A Nomad’s Guide to Staying Fit

March 1, 2011 |

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. Also, the links below with an * are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you purchase something via these links.)

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.

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