Recently, I’ve found that trying to stay fitness motivated whilst travelling is one of life’s biggest challenges, and no I’m not exaggerating. I love to exercise. I spend countless hours at the gym pretty much every day of the week, or whenever my busy work schedule allows me to. If I can’t get to the gym, I’ll be on the treadmill at home, or take the bike for a spin on a warm summer’s day down the vast country lanes that surround my area. Even if you don’t enjoy the concept of exercise, you tend to at least feel guilt-tripped into doing it. For some odd reason, the view I have of exercise suddenly changes whenever I go away from home. I’ve been on sun holidays before now for two weeks and not done a minute of exercise. Whether you’re going away for three days or three months, such a sudden change in exercise routine can really throw you off once you’re home. Suddenly, you can’t run that 10K anymore, or you can’t lift the same weights you once could.
In the past couple of trips I’ve taken, I’ve made an effort to stay on top of my exercise routine. Albeit, it’s nowhere near as intense as my home schedule, and does not incorporate the same activities (I really wouldn’t fancy the extra-weight airline fees for taking 20kg of weights in my suitcase), but it’s at least doing something to battle the extra calories I’ll be taking in from trying all the unique food. So here are a few tips that I’ve tried and tested over the years to ensure your exercise regime doesn’t falter:
Every minute counts
The phrase I constantly repeat in my mind whilst motivating myself to exercise is “you’ll be lapping everyone on the sofa”. I once saw it on a poster about three years ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since, just because of how true it is. It doesn’t matter if you do five minutes or two hours of exercise, you’ll always have that sense of pride that you’re beating all the people that decide to spend the day sitting around. Personally, I like to aim for a minimum of twenty to thirty minutes of running per day, equating to 2-3 miles. I find this the perfect amount – I feel great in myself, and energised that I got up and going, but it’s not enough to make me ache and feel exhausted for the rest of the day. Just because this is my perfect amount – it may not be for you. Even if you can do a ten minute run, or fast walk, at least you’ve managed to get yourself going – at the end of the day, something is better than nothing.
You only need to wake up thirty minutes earlier
Now, I find the best time to exercise is in the morning. By the time I’ve spent a day out, and I attempt to run in the evening, I usually feel exhausted no matter how well I plan not to. There are often days at work where my hours change, and I find myself starting at 10:00am. These are one of my favourite days just because I can get my daily exercise out of the way before work even begins! Some may say that is commitment, but once you do it once or twice, it becomes normal. Plus, there is nothing better than starting the day off with a workout buzz. I follow the same principles when I travel, get it over and done with before breakfast, and you can enjoy the entire day without fearing the run you have to do later. Setting my alarm thirty minutes before I normally would gives me the perfect amount of time to do some quick cardio and cool off before jumping in the shower. Alternatively, a thirty minute quick-paced strength-training session also works wonders – or switch it up each day if you get bored easily.
Don’t forget your running shoes
There is never an excuse to not take your running shoes. I always used to use the excuse “I can’t fit them in my suitcase” before promptly removing them and storing them back in the wardrobe to gather dust. If you really cannot fit them in, wear them. Running shoes are fantastic for travelling, especially city breaks because they can double up as not only your running shoes, but comfortable and durable shoes to walk countless miles around urban streets in. My boyfriend once stated that the best way to see a city is to run around it. In a way I guess he’s half correct as you can cover ground faster and explore places you normally wouldn’t have. Let’s not stop there though, there are so many items you can squeeze into a suitcase that would compliment your exercise plan, such as skipping ropes, resistance bands or ab rollers. A lack of space is really not enough of an excuse, so don’t let yourself believe it is!
Body weight exercises (and household objects) are your best friend
For years at the gym, I used to stick to resistance machines (yes, I realise my mistake now). Picking up dumbbells, or using my own body weight was something I never even considered. Probably because this meant walking into the “men’s section” of the gym where the mats and weights were located – oh I’m so glad the days of fearing that area are long gone. Over the past year, I’ve managed to push my strength-training to a whole new level. I genuinely spend hours researching into different exercises, how to form myself correctly or watching other gym members. Before you go away, look into some body weight exercises and jot them on a list – form an exercise plan so you know what to do each day – remember to do around three sets of twelve repetitions and stick to specific muscle groups e.g. legs, core. Some of my favourite body weight exercises that can be completed on the go are; squats (and single-leg squats), lunges, push-ups, planks, calf raises, pull-ups (depending on what’s available), wall sits, leg lifts and mountain climbers – so there’s a start if you don’t normally tend to focus on body weight exercises. Another great tip I can provide whilst on this subject is do not underestimate household objects. Any object can act as a weight. Before I purchased dumbbells at home, I used to fill two empty two-litre bottles with water, and use them whilst performing most of the exercises listed above. It may have looked crazy to any neighbour, but I was trying to work with what I had!
Don’t just eat carbohydrates
This is one point that I’m terribly guilty of – binging on carbohydrates when I travel. Consuming fruit, vegetables and lean protein tends to be thrown out the window, and I spend the majority of my time eating bread and rice based cuisines. The biggest problem with carbohydrates is that they’re cheap. If you’re struggling for money, or you’re saving money for particular activities whilst out on your adventures, of course you’ll turn to the cheapest foods, but this usually isn’t beneficial for your waist. The golden rule I try to stick to is making sure that every 3 or 4 meals out of 5 are healthy. This consists of lean protein sources, vegetables, fruits and a tiny portion of carbohydrates if I’m feeling particularly hungry. It would be silly to completely restrict yourself from eating nice foods abroad, but there is a balance to maintain. My favourite eating routine to follow is usually a small breakfast to keep you going until lunch time, and then either a larger lunch OR dinner – only try to have one large meal per day no matter how difficult it may be. Being committed to eating well can be hard when you travel, but healthy foods don’t have to be boring. Just think, if one day you decide not to have that extra alcoholic drink, you can instead spend a little more on a more nutritious meal – your body will thank you for it later.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring! There are always plenty of activities that incorporate exercise, even if you don’t realise it. A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I visited the beautiful island of Majorca for a short break away. It just so happened that the one week in September that we decided to go, we were plagued with rain and thunder every day (typical). Of course, this made lounging on the beach or by the pool pretty impracticable, so we decided to research into other activities. In the end, we went on a horse-trek through the Majorcan mountains. For people that don’t regularly ride horses, our core and legs were sure numb afterwards – little did we realise we’d engaged in a three hour workout. Hiking is another one of my holiday favourites, there is always a national park or a hill nearby, ready to provide you with some beautiful, natural scenery. If you’re out on a sun holiday, how about water sports or kayaking? Snorkeling is also a great, family activity. Observing vibrant fish in crystal clear waters is always a mesmerising experience for any age. Ultimately my point here is that there’s never a shortage of things to do – go out and try something you wouldn’t usually do.
So there it is. Most of the time, there is never an excuse to skip exercise. Exercise doesn’t just have to be slogging it out in the hotel gym, it can be fun and engaging too. It can be a mental battle in itself, but if you put yourself up to the challenge of keeping fit whilst away, I guarantee you will.