly easier the next week or at the same level instead of progressing. It’s that simple. It’s common sense really.

There are always ways to progress your workouts so you can continue to break down and tear up your muscles for them to actually grow. Simple ways are to add more reps (say 2-5 for each exercise over the next few weeks), add more sets, and you can advance the exercise (i.e. squat to jumping squats).

Here are a few types of workout plans you can start with, depending on your goals.

Note:
- The primary workout is the main part of the workout, the secondary workout is finisher/core focused.
- Stick to a plan (with progressing) for 6-8 weeks (for those traveling for longer periods of time).
You can use these exercises below or replace them with various other movements, but make sure they are challenging and your form is correct.

Short travels

If you are only traveling for 1-2 weeks, make a 1-2 week plan focusing on improving in a certain area where you are lacking (i.e. cardio, flexibility, balance & coordination), then once you are back from your trip you can add that specific focus to your regular training plan....this could be a great time for very active deloading. 

Bodyweight-only workouts

Split Workout:

MONDAY: Legs/Shoulders/Abs

Warm up: Dynamic warm-up

Primary workout:
a) Lunges 3 x 15 (each side) {intermediate exercises - jumping lunges}
b) Lateral lunges 3 x 15 (each side)
c) Hip thrusts - 3 x 15
d) Burpees - 3 x 15
e) Handstand push-ups on the wall - 4 x 10 (if too difficult, do a Pike Push-up - there are always regression and progression exercises you can do)
f) Handstands on the wall - 4 x max. time hold

Secondary workout:
a) 1 min plank hold
b) 1 min mountain climbers
c) 30-second side plank x each side (total 1 min).

Cooldown:
Static Stretches/Yoga Stretches and cardio (optional).

TUESDAY: Cardio/mobility (mobility workout)

WEDNESDAY: Back/Bicep/Calves

Warm up: Dynamic Warm Up

Primary workout:
a. Pull-ups - 3 x max. reps
b. Bodyweight rows (you can always find a way); palms facing way - 3 x 15
c. Supermans - 3 x 15
d. Chin ups (biceps) - 3 x max. reps
e. Bodyweight rows; palms facing in and grip closer than shoulder width - 3 x 15
f. Standing Calf Raises (single-leg) - 4 x max. reps

Secondary workout:
1 min Leg Raises
1 min Crunches
1 min  Toe Touches

Cooldown:
Static Stretches/Yoga Stretches and cardio (optional).

THURSDAY: Sprints and Yoga.

FRIDAY: Chest/Tricep/Abs

Warm up: Dynamic Warm Up

Primary workout
a. Push-ups - 3 x max. reps (advanced progression - clapping push-ups)
b. Wide-grip Push-ups - 3 x 15
c. Diamond Push-ups - 3 x 15
d. Bodyweight Flys (get creative - https://youtu.be/lwALdruLXAA?t=14s) - 3 x 10
e. Dips (two chairs side by side will do) - 3 x max. reps
f. Tricep Dips - 3 x 15
g. Bodyweight Skull crushers

Secondary workout:
1 min Plank Jacks
1 min Heal Toches
1 min Lying Leg Raises

Cooldown: Static Stretches/Yoga Stretches and cardio (optional).

SATURDAY: Rest

SUNDAY: Repeat... and the cycle continues for 6-8 weeks. Stick to it but make sure you progress each week or at least every two weeks.

If you are doing full body, your workouts will look like this

Full body workout:

Monday: Full- body (Anterior focused)

Warm up: Dynamic Warm Up

Primary workout:
a. Push-ups - 3 x 20
b. Diamond Push-ups - 3 x 20
c. Jumping Squats - 3 x 20
d. Chin-ups - 3 x max. reps
e. Jumping Lunges - 3 x 20 (each side)
f. Hand Stand Holds (beginners, feet on a wall) 3 x max. hold

Secondary workout:
1 min High Knees
1 min Leg Raises
30 second Side Plank, each side. (total 1 min).

Cooldown:
Static Stretches/Yoga Stretches and cardio (optional).

Tuesday: Cardio/mobility (mobility workout)

Wednesday: Full Body (posterior focused)

Warm up: Dynamic Warm Up

Primary workout
a. Pull-ups - 3 x max. reps
b. Hip Thrusts - 3 x 20
c. Inverted Rows - 3 x 20
d. Scapula Push-ups - 3 x 20
e. Wide Fly Rows 3 x 10
f. Standing One-leg Calf Raises - 3 x max. reps

Secondary workout:
1 min Superman Pulse
1 min butt kicks
1 min reverse table top hold

Cooldown:
Static Stretches/Yoga Stretches and cardio (optional).

Thursday: Cardio/Yoga

Friday: Full Body (lower body focused)

Warm up: Dynamic Warm Up

Primary workout
a. Burpees - 3 x 15
b. Lateral Lunge - 3 x 20 (each side)
c. Extreme Range Reverse Lunge - 3 x 20 (each side)
d. Donkey Kicks - 3 x 20 (each side)
e. Manual Hamstring Curls - 3 x 10
f. Donkey Calf Raises - 3 x max. reps

Secondary workout:
1 min Jumping Jacks
1 min Plank Jacks
1 min L-sit (hold as long as possible, then 1-second rest and repeat for 1 min.)

Cooldown:
Static Stretches/Yoga Stretches and cardio (optional).

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Full body (upper body focused)

Warm up: Dynamic Warm Up

Primary workout
a. Clapping Push-ups - 3 x 15-20
b. Decline Push-ups - 3 x 20
c. Dips - 3 x 20
d. Close-grip Pull-ups - 3 x 10
e. Wide-grip Pull-ups - 3 x 10
f. Handstand Push-ups - 3 x 10
g. Praying Mantis Push-ups - 3 x 10
h. Inverted curls - 3 x 10

Secondary workout:
1 min Heel Touches
1 min Crunches
30 seconds Explosive Push-ups

Cooldown:
Static Stretches/Yoga Stretches and cardio (optional).

Saturday: Rest

Note: Add supersets to your workout. If you are supersetting, take a bit more time in-between sets than you would without. i.e. supersets 1.5 mins in-between sets vs not supersetting at 45-60 second rest between sets.

Circuit Style:

The types of exercises will be the same as the above in full body or split.

Primary workout:
Exercise A x 12 reps
Exercise B x 12 reps
Exercise C x 12 reps
Exercise D x 12 reps
x 3 rounds

Secondary workout
1 min Exercise 1
1 min Exercise 2
x 1 round Exercise 3

A circuit workout moves you from one exercises to the next without rest. Once you complete all the desired exercises, you would rest and repeat another round. 3-4 rounds is a good target. You can also do AMRAP (as many rounds as possible).

If you wanted to do 8 different exercises in the primary workout, it’s recommended to split it into 2 different circuits and do each for 3 rounds. That would be a more advanced workout. However, typically the types of exercises you choose are what makes it beginner, intermediate or advanced. So for those who are well-conditioned, the format would still be the same.

If you do circuit workouts, you should do it a maximum of 4 times per week. 

Think back to your goals when making your workout plans. The above are just samples. These are good if your goals are to keep, or depending on your conditioning make, gains.

However, a trip can be a great way to change up your workout routine to work on new skills and your weaknesses. i.e. if you are a bodybuilder, maybe your trip can give you the time to work on agility, mobility, flexibility. The above workout structures would work well for any kind of training, you just need to change up the exercises.

Here are a few sample workout plans that focus on some commonly weak areas for people that train regularly.

Agility/Speed/Explosiveness:

Monday - Sprints/Jump rope (10 mins)/Plyometrics (4 exercises x 4 sets x 15-20 reps).

Tuesday - Full body workout.

Wednesday - Cardio/Yoga/Mobility.

Thursday - Sprints/Foot drills/Plyometric 4 exercises x 4 sets x 15-20 reps.

Friday - Upper body workout.

Saturday - Lower body workout.

Sunday - Rest.

Resources for Bodyweight Exercises:

Shoulders

Arms

Back (without pull-up bar)

Chest

Legs

Core

Workout plans if you have some fitness equipment on your travels:

Resistance bands:
Add these exercises to the plans above.

Workout if you have a TRX:
Add these exercises to the plans above.

Two key factors that can't be overlooked:

Cardiovascular Conditioning

The days marked for cardio and yoga can be replaced with anything that you want… or that surrounds you. Try a local workout. Go for a hike. Play a sport.

Likely you will be walking a lot on your trip so burning fat/cardio will be in check. Gotta keep the heart pumping strong.

Flexibility & Mobility

One day for mobility and flexibility should be thrown in for good measure. Recovery and mobility are key to a strong, powerful, agile body.

For YOGA, definitely get the app Down Dog. Every workout is different, as it should be since it’s yoga after all.

stretching and mobility during travels

Stick to the plan! But be flexible...

Yes, you need to stick to a plan so you can see results, but be flexible and have fun on your trip. Make time for “local” exercises. Explore the city. Experience how people exercise in foreign countries. It's just as much of part of the trip as experiencing the local foods, temples, or beaches, etc.

So the plans (knowing that adjustments can be made to accommodate for the trip, not the trip accommodating to your workout) can really work in any circumstance of the trip. As long as you got your bodyweight and the tools that you’ve packed (if necessary) then you are good. All you need is 30-45 mins a day…that's only 2% of your day.

Time under tension

This is the most important part of working out. The more time under tension, the better...This is what makes you stronger and better conditioned. This means that you must MUST workout mindfully, engaging your muscles with maximum tension. It's better to do fewer repetitions with maximum tension than more repetitions with sloppy form or less engagement in your muscles. The same goes for lifting weights, sometimes less is more. As long as you getting that time under tension, you can continue to stay fit on your travels.

How to progress this bodyweight workout over an 8-week workout plan?

If you want to make your workouts more difficult, all you need to do is add more volume to the workout. You could add an extra 2-3 reps to each exercise, add slow or add another exercise each week.

doing pull ups anywhere

4. Keep your diet in check.

It can be quite costly to keep your diet in check on your trips... that is if you are trying to gain muscle without much fat. However, there is no stronger advantage than determination. Do your research. Look up local foods in advance which are high in whatever nutrients that you need.

Macronutrient Ratios for working out

If you are eating out the whole trip, then eat your 3 meals without worrying about counting macronutrients. If you try too hard you will likely not enjoy your trip as much. Just make sure you have carbs, protein, and fats at a reasonable range in each meal, and make up for the rest during snacks if you are trying to put on muscle. Look up common foods' macros for where you are going. You should be able to eye it well enough.

The easiest way to manage your diet is to avoid any processed food and be flexible, be in tune with your body. If you are full, don’t eat a snack. IF you are hungry, eat! You know if it’s fried, then it’s ….well it’s fried, it’s fatty. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out you shouldn’t eat that every day.

You will know pretty quickly if your diet isn’t working and then you can adjust as you go. If you keep track, it will help you figure things out. But that doesn’t mean you need to count every god damn calorie. At least I don't. If you can then more power to you.

If you are trying to cut back on carbs, you can order a meal and tell them to hold the carbs or just put the carbs to the side and not eat them.

Snacks? Think outside the box, or inside the convenience store, for whatever you can find that’s high in protein. It may not be the most delicious or it might but either way, it will get the job done.

Bio-Hacking: Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is my go-to for traveling. If you don't know what intermittent fasting is, check out this article I wrote for my company SET FOR SET - 6 different methods of intermittent fasting. Basically, you eat for a window of time and then fast the rest of the day. Intermittent fasting is known for shedding fat fast and boosting energy throughout the day without having to drastically change your diet.

I like it because it saves me time in the mornings to focus on getting my workout out of the way and any other things I need to do (emails, etc) and then by 1 am I can eat whatever! Although I still stay away from processed or fatty foods, I do have a lot more freedom this way. From 1-9pm I can just eat and eat. Once 9 pm hits, close the mouth. However, this is tough for the beer drinkers of us travelers. I’m personally a hard liquor guy so I won’t have any calories with a vodka soda.

MASSIVE TIP: PROTEIN THAT’S PACKABLE/MADE FOR ON-THE-GO

You can take protein in your carry on or in checked luggage. You definitely won't have any issues if it is in the original packaging. Many brands come in bag-form. Vade Nutrition has dissolvable protein scoops. Make sure to keep your protein as cool as possible. 

***No preworkout? COFFEE is the solution. You can also take vitamin B with you on your trip***

5. Drink a ton of water:

I would have put this in the 'diet in check' tip but it's so important it deserves its own section.

Drink your beer, drink your interesting juices from exotic fruit, but don’t do it as often as you drink water. Drinking a shit ton of water will keep you flushed out and your metabolism running strong. When I’m on trips I drink A LOT of water. I'm talking 3-5 liters a day… I save my calories for delicious foods.

6. Be in tune:

I've mentioned this a few times above because I believe this is so important. You must analyze your body and your mind.

Too much energy? Do another workout later in the day. Too full, eat less.

It is a science (getting in shape) but that doesn’t mean you need to be a scientist or a mathematician. It's not that difficult to understand what your body is telling you.

Just pay attention.

I don’t need to count the carbs to know I ate too many carbs that day. Cutters tip: when in doubt eat less. Most people take trips during the summer (when they are “cutting”) so it shouldn’t be too difficult achieving cutting goals. Plus, all the walking you will be doing will have your calorie counts all fucked up and that’s not ideal for keeping track all science-y like, you will have a higher burn count than normal for sure. So… be in tune.

7. Stay active

If you are headed to a resort or hotel, then utilize the gym there! The pool, the treadmills, the freeweights - get after it all. Treat yourself each morning to a nice 45-minute workout, just like you would back home. And stay as active as you can however else you can - tours, beach walks, hikes, etc. Don't get lazy just because you are traveling. It's not a good excuse in my book.

On a road trip? Get out every few hours and stretch, park your car and take a short walk, just do anything to stay active. It can be easy to forget as you simply just want to haul ass to the next location. Don’t do that. Take some time. Take an hour for a workout. Take another hour later in the day for a walk. It’s that simple.

If you are backpacking or off the beaten path you probably don’t need the advice to stay active. You need advice on how to make sure you are sleeping and eating enough!

Pro tip: Squeeze your core, a lot/everytime you think about it. Make it a habit. This is definitely one habit you wouldn't want to break and you'll be thankful that you've developed it. 

8. Sleep well

It’s essential that you are getting enough sleep. Everyone knows how important sleep is for recovery. Make sure you sleep enough and don’t let the excitement of doing something new everyday take away from your precious zzz's. Even on a busy trip there is always time for 7-8 hours of sleep. Don’t let your hard work go to waste by not sleeping enough.

However, there are exceptions. Like, don't oversleep if you need to be up to go somewhere. Be flexible.

The following helps me get good sleep:

  • Take melatonin on your trip to adjust your sleep times accordingly for the first night or two.
  • Meditation is a great way to calm your body before sleeping. Try it!
  • Power down. Get off your phone and computer at least an hour before going to sleep.

9 - 100. BE CONSISTENT

Stick to your plan and be consistent. and be consistent with being in tune. Make being consistent an adventure, and every day your trips will be even more interesting, not more overwhelming. That’s the best way to think about.

Go and search for some delicious healthy food (staying active? check) instead of eating at the same fried food stand that you found with pictures on it and liked.

Be consistent with your workout plan, your diet, and your sleep. Be consistent with being flexible too. Be ready for anything. If you are out and about and happen to find a cool place to do some pull-ups or dips or whatever, get it in! Make it a thing to do. Have fun with it.

Conclusion:

A word to my readers: If you want more in-depth information about something specific that I mentioned in this article please leave your feedback or your request in the comments below. I will be working on many new articles and building my site Fit Trav (Fitness Travel) so I will be updating this article to link to those related articles...if I have requests for something specific I will do those first. 



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