Staying Fit While Traveling

Staying Fit While Traveling

Most people gain a few pounds on vacation.


Nobody wants to think about their beer consumption on their 3 weeks off and with the focus on ‘relaxation’ the predisposition is definitely to pig out vs. work out.


If you’re only on the road for a few weeks this isn’t going to hurt too much. You can hit the treadmill as soon as you’re back home without getting too far behind. With an active gym membership and good habits already in place, you can pick up exactly where you left off.


If you’re traveling indefinitely you don’t get it that easy. If you’re living in a new location every week/month you’ve got to figure out…


  1. How to make time to work out with an ever-changing schedule

  2. Where you will work out

  3. How you’ll get your hands on the equipment you need.


Slacking off on your workout schedule has obvious detriments. After 6 months on the road, using the excuse that ‘it’s hard to workout while I’m traveling’ won’t cut it.


Especially if your diet consists of lots of delicious street food you’ll begin adding inches to your waistline!


Since I hit the road I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to consistently work out every other day. This, while taking impromptu 24 hour bus rides, crossing borders, and living in hostels packed with guests.


I’m happy to say that I feel just as fit as I was when I was living in Boston. I would feel very different if I hadn’t made time for my workout sessions!


It’s been a challenge to keep up this habit, and there’s been a few times where exhaustion or a room of sleeping hostel guests has almost made me miss a day!


Here’s my best tips to help keep in shape while traveling.


Eating food like this every day will KILL you if you don't work out regularly!

Eating food like this every day will KILL you if you don’t work out regularly!


1. Build The Habit Upon Arrival At A New Location


The reason it’s so easy to stay in shape when you’re staying in one location is that with a little initial effort you can build fitness into your schedule and keep it there long term.


If you hit the gym after work every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 3 weeks, you’ll soon get used to it and pack your gym bag in the morning without thinking about it.


When you arrive in a new city for the first time you’ve got no such pre-existing habits or schedules to build off of. In fact, as soon as you check in to your hostel or step into your apartment for the first time you are actively creating the habits for that location.


A new location largely erases the habit patterns you had built up from your previous home. This leaves you with the ability to write new habit patterns into your life.


If you work out as soon as you arrive in a new location, you’ll wire the activity into your brain.


If you wait even a few days you’ll wire the ‘don’t work out’ default state into your brain instead. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to change this lazy habit.


The day I purchased my apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I did a Google search for a gym in the area. No less than 30 minutes after I moved in I was in workout clothes and walking down the street to the local gym.


I continued to work out religiously every other day for my entire three-month stay in Chiang Mai. Because I built fitness into my routine on day one it took only a little willpower to keep it going.



2. Build A Workout That Requires No Equipment


When you’re moving more rapidly, like I was in Laos and the latter half of my time in Vietnam, it can be nearly impossible to continually find gyms in your area with proper equipment. In addition to this, daily memberships can add up if you’re traveling on a budget!


Because of this, I’ve built a simple ‘core’ workout that I can do anywhere, adding exercises based on what equipment is available.


This workout involves…


  1. Push-ups

  2. Sit-ups

  3. Static/Jumping Squats


The most important thing about these three simple exercises is that I can do them anywhere I have a little floorspace. I don’t need a full gym, it doesn’t take long, and I have no excuse for not doing them!


Whenever possible I’ll also add in shoulder and back exercises by filling a backpack full of water bottles and pulling it up to my chest while leaning over a chair. This is great because it balances out the front-dominated exercises of push-ups and sit-ups that pull your shoulders into a hunch if you don’t strengthen back muscles.


This was my 'Gym' when I was in Chiang Mai. Just a backpack full of water bottles!

This was my ‘Gym’ when I was in Chiang Mai. Just a backpack full of water bottles!


3. Never, NEVER, Miss A Workout


I learned this one before I hit the road.


When I was in my first year of college I was just beginning to work out regularly. My habit was fragile at best and if I let myself miss a day, (even for a ‘logical’ reason) I would somehow miss the next day as well! (and the next, and the next…etc.) Just getting to the gym would seem so challenging and so inconvenient!


After a little while I caught on. It wasn’t that ‘suddenly my world had gotten much more busy’ for a 2-week stretch. I had just let myself slip into ‘excuse-making’ mode.


Because I had learned from this when I lived in Boston, I made sure to never miss a workout on the road. After nearly 6 months of running all over Asia I never did.


Lots of unexpected things happened that ‘logically’ would get in the way of regular workouts.


  1. The bus from Laos to Vietnam was over 24 hours long – after reaching Ha Noi I was exhausted!

  2. I arrived in Ha Long Bay with nowhere to stay! It was only after I met a local man who let me stay in his apartment that I was able to do my push-ups in his bathroom.

  3. I went totally BROKE! (my post-workout meal was 12 big tomatoes)


After my time on the road I can confidently say that I can always find time to work out, even though I’m on the move.


Based on my experience from Boston, even missing one of these workouts would help me justify missing the next and the next and the next! Travel doesn’t afford much stability, and it would have been much harder to get back on track!




Working out is important! This remains true whether you are location independent or staying in place.


I hope these tips are helpful to you as continue to explore!


Are there any workouts you’ve found that fit into a travel schedule?


Tell us about them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter @Nico Jannasch.


I would look TERRIBLE in a wet suit if I hadn’t kept up with my push-ups and sit-ups!