Feature by Emily McLaren, travel and fitness blogger at BordersandBurpees.co.uk
Many of us can relate to this common and unfortunate truth: the more miles we clock up, the more pounds we pile on. It can be tricky to keep the waistline at bay on the road. Traveling, therefore, is both our friend and foe – we fall in love with the different cultures, places and experiences, but we also fall in love with the delicious food!
We’ve all been there – even after only a short week away, our post-vacation clothes feel just a bit more snug. “I’m on vacation” is a great excuse that we tell ourselves as we tuck into our third serving of food at the buffet breakfast, or as we sip sweet cocktails all day by the pool.
Indulging in the local cuisine is as much a part of traveling as say, visiting the local museum. We certainly shouldn’t feel guilty about it, but having returned home on several occasions with a severe case of the post-vacation “I need to go on a diet” blues, I now try to incorporate exercise into my must-do vacation list. As someone who loves ticking things off a list – I make every effort to put a big tick beside this one!
So how does one keep fit on the road while not missing out on all of the fun that traveling brings?
The important thing is to find a way to be active every day:
1. Actively explore – Choose to walk through the city/town/village rather than take public transport. It’s amazing how much you can learn about a place when you have the time to take it all in. In hotter climates, be sure to bring lots of water with you and leave first thing in the morning when temperatures are slightly cooler and you won’t feel run-down by the heat of the sun. In colder climates, wrap up warm and pick up a slightly faster tempo – after all walking that little bit faster will only warm you up (and burn more calories – win!).
2. Near a beach? Engage in water sports – This is location dependent of course, but if you’re in sunnier climates then something like surfing can be extremely tiring and rewarding. It’s great exercise whether you’re a pro or a complete beginner. Surfing develops flexibility and endurance – not to mention the number of muscles that are used for it. Surfing is only one of the many water sports that are a great workout – canoeing, sailing, water skiing – even jet skiing or banana boating can give your body a workout! Activities such as these are great fun for the whole family and a great way to forget that you’re even working out!
3. Don’t like the water? Keep active on the sand – Toss a frisbee around, do cartwheels, build sand castles, play football, play bat-and-ball games, fly a kite, or jog along the beach. Whether you’re alone, with friends or with family – there is always a way to keep active on the beach!
4. Near a swimming pool? – Before you get in the water, agree on a number of lengths that you will complete and then stick to it. If you’re a beginner, why not try 15 lengths? For a stronger swimmer, why not try 30-40 lengths each time? The more you swim lengths, the easier it will become. Swimming front crawl can burn 100 calories every 10 minutes which is more than jogging. What better way to burn calories than to swim them away?
5. Near mountains/jungles/forests? – If you are, there’s a likely chance that a few of these will have been converted into popular destinations for hikers. As a tourist, I have found in many instances that these paths don’t get the guide book recognition that they deserve. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find the hidden gems but once you’ve found them, it’s so worth it. The views can be spectacular, the wildlife fascinating and the forestry unique to its climate. And of course – this is not to mention the number of calories that you will burn.
6. Staying in a hostel? – Hostels are great for the budget traveler, but being the more affordable option means that they don’t always come with the facilities that we would ideally like. A gym for example – it’s not very likely that you’ll come across one at a hostel unless this includes a couple of weights and a bench press in the common area. While this is enough to kick-start your fitness routine, it may not be the type of equipment that you’re used to using. It’s best, therefore, to come prepared with your own home workout routines. Doing short bursts of exercise each morning will take a minimal amount of time out of your day, boost your immune system and prepare you for the fun day ahead. There are various great workout apps available for your phone that could help you accomplish these goals for example 7 Minute Workout or Workout Trainer.
No matter where you are in the world or what equipment is available to you, there will be a way to keep fit. When I lived in Australia, I used to jog along the esplanade, and on the way back I would stop at each free outdoor gym that was on route and perform several reps at each station before continuing back. As I’ve mentioned before, equipment like this may not be available to you, but when I couldn’t find an outdoor gym I would simply use whatever was available to me – a park bench for example – if no one was sat on it then I would take the opportunity to squeeze in some tricep dips.
When there’s a will, there’s a way. Even a brisk walk for 20 minutes a day can benefit you significantly, regardless of how light or heavy you may be.
So, believe in yourself. Make exercise a part of your daily routine while on the road (no excuses), and by the time you return from your trip, you will be as fit as you were when you left. Or perhaps even fitter – now wouldn’t that be the dream?