Simple Exercises You Can Do To Stay Healthy While Travelling Full-time

When you are on a three-week vacation, indulging yourself in exotic food, local drinks, and all-night parties does little harm if not some good. I don’t have late-night parties anymore, to be absolutely honest, but I love trying new food and having a beer or two with my dinner or, sometimes, lunch. There's this one restaurant in Spain, where we used to go. They serve a €9,50 lunch menu including three courses and a bottle of wine. It would be rude not to drink and stuff our face, wouldn’t it? 

Could you spot the wine? 

Could you spot the wine? 

Ian and I are no longer on holiday, an extended honeymoon or such, despite how much we like to think it. While working on the road - the digital nomad lifestyle, we need to do exercise to stay healthy and productive.  Occasional walks from a train station to an AirBnB flat and weekend hikes are insufficient. With our strong passion for craft beer and food, hefty dishes included, workouts should be on a regular basis. 

After a lot of research, some purchases and six months of trial and error, we have got a well-formed plan for regular exercises, including:

  • running 
  • swimming 
  • doing yoga  

Here are the details

The gear

The best gear for the road should be lightweight, quick-dry and multi-functional so you can avoid travelling with heavy backpacks or suitcases. As Ian and I only have a carry-on backpack each, those are precisely our go-to clothing items. 

Running shoes

I know hot, sunny places on the top of most travelers' lists, like Greece or Thailand, are more agreeable with sandals and flip-flops, but don't leave the training shoes behind.

I got a pair of hiking shoes from Merrell, which I can use on many occasions:

  • Physically demanding hikes through jungles and mountains, obviously
  • Every time we need to move from one place to another. It is kind to my feet because the shoes provide more supports than sandals. It is also nice to my back as I don't have to carry the weight of the bulky shoes. 
  • Twice-weekly runs in a city or along the beach 
Air our my shoes after a long run 💃🏼

Air our my shoes after a long run 💃🏼

Hiking shoes might not provide as much support as the running equivalent when you jog, but as the formers are made for long, challenging walks, you will feel much better in them when moving between towns in the scorching heat. When I balance the pros and the cons, I find my Merrell hiking shoes extremely practical.

Workout clothes

We invested in traveling clothes made from merino wool, which is light, quick to dry and hardly retain any sweaty smells. That means once washed, our clothes can dry overnight and be ready to use again the next day. When we don't have time to wash our workout clothes straight away, they don't stink the whole backpack out. You can get them from Icebreaker or Super Natural. 

I also pack two swimming costumes: a bikini and swim suit, for when one doesn't dry fast enough for the following day's swim. 

Backpack

I want to travel light, one carry-on luggage only, so I put a lot of thought into finding the right backpack. It should not be too big as I am pretty small. The priority is a separate, easy-to-access compartment for the laptop and the bonus is a few pockets to keep things apart. My Burton backpack has it all, plus two traps for an yoga mat. I can attach a mat vertically to the outside of the bag, and squeeze myself through any crowd at ease. 

Me with my beloved Burton backpack 

Me with my beloved Burton backpack 

I don't carry the mat when we have to take short-haul flights because of the carry-on limit. Fortunately, cheap yoga mats can be found in many places, and you can always leave your mat for the next AirBnB guests, other fellow travellers. 

Carrying a yoga mat around...

Carrying a yoga mat around...

The Places

I understand that you are far away from your favorite gym, but don’t let that stop you. 

Actually, I prefer running outside for the opportunities of people watching, food smelling and photo shooting. When we stay in Europe, I find it easy to get a run or two a week thanks to the prevalence of parks and playgrounds. You can also run along the streets in places like Barcelona, Budapest or Zagreb as they have very spacious pavements. 

When I first started to run, I was full of self-consciousness about looking funny and weak so I only ran in parks, during quiet hours, but that has changed. Now I go for a sprint, or a jog, when I can find time and space. I’ve run along main streets in front of tourists sipping their wine and cross busy parks packed with BBQ parties. As long as I have headphones and shoes on, nothing could bother me in my own business. 

When it comes to swimming, there's always a pool nearby when we started looking.

As I have just learned to swim this summer, I love going to the pool and pushing my limits. When we were in Barcelona, Ian took me to an outdoor pool on top of the Montjuïc hill. It was built for the Olympic Games that Spain hosted in 2008. Its salted water is fantastic and you have spectacular views over the city. August glorious weather completed such an amazing experience for us. I felt so much better after the long swim, which took away the whole week of working and playing hard in Barcelona.

Who would not fancy a dip in this massive pool? 

Who would not fancy a dip in this massive pool? 

Keeping track

In Chiang Mai, we spent two weeks in a condo with a gym and swimming pool, so Ian prepared a spreadsheet recording our runs and swims. We also noted down any yoga sessions we did. That spreadsheet gave us the motivation as we could see and appreciate the efforts. Any empty day prompted us to try harder, like the “Never 2” rule from Nerd Fitness

I also keep track of my runs on Instagram which might sound a bit lame, but any type of accountability counts, right? Each time I ran, I snapped a photo, then posted it on Instagram with a running hashtag.   

So far, I have had photos taken in:

  • Utrecht (Netherlands)
  • Barcelona (Spain)
  • Villandry (Spain)
  • Rotterdam (Netherlands)
  • Bergen (Netherlands)
  • Paris (France)
  • Eindhoven (Netherlands)
  • Antwerp (Belgium)
  • Alkmaar (the Netherlands)
  • A couple of villages in Lancashire (England) 
  • Hanoi (Vietnam) 
  • Haarlem (Netherlands) 

In fact, those photos got the most likes in my gallery. Inspiration spreads far, doesn't it? 

Bonuses 

I prefer workouts that last at least 30 minutes as they give my brain a proper break at the same time. However, for someone with an irregular working schedule and temporary living arrangements, I count on every little bit of exercises. 

A while back, I started doing sit-ups as a habit-forming experiment. I would do it the first thing in the morning, the minute I get out of the bed and keep a record of any streaks. Sometimes it’s a week, sometimes it’s only 3 days but the number of sit-ups has increased from 20 to 40. Now, after this small workout, I can feel my muscle stretching and my sweat running.

Many also recommend the 7-minute workout and swear by its effectiveness. You don’t need much space for it, and obviously, not much time. Tutorials can be found on YouTube after one search and there are free apps for your phone too (iOS and Android). 

For those who are with me until now, here's the real bonus 😸😸😸

So here you go. Let's stay fit on the road, my fellow travellers.

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