10 Tips for Staying Fit During Long-Term Travel

Are you planning a long-term trip and wondering how you’ll stay fit? Or maybe you’re already on the road and looking for a few new tips? 

I hate to break it to you, but it’s more challenging to stay fit while traveling than when you’re locked into a routine at home.

Just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

After 6 months on the road, here are my top 10 tips to staying fit while traveling.

1) Breakfast is for champions

You never skip breakfast right? Okay, good. It’s crucial to refuel your body with nutritious foods when you wake up. Don’t give your starving body junk food! It doesn’t like sugar, simple carbs, and bad fats. It’s easy to succumb to the “unhealthy convenient breakfast,” but you’re body will thank you if you put out a little effort in the morning.

Avoid: donuts, pastries, pancakes, cornflakes, sugar-filled fruit juice

Eat: Fresh fruit, muesli, sugar free yogurt, eggs, whole grains, fresh fruit juice

*For a well-balanced breakfast that’s easily available on the tourist trail (aka banana pancake trail) try “fruit muesli curd and honey” + two hard boiled eggs. Add a large glass of water and a cup of tea or coffee, and you’re good to go.

2) Practice seated meditation

If you already have a meditation practice, this should be a no brainer while traveling. If you haven’t tried before, don’t be intimidated. Meditation is not some weird new-age thing that only monks do in caves.

Simply sit comfortable with your eyes closed while focusing on your breath. Start with 5 mins each day. After one week, increase it to 6mins, then 7mins, with a goal of comfortably sitting for 15-20mins per day.

It can be hard to stay disciplined – I recommend committing to a 30-day challenge of daily meditation. Find an accountability partner, and try something new. You can do anything for 30 days! And if you hate it, you can stop knowing you gave it a fair shot. If you do see value – it may change your life. 

Typical results: Better sleep, less easily agitated, a general sense of well being, more control over emotions.

3) Limit your caffeine consumption

Caffeine is very accepted in western culture. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

When I was working my corporate sales job, I was a slave to caffeine. I used to down several large cups of coffee every day. I thought it helped me. After noticing some of the side affects (trouble sleeping, tension in back, unable to focus without caffeine) I decided to quit coffee cold turkey. While I did reintroduce tea into my diet, I haven’t had a cup of coffee in 7 months. I’ve been sleeping better, my concentration and creativity increased, and my mornings are enjoyable 

If you don’t want to completely cut caffeine, go for green or black tea.

4) Drink tons of water…

Especially right when you wake up. Aim for 1 liter within the first hour of being awake. This will help you wake up, jumpstart your metabolism, and assist with healthy bowel movements.

Drinking 4 liters of water per day is a reasonable goal. Aim for more if you’re in a hot climate, are really active, or you enjoy alcohol regularly.

Protip: Buy lemons from the local market and squeeze them into your water. I recommend 1-2 small lemons per day, best with warm water in the morning. Warm lemon water helps with digestion; it’s good for your skin and alkalizes your body.

5) Keep your workouts interesting!

Think swim one day, jog the next, yoga after that, and then a day of “weight training.” By changing up your exercises you can (hopefully) avoid getting burned out.

Protip: try online yoga videos. There are tons of free options available that cater to all skill levels. It’s a full body workout that supplements other forms of fitness. Here are few choices of yoga mats for travel.

6) Carry peanut butter for a healthy dessert!

Peanut butter is a perfect substitute for that chocolate banana pancake. It goes great on apples or eaten with a spoon (or finger) straight out of the jar. Just try to limit your PB to 2 tablespoons per day.

7) Read more books

I’m not talking about the news, reddit, professional journals related to your former career, or buzzfeed articles. I’m talking about FICTION. Good old-fashioned novels. Books that inspire you and challenge you to think differently. Besides, your career break is a perfect time to catch up on some of those books you’ve talked about reading.

8) Weight training doesn’t require a weight room

At home I enjoy spending a few hours each week lifting weights. Long-term travelers don’t have access to this convenience. Instead create a routine with what you have.

Plan on using your main backpack as the weight (resistance bands work too). You can wear your backpack for pushups, squats, etc. Or you can grip the top handle like a dumbbell for curls and shoulder raises. When you need to change the weight of your backpack, just increase or decrease the stuff inside. For added weight, fill your bag with 2L water bottles.

Here are some of my favorite “weight training” exercises:

  • Upper Body: wide-grip pushups, narrow-grip pushups, incline/decline pushups, triceps extensions, skull crushers (use your bed as the bench), lateral raises, shoulder raises, curls.
  • Lower Body: Single-leg squats, squats, lunges, calf raises,
  • Core: Planks, bicycle kicks, leg raises, crunches

9) Get enough sleep

This one is obvious, but for some reason we deprive ourselves all the time. Forget what they say, listen to your body. For me, I need 8 hours of solid sleep to function optimally. Maintain a regular bedtime whenever possible – our bodies like routine. James Clear summarized the science behind sleep – great read.

Protips: To maximize your sleep time… drink less alcohol, don’t eat before bed, no tv/computer before bed – turn the brightness down on screen if you MUST work late, exercise daily but NOT before bed.

10) Avoid convenience store snack benders

These little general stores carry very few things of nutritional value. Avoid buying chips/crisps or little manufactured sweets. As tempting and convenient as they are, they are made by replacing nutrients with nasty little additives and unwanted processed sugar. As a bonus you will save tons of money avoiding the convenience store snacks as they often cost the same as a local meal!

Protrip: substitute fresh fruit and vegetables from the market. Most places around the world sell cheap local fruit. If you’re looking for some good portable vegetables try cucumbers and carrots.

Your turn – what is your best tip to stay fit while traveling?

PS: If you’re looking for more tips, I asked 16 full-time travelers how to stay healthy on the road. Bonus: Sherry Ott from Meet, Plan, Go is on the list!

Brandon’s BIO: Former corporate sales rep turned nomadic entrepreneurial yogi. Street food ninja, avid outdoorsman, craft beer geek, and live music junkie. Co-founder of The Yoga Nomads – providing you the pulse on the international yoga scene. Come say hello on Facebook or Instragram!

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