How to sustain and be creative with a fitness regime while traveling (Part 1)
Hello my health conscious wanderlusters,
Your duffel bag, backpack or suitcase is packed and you ready to hit the road on your next trip. This could be a work holiday, short-term trip, or a trip of a lifetime where you have gifted yourself with the opportunity to bounce around the world for a copious amount of time. Whichever may be your situation it is CRITICAL not to say good-bye to your healthy habits that you have established prior to traveling, or potentially this is the time now to adopt new positive behaviour patterns towards exercising.
It is so easy to give into the mindset of “Hey, I’m on vacation! I will return back to my healthy eating and exercising when I get back home”. This may seem great at the start when you experiencing the new culture through your stomach and moving from one cafe/restaurant to the next as you indulge in that delicious pizza, the mouth-watering gelato, or tossing back your fifth glass of wine at dinner. However, through giving into this mentality (especially for a long period of time) you are effectively taking ten big steps backwards in terms of your health and wellbeing. This is not to say that you should not experience the local food or even have a relaxing day while traveling, but there is the fine line between when you are just enjoying the moment to when you have now adopted the lifestyle of a sloth.
I have now been travelling continuously for 7 months moving from destination to destination, and I can tell you truthfully that it is more than possible to sustain and be creative with a fitness regime wherever you are traveling to. Ensuring that you regularly remain physically active does not mean that you have to pick up running if the thought of this makes you cringe and want to cry. This is about choosing those exercises or physical activities that will give you that spark and excitement.
So this time around do not give into the “It’s my vacation so therefore I can just be lazy” attitude, but rather follow these simple tips and tricks to prepare yourself in remaining healthy, active, and still be able to do all the fun things that gave you that excited buzz which brought you to traveling in the first place.
1. Get your Activewear on
This is not the time to put on your matching Lorna Jane tank top and matching tights just to go around the various cafes and pretend that you have been exercising when really you have just been brunching from one spot to another.
When you are preparing to go traveling and have to be selective with your wardrobe, because unfortunately you can not carry everything with you, it is vital to select those items from your workout wardrobe that are comfortable, flexible, and provide you with safety. Keeping these three factors in mind you will be able to select clothing that will lead to an effective workout and provide you with the results that you are looking for. Also a quick note here is that it is not important to spend a vast amount of money on your workout clothes as long as they provide you with the correct support and flexibility for your workout. Out of all of my exercise equipment I personally have only spent more money on my trail running shoes and my sports bras because these are more important for safety. All of my other items of clothing cost a maximum of $25 each and allow me to work out efficiently and effectively.
Before I embarked upon this trip one of my friends commented that she could imagine that a significant part of my travel wardrobe would be workout clothes and I would be in this majority of the time. She was not too much off the mark as I left (and still am currently traveling with) 2 pairs of trail running shoes, 2 pairs of tights, 2 pairs of shorts, 3 sport bras and 4 tank tops. This may seem overly excessive for someone who is traveling with a back pack, however, throughout my travels I have used all of these items consistently between my near daily exercise regime (yes it is still important to give your body a break every now and again to let your muscles recover) and also practically living in these items of clothing while completing my Yoga Teacher training and walking the Camino De Santiago.
Finding comfortable and flexible clothing for your work out is crucial as you are not able to stay focused or even finish a workout if you are not comfortable because your shorts are too small and riding up or you do not have the correct sports bra. It is very important to know your body type and to find the right clothing for this as if the clothes is too loose or tight then you will most likely discontinue your workout. In addition it is necessary when choosing your workout gear to pay attention to the fabric, as if you choose clothing that is too heavy and nonabsorbent this can lead to overheating and the need to stop exercising. Furthermore, if the clothes does not stretch this will restrict your movement to bend, twist, reach and move towards becoming your fabulous best version of yourself.
Another essential characteristic of choosing the correct workout gear is ensuring that this will keep you safe and supported throughout your fitness regime. Once again it is imperative to know your body type and size, as well as knowing what type of exercises that you will most likely be engaging in so that you can shop for the appropriate clothing. If like myself, you are into running, especially trail running, and hiking it is very important to purchase proper trail running shoes that will keep you from injuring your feet, ankles, knees and legs. My personal favourite is Helios from La Sportiva. These shoes are so incredibly light weight, have amazing grip perfect for trail running and hiking and have molded to my feet. For us ladies it is also critical to purchase the correct fitting sports bra that provides optimum support especially if you are a runner or doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) where you are moving more rapidly. I do personally favour the sports bras from Lorna Jane as I have found that these provide me with lasting support and comfort. The final vital point here is to make sure that your clothes fit you well, not just for comfort, but also to make sure that they are not too loose or too long for you as this can lead to injuries through tripping over your pants or getting them caught in the exercise equipment.
2. Travel size fitness equipment
Being on the road, whether it be on a business trip, road trip or traveling for a long period of time it is not always possible to find a gym to provide you with the convenience of maintaining a regular fitness regime. So the solution is not to just throw your hands to the air and surrender to this, but rather be forward thinking by supplying your own fitness equipment and getting creative with it in the surroundings that are supplied to you…even if it is merely just the four walls of your room.
Before embarking upon this trip I equipped myself with 2 pairs of running shoes, a resistance band, a skipping rope and my Manduka Eko Superlite Travel Mat because for myself these items are lightweight, easy to fit within my backpack (including the travel yoga mat which can be folded), and also provide me with a range of activities that ensure that I can work all my muscle groups and to be creative within my workouts to benefit both my body and also my mind to keep this constantly stimulated. If you also desire other travel size exercise equipment you can purchase a Balance disc which works similar to a fitness ball but more compact, Push Up Bars so that you can maintain your arm and chest strength, Plyo Loops to provide yourself with that extra resistance training while walking or even doing your lunges, and maybe a frisbee to throw around with some friends or make some new friends in the park or at the beach.
3. Fitness Applications
In addition to equipping yourself with handy and convenient travel equipment I have found that it has been great to take advantage of the technology that we have today by using fitness applications. These keep me inspired, motivated and challenged as well which is important while traveling as majority of the time you will be exercising solo so do not have the same environment such as the gym or your friends to keep you motivated
If you enjoy running, hiking and cycling then you are able to use Mapmyrun which is an excellent application to monitor your own progress. This programalso allows you to upload your route for others to view and in turn are also able to view other people’s routes by location if you are searching for a path. Also check out Runtastic which can be used to measure your success for all types of exercises and sports from running, hiking, windsurfing, zumba, crossfit, and many more. Runtastic allows you to connect to your music which is a great way to energize yourself as well as providing you with different training plans, routes, interval training and also fitness stories to give you that extra boost.
However, running, hiking and cycling are not the only types of exercises that are available for you to engage in whilst traveling, and every day life. It is important to change your exercises so that your body does not adapt to your regime, making your workout ineffective as you your body will reach a plateau. I enjoy and find it necessary to break up my cardio exercises with other training such as yoga. Yoga has been one of my loves for many years due to its benefits not just for my body but also for my mind and on a spiritual level. I have found that All-in Yoga is an amazing application that contains numerous yoga poses demonstrated through videos, information on how to do the pose, and also shows the different muscles that each pose targets. All-in yoga also has 45 programs installed in the application and provides you with the option to create your own program. You also have the opportunity to document how many minutes/hours of yoga you did each day in the calendar with a small yoga quote for each day of the year.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is any workout that alternates between intense burst of activity and fixed period of less intense activity or complete rest. I find that engaging in this type of exercise can be great if you are time poor, as 10 minutes of this HIIT burns more calories than someone jogging on a treadmill the same pace for 30 minutes. Plus HIIT is an excellent way of improving your strength, endurance and aerobic ability. Sworkit serves as your personal trainer providing you with personalised training videos from strength, cardio, yoga and stretching allowing you to also choose the amount of time that you wish to dedicate to the workout.
The resistance band was one of my first purchases to add to my collection of fitness equipment for this trip because it is very light weight, cost-effective, adaptable depending upon your fitness level, can be used alone or with other equipment, targets certain muscles or provides whole body workout, and also used to replace other equipment for exercises that you already know. There are multiple applications that are specific to using only the resistance band, however, I prefer using the application called Fitness Buddy as it has multiple exercises just for using the resistance band and a pre-made workout. Finess Buddy also includes exercises using other equipment, targets different body parts, and also allows you to select the degree of difficulty.
4. Energize and motivate yourself with the power of music and podcasts
Putting on my ‘Gym Music’ playlist always gets me pumped up and ready to go with whichever kout that I have decided to do that day. I find that it is so important to have the right playlist to help me achieve an effective workout because the music provides a good distraction to the pain (good pain of course) that comes with working out and listening to faster and more upbeat music also makes me train harder. It is important to listen to the right music to help you keep at a good pace and research has shown that this tempo normally ranges from 120 to 140 beats per minute for the moderate exerciser. Everyone has their own taste in music and the type of music that make you want to bounce off the walls with energy. To give you some inspiration on an explosive workout playlist visit BodyBuilding.com.
For those days that I wish to tap into my yogi side I have also devised a playlist for my own self practice which is mixed between songs that are only instrumental and others that have lyrics in them. Some people may find music during yoga as distracting and rather just listen to the breath which can be soothing and meditative in itself, especially during a Mysore Ashtanga practice. However, during lead classes and my own self practice I find it very therapeutic to listen to background music because these melodies and rhythms also make me thrive during a yoga practice and elevate me to another level. Sitar music, that is largely found within yoga playlists has been proven to lower cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone. When cortisol levels are decreased this increases our learning capabilities and memory, we are more immune to illness and disease, bone density is increased, decrease in weight gain, and decrease heart problems, amongst many other benefits. To find the yoga playlist that inspires you visit Yoga Journal.
There are also many days when I just feel like wandering the streets of all the amazing places that I have visited. Some days I love being present in that moment by not just taking in the sights and smells that are present, but also the sounds of my surrounding area. However, there are other days when I wish to utilise this time to learn something new through the use of podcasts. There are a vast amount of podcasts on every conceivable topic that you may be interested in and depending upon your mood. A few of my personal favourites include Tedtalks, The Tony Robbins podcast, The Fizzle Show, The Positive Psychology Podcast, Invisibilia, and Beauty Inside Out by Kimberly Snyder.
5. Remove the barriers, the I don’t have time’ mindset and DON’T GIVE YOURSELF A CHOICE
Majority of the time when we are traveling we are in that mindset of ‘I am on vacation‘ , which is the first barrier that you need to break through to get your booty out of bed moving. Not only during traveling, but also everyday life, it is a shame to waste your day by lying in bed when you can be up and moving.
The second thought process that needs to be overcome is the thought that “I just don’t have the time“, because this is not true. Exercising does not have to take 30 minutes or more to be effective or count. It is more about the quality of the workout then the quantity. Each minute that you are moving and being active is one step closer to being healthier, even if this is broken into intervals throughout the day. If you only have 10 minutes in the morning before going out you are able to perform an ab workout or a HIIT. Do not put a time limitation on yourself as you know that any form of exercising has incredible benefits for yourself.
Not giving yourself the choice not to be active is an important mindset to adopt and will provide you with the self motivation that you need while traveling. Whilst at home I had this mindset already, but also having the gym and also friends that I went for a run/hike at my disposal to also keep me motivated helped. However, during my own travels it was very important not to lose normal self motivation that I had back at home which lead me to getting out of bed early, changing into my workout gear, and to get out there and exercise. Once you have adopted this thought process you will find it easy to hop out of bed full of energy without procrastinating and rolling around in bed, hitting the snooze button, because you know that being active is beneficial only to yourself, your longevity and achieving your goals.
Stay tuned on my upcoming article on the various exercise regimes and creative ways of staying fit while traveling.
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