Training While Travelling: Tips for the Staying Fit Abroad

Vacations are supposed to be time to cut loose, relax, and indulge a little — or a lot. How many times have you heard that calories don’t count on vacation, or that you shouldn’t be working when you’re supposed to be resting?

I’ve heard those sayings — and uttered them — plenty of times.

When I found myself facing the prospect of traveling for three months straight, I was ecstatic. But I also realized that I was going to lose all of the progress I’d made in the gym recently if I didn’t get proactive about keeping it up. So I set about planning how to stay fit while I travelled.

While there were definitely slip-ups, I returned from my trip just as healthy as I’d left, if not more so (do you realize how much you walk when you’re being a tourist?). If you’re prepping for a several-month voyage, or even a week-long trip, get proactive about planning for your training.

Combatting Jet Lag

The first obstacles you’re going to encounter are environment changes like a climate or time change. If you’ve packed well, temperature changes shouldn’t be too difficult to deal with. Just remember to hydrate!

Jet lag is a different animal.

Being sleep deprived can turn even the sweetest person into a bundle of illogical aggravation, and few things are more frustrating than laying down to sleep and not being able to. If you aren’t rested, your workouts are going to suffer. Motivation will drop and workouts will yield fewer results.

Luckily, you can help your body adjust a little bit faster to keep you on track.

If you’re facing a major time change, try to book a flight that will land in the morning. That way, you can sleep on the plane and wake up ready to go. In the event you don’t sleep on the plane, it’s not too hard to push through the day and go to bed exhausted at the end of the day — just be sure to set an alarm.

Food is a great tool for adjusting. If you land and it’s lunch time, make sure to eat something whether you’re hungry or not (even if it’s small). Just switch your normal meals over to local time and try to stick to it the best you can. Your body will catch on.

Finally, tackling the monster: going to sleep when your internal clock thinks you should be waking up or just getting off work. Incorporate healthy habits for winding down into your evening routine and you’ll be adjusted in no time. If you normally workout in the evenings, don’t neglect activity entirely, even if all you get in is a short core tabata.

Fitting in Your Workout

You’re travelling. You’re in a new city. Your schedule has been upended, there’s a ton of new distractions, and a distinct lack of your local gym. Chances are you’ll be stuck with you and whatever you bring with you to make your workout, well, work. Take solace; it’s easier than you may think.

If you’re a runner, tuck a pair of low-profile running shoes into your bag — if you stuff them with socks, they’ll barely take up extra room. Throw your shoes on and explore your new environment from the pavement.

There’s an endless combination of workouts that can be performed with little space and just one or two items. Other workout equipment, like resistance bands or jump ropes, take up very little space and weigh almost nothing. Bodyweight workouts are incredibly effective if performed with proper form, and resistance bands up the ante.

Before you leave, familiarize yourself with exercises you’ll be able to do and put together a few workouts. If you don’t have to do a lot of mental work to facilitate your workout, you’re more likely to stay on track.

Finally, if time is a concern, look into HIIT. High-intensity interval training can take as little at 10 minutes and still provide a complete workout — that way, you won’t have to sacrifice any sights or sounds.

refuel after exercise

Fueling Your Body

If you’re anything like me, one of the best parts of traveling is the FOOD. There are so many things to indulge in that you can’t find back home, and what better way to explore a culture than by pulling a chair up to the dinner table?

If your overall goal is fitness, though, it’s time to reign in the indulgence (but just a little). The old adage is true — you can’t outrun a bad diet. You need to make sure that you’re giving your body the type of food it needs as you continue with your workouts and not over- or under-eating. It’s easy to skip a meal when you’re out running around, distracted by new places.

It’s not all restraint and rules, luckily. You just need to be aware of what you put in your body. Aim for whole foods and balanced meals. Pack your own snacks to have with you while you adventure, rather than popping into a coffee shop for a muffin anytime you’re hungry. And always do your best to stay hydrated.

If you have trouble keeping track of what you eat, look into using an app to track your food intake (this can be an approximation). Many programs also allow you to enter your physical activity to get a bigger picture. Don’t underestimate how much you walk, either! We tend to walk a lot more in a new place than we would at home. If your app is synced to a fitness tracker, it’ll keep track of movement for you, and even provide you with reminders of healthy behavior.

Final Words

The biggest obstacle of staying fit while you’re abroad is going to be your motivation. It can definitely be done, but it’s going to require some creative thinking and a lot of commitment. In the end, it’ll be worth it. You won’t return home feeling sluggish or with miles to make up in the gym. Plan for success before you leave, keep on it while you’re traveling, and always remember to allow yourself some slip ups — you’re only human. Making an effort already puts you ahead of the curve.

Alyssa Robinson

Alyssa is a lover of rain, words, and movement who happily resides in the Pacific Northwest. If she doesn’t have her nose stuck in a book, she’s probably waltzing around a ballroom, teaching group fitness classes, or feeding her favorite humans something stealthily healthy. She’s passionate about making health and fitness accessible to anyone, despite their situation.

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