Whenever I go travelling, I always promise myself I will keep in shape and workout every day. However, not through lack of effort, I always give up along the way. Partly this is due to that relaxed feeling you get when staying in a hostel close to attractions you only ever dreamed of visiting, but it is also down to a lack of preparation and a proper exercise guide for the period of time I am away for.
First you need to layout exactly what you want to achieve, are you trying to lose weight, keep the muscle you have gained in the gym or cut so you have beach abs? Try to write down your weight and your statistics at the start of the holiday. If you are weight training, you might want to measure certain parts of your body, such as your biceps and chest.
One extra way you can motivate yourself is to take a ‘before’ photo at the start of the holiday, so once you are seeing the signs of your regular workouts, you can take an after photo to be proud of. I would also recommend keeping a food journal, but this always feels wrong when travelling, so I don’t expect anyone to do this (except for the hardcore gym junkies).
What to pack
You want to bring items that are as light as possible, so you don’t have to discard them at a later date, therefore this rules out packing in any dumbbells. A resistance band is incredibly versatile and can help you workout pretty much every muscle in the body, depending on the exercise. A jump rope is also a great fitness tool, which you will find yourself improving at more you practice. Remember to pack shoes you can work out and run in, so many people are focused on the beach and forget about the practicality of clothing. This might have multiple uses anyway as you might end up doing other sports such as camel riding, quad biking, zip wiring, which are all better with proper trainers.
If you decide to stay in a hotel, head to the nearest supermarket (or grocery store of some sort) and buy all the healthy essential foods you need. You can store these in the hotel room fridge (remember to put back the fridge items before you leave otherwise you may get charged extravagant prices for them). Make the most of the gym’s in the hotel, as you might not see one for a while if you’re staying in hostels the majority of the time. Use this time to weight train if you can (once again this all depends on what your goal is, however weight training should be adopted by everyone in my opinion).
If offered the option to take the bus to town, ask for full directions and then jog to town. You should also look out for bikes available for hire, as this could end up allowing you to view the whole city while exercising at the same time.
Put on paper your exact exercise plan and the moment you wake up, fly out of bed and start straight away (don’t forget to warm up and stretch as your muscles won’t be expecting this). Once you start, you will notice yourself properly waking up and getting in to it. Once it is done, you then have the rest of the day to do what you want, safe in the fact that you have already worked out, meaning you don’t have to worry about squeezing it in near the end of the day.
If you don’t work out on a hangover day, I’m not going to give you a judging look, however one of the main issue’s is eating whatever you want after a heavy night out. Try to control yourself and eat as healthy as possible. Often it is down to easiness, so try and prepare your food the day before, so it is all ready to eat for the next day. While the thought of exercising when hungover isn’t overly appealing, it often makes you feel rejuvenated as you feel the alcohol sweat out of you and you begin to feel motivated again. I often find this to be the ultimate hangover cure (alongside coffee).
You are allowed days off, no-one is going to judge you, however try not to get too comfortable with days off or make weak excuses why you deserve a day off, as this is the first step towards giving up. We always make excuses with ourselves, however further down the line we always regret it and wish we stuck with the plan. Every time you feel unmotivated, try to hype yourself up and put on some hyper music. One great way to motivate yourself is if someone you are travelling with is also into keeping in shape, as then you can both push yourself. If they’re tired one day, you have to push them to the limit, and they have to do the same when you feel like giving up. This is important as it works in multiple ways as I always want the person I’m travelling with to push me to take on any challenge, whether I want to or not, be it skydiving or Thai boxing.
If you only have ten minutes, then use it, it is better to do a bit than nothing at all. You can often try and sneak it into you are doing, such as while waiting for your friend to get ready, try some push ups and jumping jacks.
My number one rule if you are trying to watch the calories is DO NOT drink fizzy drinks (…carbonated drinks…coca cola etc). We often have that feeling of ‘pah, I’m on holiday, I can do what I want’, but these drinks pack on the pounds quick. Don’t deny yourself of eating out and trying the local delicacies, but do try to choose the one that sounds the healthiest, so sardines over burgers. For a side dish, ask for salad instead of chips (fries).
If you are going on an excursion or exploring, or going anywhere while travelling, try to pack some healthy snacks. It isn’t good to starve yourself, while if you’re hungry you are more likely to divulge in something you know you really shouldn’t. You could try packing protein bars, protein shakes, smoothies, blends (with oats, bananas, whey protein etc), whatever it is, you will probably appreciate it later. If you do buy some kind of bar while travelling, try to go for one with a lower level of sugar, as some have ridiculously high amounts.
I would also recommend planning your food for your flight. I personally find when I’m on a plane I am absolutely starving and once the food arrives it is notoriously unhealthy. Stick some food in a tuber wear and over pack as it is better to be over prepared than to go hungry and buy something you really shouldn’t.
Work out the exact macro nutrients you require for your body and start reading up on which foods contain what. This can help you to realise potential products you could buy along the way, such as cottage cheese and oats being items not often adopted by travellers, but incredibly healthy and decently priced.
Keeping some long lasting foods in your bag is also good as a backup plan, such as some nuts and seeds. I find a pack of walnuts and some pumpkin seeds work well.
Now here comes your biggest challenge…wait, I’ll change my wording…here comes my biggest challenge, avoiding the buffets! I have a weakness for eating way too much at buffets, which can be a massive downfall while on holiday, so try your best to avoid these so you don’t feel like you have to ‘get your money’s worth’.
Where ever you go, there will be sports available, where you could play with locals or other travellers. If you’re near a beach, look out for beach volleyball, surfing or jump in the sea and go for a swim. Swimming is one of the greatest forms of exercise you can perform, while it is free to do, so make the most of this aquatic gym and dive into a healthy body. You can also go for a morning/evening jog along the beach, although always be careful to avoid the oddballs that are sometimes on the beach at that time. Check the safety of the beaches for different periods of time and see whether there have been any criminal cases in certain areas, so you know where to avoid.
The hostel you stay in might also have some equipment available such as a ping pong table, if so, make the most of it.
I love weight training, however I’m quite aware that often this is not available where I am staying. This offers me a predicament, however it is easy to overcome, as everything around you is a potential weight. Stick on your backpack, load it with heavy items and then do squats. Squats release growth hormones and are one of the best exercises you can perform, while the extra weight on the back will help. You can also bench-press your loaded backpack. You might not have anything available to make the weight heavy enough to build muscle, however you can also use this to prevent muscle breakdown, which could be equally as important while travelling if you don’t want to lose all the gains you made while back home.
If you stop exercising, you will begin to lose strength and fitness, however muscle does have memory so you can gain it back again in the future. However, you don’t want to have this mindset as if you feel like giving up, switching to muscle retention will mean when you start weight training again, you will regain size much quicker as you will have a greater starting point. After two weeks of inactivity, I find that muscle tends to decrease, getting exponentially worse the longer you leave it.
Here is one potential full body workout (however I normally recommend splitting it out so your working on different muscle groups, e.g back and bicep together):
- 5 sets of jumping jacks – 30 reps
- 5 sets of squats with backpack on – 10 reps
- 5 sets of lunges (with heavy bags in each hand) – 12-15 reps
- pullups (see if there is a pole or a beam which you can pull yourself up on)
- 4 sets of pushups – 3 sets of 20 and one to failure
- 4 sets of dips (try from chair to chair) – 10 reps
- 4 sets of bicep curls with suitably weighted bags – 8 reps
- 3 sets of Planks – 1 minute at a time
- 4 sets of Clean and Jerk with backpack – 10 reps
You’re workout should be a maximum of an hour, as when you pass the hour you switch into a catabolic state. Try to eat some whey protein and carbs 30mins/1 hour before exercising and straight after. I normally have a banana or honey as my form of carbohydrates.
Remember you can add further weight to most exercises if you use initiative, for example you could put on a backpack when doing push ups, or alternatively you could try different hand positions to get different results.
Work out whether you exercise better inside or outside, as this can help with keeping motivation levels high. Some prefer to be outside, exercising on the beach, while others feel self conscious and would rather do it in the privacy of their own homes. At the same time, some prefer the fresh air when working out, while others like to utilise the furniture in their hotel rooms to build their own gym equipment. Test out both and mix it up every now and then to keep it fresh.