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Travelling is an amazing way to escape routine and shake up your life, but it can take its toll on your fitness. If you’re a long-term or frequent traveller, not having control of when and where you exercise, what you’re eating, and how much sleep you get, takes a big toll on your health.
Through apps, websites, and online groups, however, there are many simple ways to keep up an exercise routine on the road, and give your body a small sense of normality. You may even find sticking to regular workouts helps you unwind from the stress that travel often brings.
It took me a long time to learn that exercise doesn’t have to be boring, it doesn’t have to be done in a gym, and it definitely doesn’t need to take up several precious hours each day. By utilising technology, I’ve found many plenty of places and ways to exercise while traveling, even when I really didn’t feel like it.
After a few months of keeping up a simple routine, I’ve felt much more comfortable when roaming around temples in Cambodia, or running for a bus in the pouring rain in Wales.
If you’re finding it hard to ease into exercise, yoga is a great place to start. Not only will it help you relax after a long travel day, you can start as a beginner, and easily teach yourself the basics with a few good apps. A couple of my favourites include:
- Asana Rebel: this free app offers quick yet intensive yoga workouts, and challenges any perception that this form of exercise can be boring.
- Down Dog: this app claims to be the highest-rated yoga app in the app store. The best thing about it is the endless variety of programs, so you never have to repeat a routine.
Running is one of the best ways of combining exercise and exploration in a new city. A quick jog around somewhere you’ve just arrived has the potential to be a lot more exciting than doing the same thing in your hometown. Just make sure you plan a route.
- Map My Run: this well-known app helps you find good places to run in a new city, thanks to routes recorded by other users. It’s also a good way of keeping track of which areas you’ve already checked out, and which you’ve got left to explore.
After completing your run, you’ll receive suggestions on how to improve your performance — something greatly appreciated by those who can’t justify a personal trainer or running coach, but still need some extra guidance!
- Zombies Run: for those who find running boring, Zombies Run gets the adrenaline pumping by turning every run into a “mission where you’re the hero.” If you’ve seen The Walking Dead, you’ll love this immersive app.
If you’re in a new city and feel comfortable cycling around busy streets, this is a great way to get your bearings quickly. If you’re in the countryside, cycling is always a fun way to exercise, but borrowing or renting a bike can be a little more difficult.
- Strava: this app has routes for both running and cycling. Whether you’re just cycling around the city or intending on doing longer distances, this app allows you to track your route, analyse your performance, and helps you set goals.
- Map My Ride: this free app is very similar to Strava, and you’ll join the global community of other cyclists who can help keep you motivated.
If you like to mix up your exercise, then look for an app with a variety of workout types to keep things interesting.
- Nike Training Club: this app is great for keeping motivation levels high, as it continually adapts to your current fitness level, dialing things up or down as needed. There are over 100 workouts to choose from within the app, so you can work on every inch of your body without getting bored, and you can also record whatever other types of exercise you do.
- Playbook: this app offers “a mobile marketplace where your favorite trainers, social media influencers, and athletes share their real-time workouts.” It does have some free workouts to get you started, but to fully unlock the potential, you’ll likely want to pay for the extra features. Make sure to use the free 7-day trial first, though, to ensure you like the instructors.
- 7-Minute Workout: keeping your workout short helps make the most of limited time and energy levels, making it easy to do at least a little every day. You might even find that once you start, you’ll want to carry on and work out for much longer than you first intended. Or maybe you won’t.
Facebook is potentially one of the best ways to stay motivated — finding an online community that helps you keep on track is extremely useful. If you regularly get exercise reminders showing up on your social media feed, you’re more likely to actually do it.
- If you find a local instructor or group who inspires you at home, follow them on social media, and work out to any videos they post.
- If you have a favourite app, check out whether there’s also a Facebook group so you can connect with other users.
- Depending on where you’re staying, you might find that Meetup lists exercise-related events for you to join. This is great for long-term, solo travellers especially — not only will you break a lonely spell by going to a meetup event, you’ll get fitter while you do it.
This option isn’t as cheap as others on this list, but it adds variety to your workouts, and gets you into exercise classes you couldn’t otherwise attend. ClassPass lets you go to any studio that’s a member of the scheme, and you simply buy credits valid for a certain number of classes per month. Credits are valid in any ClassPass location, although sessions tend to require more credits in larger, expensive cities.
At the moment, ClassPass is only available in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia. For those travelling in those countries, however, it might be a good option — and there are also video workouts available within the app for when you’re travelling somewhere not on the list.
When in doubt, turn to YouTube. After finding out the type of exercise routine that’s best for you, working out can be as simple as getting to your hotel room, logging onto the Wi-fi, and clicking on a 10-minute video.
- Blogilates: Cassey Ho is the personality behind this popular YouTube channel. Her videos are upbeat and easy to follow, and she has four million subscribers to attest to the effectiveness of these short videos.
- Yoga with Adriene: if you can’t afford to go to a local yoga class, this is a perfect alternative. Adriene has high-quality videos, a soothing voice, and easy to follow instructions. You don’t even need a yoga mat to enjoy her classes.
- PopSugar Fitness: These lively, fun, and motivational YouTube videos are the way to go when you’re struggling to get yourself off the sofa. There’s a wide range of high-quality videos, from self-defence to half-hour dance routines, and it’s easy to pick and choose based on how intense you’d like your workout to be.
Websites and Instagram
Instagram and websites can be a good fitness motivator. Especially if you work while travelling, try setting your default “new tab” page to be a motivating website or even a fitness video, so you’re regularly reminded to get up and move.
Consider following Instagrammers such as @therock, @akiniko, and @hannahbronfman to gain some motivation, but remember that like all Instagram shots, every photo has been heavily optimised and edited. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout because you’re exhausted from an overnight flight!
There are plenty of websites catering to those who want to keep fit outside the gym. Three of the better options are:
- Darebee: this “global fitness resource” offers everything from workouts to recipes, with no adverts or product placements. You can also follow specific programs, and join challenges.
- Bender Fitness: this site lets you choose the amount of time you want to exercise for, then find a workout that meets your needs. This resource is also free, and offers diet planning and challenges.
- Yogaglo: this yoga and meditation website has thousands of online classes, ranging in length from five minutes to two hours. Unlimited access is $18 per month, and there’s a free 15-day trial to make sure it’s worth your while.
There are many companies making wearable fitness trackers, but Fitbit was one of the first to get seriously popular. Relatively small, lightweight, and with good battery life of up to a week, they’re a good way of tracking how much exercise you’re doing, and competing in challenges with your friends is a good motivator to hit the streets and get a few more steps.
We did an in-depth review of one of the Fitbit trackers for travelers, and still use various models on the road to this day.
For those who prefer Apple gear, the Watch lets you track your activity in a variety of ways. A particular favourite is the “stand ring,” which encourages you to stand up if you’ve been inactive too long. It’s particularly useful on long flights, when you’ve got engrossed in a TV series and forgotten to stretch and walk around the cabin.
The Running app that comes pre-installed on the latest iOS is a decent free option as well, so check that out before deciding to buy a brand-new device.
If there’s any extra space in your bag, you’ve got a couple of small, lightweight options for getting an effective workout. If your suitcase is bursting at the seams, though, you can still get a solid routine in with no extra gear, apps, or anything else.
- Rubber exercise bands are relatively inexpensive, and can easily be tucked into your backpack. You’ll then be able to squeeze in a full resistance workout no matter where you are, with a surprisingly-large range of possible exercises. Get your reps on!
- Skipping/jump ropes are a favourite in playgrounds everywhere, but after ten minutes of using one, you’ll be surprised how exhausted you are (and even more envious of the energy level of little kids!) Cheap and light, it’s easy to justify even if you’re travelling carry-on only. Just keep your phone in your pocket to help record the exercise.
- The 100 pushup challenge: although there are many websites and apps offering you help you achieve this challenge, it is one you can easily do yourself no matter where you are. You can swap out push-ups for squats or sit-ups too, depending on what you want to work on.
With all of these tools and resources, you’ve got no excuse not to exercise next time you’re on the road. All you need to do now is find the motivation!
How do you stay fit when you travel? Any favourite apps, gadgets, or tips to share?