//A Nomad’s Guide to Staying Fit

A Nomad’s Guide to Staying Fit

A traveler who’s now been on the road for six weeks—and plans to continue traveling for the foreseeable future—recently asked her Twitter followers for tips on staying fit on the road (especially when you don’t stay at the kinds of places that have a gym!). I posted a few links in response, but thought I’d expand on the topic here.

Obviously the most important thing for nomads is to choose activities that don’t require any heavy equipment—we sure don’t want to haul around a weight set (although that might be good exercise in and of itself)!

(It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: I am not a personal trainer, a doctor, or an expert! Consult a health professional before beginning any new exercise program.)

We already have one piece of effective equipment that we carry around with us all the time: our own weight. Bodyweight exercises are a great tool for staying healthy on the road since they don’t require any special equipment. This video and the tips here (with videos) are a good start, and you can Google “bodyweight exercises” to turn up a bunch more.

I used to travel with a resistance band (the Dyna-band style, which is just a long strip of rubber, no handles or anything extra; they come in different resistance levels)—it takes up virtually no space in your bag, weighs hardly anything, and can be used for lots of different exercises. There are a lot of resistance band workout videos on YouTube (I did this one the other day). Now I’m traveling with a few pieces from a fancier resistance-band set with tubes of different resistance levels, interchangeable handles, and a door mount.

When you’re in sightseeing mode, you might naturally stay fit by spending a lot of time walking around a new city. In fact, there are a lot of ways to learn more about a local culture or see the sights and get some exercise at the same time: rent a bicycle and tour around, take classes in the local traditional dance, join a pick-up game or morning calisthenics in the park, try a popular local sport, chase a dog down the beach, or go on a kayaking or hiking excursion.

If your current activities are more sedentary (say, working on a new website or taking 16-hour bus rides), you’ll have to make more of an effort to be active. Running is a great no-equipment sport, as long as you travel with a good pair of running shoes (or give barefoot running a try). Keep in mind, however, that in some cultures it is very unusual to see people (especially women) out jogging, so you might want to scope out the local situation before heading out for a run (do you see people exercising? where? what are they wearing?). It would also be a good idea to ask a local for good places to exercise, and let someone know where you’re headed if you’re going alone. I often go for a walk or run without any money or ID on me, and have started to think that’s not such a good idea! I recently bought a little sports wallet that clips to my waistband so I can carry the essentials with me, just in case.

I love to get out and walk (and sometimes run), but my favorite form of exercise is yoga. If I can’t get to a class and I feel like my home practice needs some guidance, I often use video podcasts from Yogamazing. Past episodes can be purchased here, or you can subscribe for free via iTunes (and there are some other good options out there as well). My favorite mat is too heavy and bulky to travel with, so I bought a thinner, lighter travel mat and some Yoga Paws. Although I have these handy accessories, I’ve found it can be difficult to find space, and quiet, to practice (especially if you’re staying in a hostel or with friends/family), but when I make the effort, it’s so worth it.

I’d love to hear what tricks help you stay fit on the road! What nomad-friendly exercise routines work for you? What challenges or concerns do you face?

2017-04-10T11:59:32+00:00March 1, 2011|Well-Being|10 Comments


  1. Jenny @ exconsumer March 2, 2011 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Hi Amy,

    This is some really good advice. Obviously you don’t want to haul around heavy weights and such when your traveling. I’m a big fan of bodyweight exercises too. Squats, lunges, pushups and crunches can be done anywhere with no special equipment. Walking is my favorite form of exercise — and it can be done anywhere without equipment as well. In fact, need to get my body up and take my own advice. The winters in Ohio are rough!

    • Amy March 5, 2011 at 11:34 am - Reply

      I felt the same way: the good thing about writing about exercise is it makes you want to get out there and do it! Yeah, the weather can work against you—it often feels too hot or too cold to get outside. That’s the good thing about yoga and the bodyweight stuff, you can do it inside, though there’s no substitute for really stretching your legs with a brisk walk or jog outside!

  2. marianney | A Life Set Free March 3, 2011 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    thanks Amy for these great tips! i personally dont really like going to the gym, though i force myself to every week. i should start doing some of these at home exercises because they really are better than nothing. and at the least, will give you the strength to do a lot of walking and hiking when you travel!

    • Amy March 5, 2011 at 11:32 am - Reply

      That’s a very good point—being in good shape when you start out is a big help. It gives you the stamina to do lots of hiking and walking, and to handle long bus and plane rides. And keeping active on the road helps work out all those kinks from carrying bags and sleeping in crappy beds!

  3. Paul Strobl March 4, 2011 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Great article, Amy. I’ve been moving more toward body weight exercises myself after being a free weight gym guy for years. There’s plenty of ways to challenge yourself using just gravity.

    A very versatile, mobile piece of equipment I would recommend as you can work every part of your body is a TRX system. This is what military, special forces, etc. use to keep up their training when out in the field.

    Of course, staying motivated to keep the exercise up is the only limiting factor for most 🙂

    • Amy March 5, 2011 at 11:40 am - Reply

      Yes, good point. Even the best exercises only help if you actually DO them. 🙂 The good thing is, for me at least, if I bother to carry around exercise stuff—a yoga mat, or even just the resistance bands—I feel like I better use them in order to justify having packed them!

      That TRX system looks pretty awesome, but maybe too bulky for travel (and it weighs two pounds!). The need to anchor it to something also seems like a limitation to using it on the road, no?

  4. Cherie @Technomadia March 7, 2011 at 8:32 am - Reply

    I totally concur with your advice… and follow it too. We’ve been on the road for nearly 5 years, most it via RV however. At first, we carried around bikes – but they became a pain. We’ve had a set stolen (despite being locked to our vehicle), and we’ve had locks completely rust out on us (thus making the bikes useless until we could find a locksmith). I also carried around rollerblades, but finding good surfaces in new places can be problematic.

    We both took up running last year (in Vibram Five Finger shoes.. extremely travel versatile shoes) … a great way to get started for those of us less inclined towards running is the Couch 2 5k program. It really makes it accessible. And, finding running communities as we travel has been a great way to socialize too.

    In general, we try to get out and be active… if not going for a jog, then a hike, a walk, a swim, yoga, etc.

    We also carry around resistance bands – however ours are rather bulky and high end (they velcro strap to trees and such). When/If we give up travel by RV and switch to backpacks, they’ll have to go.

    • Amy March 8, 2011 at 6:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Cherie! I think I’ve heard of Couch 2 5K—it’s a great idea to have a training program to follow when you’re just getting started. And that’s a good point about finding a community around running—or any sport, really—being a great way to socialize as you travel.

  5. Meg April 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    I love this. I am getting ready to go on a world trip in January and I am a work out freak right now in the states. I rely on my gym membership, yoga classes, and boot camps to keep me in shape. I have been thinking of things that I can do on the road while I am traveling. It’s nice to have tricks and tips to follow. My boyfriend is one of those I can eat anything and not gain an inch of weight and he is on a mission to do this trip as cheap as possible which means no $17 yoga classes for me. It’s time to get creative! Thanks for the help and inspiration. I hope to blog about the fitness tips that work for me. I will make sure to let everyone know where my inspiration came from.

    • Amy April 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      Glad this is helpful, Meg. Another thing I’d recommend is hooking up with local expat communities wherever you go (if you don’t speak the language). Here in BA, for example, there are a few American women who give yoga classes (or you can take them in Spanish, which would presumably be cheaper), and someone else just started running boot camps. If you do speak the language, you can also check out local running clubs, sports groups, and so on.

      Good luck, and keep us posted!

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