The Complete Travel Fitness Starter Kit
Ok, so you want to keep your fitness while traveling. Whether that be traveling for work, going on holiday, or just indefinite travel. As someone who has stayed healthy while being on the road and visiting 6 countries in the last year, I have a lot to share. I’m going to share actual, practical advice on how to eat healthily, what workouts to do, and setting the disciplines you need in place to stay healthy on the road or vacation. If you wanting incredible, bodybuilding muscle mass, then this is not for you. But, if you want to be an athletic, lean, muscle machine, you’ll have all the tools you need to do this by the end of this article.
As a quick intro, here are a couple of pictures showing my current shape to show you I’m qualified to write this piece and not just regurgitating some stuff I read online. All of this was achieved with no gym, no eating schedule or calorie counting, and a simple body-weight travel workout anyone can do, using bodyweight exercise. I’ll include the exact google sheet I use, with video demonstrations of each exercise for you too so you have 0 excuses (find later in the article).
Eating Healthily While Travelling
The most important part of any workout routine is your nutrition. If you can’t stick to a diet and enjoy it, you’re going to fail. So don’t set yourself up to fail and remove all the foods you love, build a diet around the foods you enjoy and work to incorporate them.
The most simple rule you can follow is to stick to 3 meals per day, or only eat when you’re actually hungry. This way you don’t have to constantly weigh food and count calories.
If you are running 5-10 miles per day or walking that distance every day, you really don’t need to worry too much about eating (I know this from experience when I trained for a 50-mile race and could eat anything). If you aren’t (which is probably most of you), you need to watch it.
Healthy Foods On The Road
You’re going to want to stick to eating meals with high protein, some vegetables, and fruit for afterwards. As an example, I generally stick to eating a lean protein, with some vegetables and a serving of white rice (yes white rice is fine), potatoes, or other similar starch for every meal. After the meal, I will try to find some fruit. Doing this will satisfy most of your fiber, vitamin, and mineral needs for the day, and will keep you full and feeling satisfied after every meal. Personally, I try to find a grilled, BBQ’d or fried meat stand and eat there. I don’t like fish, so this is much harder for me than it will be if you like to fish.
Your foundational meal block builder for any situation:
- Lean meats, eggs, or fish
- Chicken, Steak, Pork etc. (lean cuts)
- Pretty much any white fish, shrimp, etc.
- Carbs to fill
- Rice, or root vegetables like potatoes preferred
- If not, wholegrain breads or pasta/noodles
- Last case scenario some kind of bread or starch with minimal fat and sugar from a convenience shop
- Get a side salad
- Get some stir fry veg
- Order something with veg already in it
- Find a fruit stand and order any portion of fruit
If you’re on the road and can’t find any of these, try to get some healthy snacks to tie you over until you manage to get to a good place to eat.
My favourite healthy snacks are:
- Dark chocolate (small bar)
- Dried fruit and nuts (small pack)
- Small cereal bar
- Salad/vegetables (available from most convenience shops)
- Protein shakes (take a pea powder with you, whey is pretty awful for you)
- If you’re really hungry… some plain rice, bread or something starchy to fill you up quick
TIP: Generally, try to avoid bread or pastas unless you can’t find rice or root vegetable like potatoes. Also, avoid alcohol, but if you must, drink low calories spirits with 0 sugar drinks
Creating A Diet That Works For You Not Against You
You can have your cake and eat it. Just because you want to be in shape, doesn’t mean you can’t eat things you enjoy. Just keep the things you enjoy to 10-20% of your calorie intake. And no, you don’t have to actually work this out, just eat 1 thing you like everyday – it’s that simple.
Find out what you like and incorporate it with everything else.
If it’s sweet like chocolate or ice cream, I keep a simple rule of 1 item per day. So, if you want an ice cream… have an ice cream, but stick to 1 and the rest of your calories come from good sources like meats, veg, fruits etc.
Don’t avoid the things you enjoy. If you like burgers, get a burger with an extra patty and skip the fries. If you like fried chicken, get the big, lean meaty part and eat this with rice or vegetables. This is not exactly ideal and you shouldn’t be eating like that every day (try to stick to lean meats, BBQ’d, carbs, veg, and fruit), but having a burger for a meal is not going to kill you and you aren’t going to lose your progress by doing this.
Many people avoid these things altogether and end up crashing, over-eating, and failing. Don’t be one of these people, just eat the stuff you enjoy. It doesn’t have to all be lettuce and boring crap.
For example, I love fried chicken and eat it 1-2 times per week. It’s ok to do this because I don’t go eating an entire family bucket for one after only eating lettuce for a week straight to try and lose some weight. I eat cake, I eat ice cream, I usually eat whatever the f**k I feel like eating because I don’t over-eat.
The point is to manage yourself.
Example of how I eat on the move
Here’s what I do to stay healthy while on the road:
- Intermittent fasting
- breakfast 6am/7am
- black coffee for breakfast (pinch of salt will change the game for you)
- maybe pea protein shake at 10am-12pm to curve hunger, but no milk, just water, want to starve carbs for ketosis, don’t use tap water!
- maybe some fruit instead of the pea protein, but light fruit, no banana or starchy fruit. something like watermelon or apple or citrus style stuff.
- lunch 1-2pm
- some kind of lean meat with rice and veggies, then some fruit after pretty easy to find street food like this
- usually go for BBQ meats sizzled on coal you can find this pretty much everywhere in Asia, it’s decent compared to other street food and tastes banging
- run into a convenience shop and grab some salad
- if there’s no convenience shop and I’m on a motorbike in the middle of nowhere you can usually find a fruit stand or some kind of fruit shop
- noodle soups are good for on the road
- snack inbetween 4-6pm
- sticky rice
- depends on how i’m feeling. if i feel low energy I’ll have something starchy to pick me up a bit
- dinner 6-8pm
- beef, chicken, eggs… some kind of meat for proteins, with some kind of carb, can usually find some decent noodles or mini BBQ meat sticks about, omlettes are good to find
- pretty much the same as lunch but I’ll have some different flavouring or a different dish
- breakfast 6am/7am
Creating A Bodyweight Exercise Plan That Works
You don’t need dumbbells, you don’t need weights, and you really don’t need any equipment to get a good workout. Some things like resistance bands are nice to carry for extra workout variations, but you don’t need them.
The idea is to maximize your input effort with a few compound exercises.
This keeps it simple and allows you to get similar results you would in the gym, because you’re actually getting to the point where your muscles break and need to rebuild (with the protein you eat).
Now the key to being time efficient is building a workout that also incorporates dynamic exercises.
This includes some stretching and mobility work alongside muscle work and also incorporates cardio too. You can create a solid 30-minute workout you do 3x per week and gain muscle, lose weight, and get in better shape.
Go for all-body workouts every time but switch to different exercises on different days. Do not isolate muscle groups.
Let’s go over a quick example of how to create a great workout plan.
How To Create An Vacation Workout Plan You’ll Actually Stick To While Travelling
Please check out the linked google sheet, it will show you a great example of an exercise plan you can do while traveling. You can make a copy and do it yourself. You don’t have to put the numbers in every week, just get some reps done and put in some effort.
If you want to create your own workout plan…
Here’s the easiest way to create a good exercise plan for traveling:
- Choose 16 bodyweight exercises that hit all muscle groups
- Create an A&B exercise plan you switch every time
- E.g. Week 1 – A, B, A, Week 2 – B, A, B – repeat.
- Add rep ranges based on your skill level
- Include progressions to those exercises
- Move to those progressions once you reach your rep limit comfortably for all sets
- Complete 2-3 times per week
Example Exercises To Choose From
Here are some good example exercises you can start with:
- Diamond Push-Up
- Regular Push Up
- Wide Push Up
- Jumping Push Up
- Pike Pushup (shoulders)
- Chin Ups
- Pull Ups
- Muscle Ups
- Regular bodyweight
- Squat sits
- One leg lunges
- Crow stance
- Leg raises
There are a ridiculous amount of exercises you can do for each muscle group. You want to look these exercises up and see how you can progress them to make them harder as you continue ramping up your exercise routine.
For instance, a set I love to personally do is:
2 jump lunges, 1 burpee, 1 plyo push up (repeat 6 times)
This not only includes a great deal of cardio work, but also works my entire body from head to toe. During the rest period after this I will do a squat sit for 1-2 minutes. This opens up my hips and strengthens them for better stability and provides an active rest window until the next set comes along.
Another one I love to do is:
Diamond pushup, flip hands to normal position, jumping pushup, flip hands to a wide position, wide pushup
You then repeat this until you’re completely spent and can’t do it anymore. This allows the total breakdown of muscle so you can grow a nice chest and additionally the cardio element too.
Free Travel Fitness Plan
If you don’t want to create your own, check out the free google sheet exercise plan I created for myself and my brother. Feel free to make a copy and edit it how you like. Sticking to this workout 3 times per week will see results as long as you push yourself and eat well.
Don’t forget to include some cardio sets. You could do 3 exercises as a circuit.
- 10 pull ups
- 10 squats
- 30 situps
- 15s rest
- Repeat for 3 sets
Now your getting cardio and muscle-building activity going. In between these sets you could add dynamic stretches like, Good Mornings, Downward Dog Pushups, or other various forms of stretch/muscle exercises.
Like I keep saying the point is to maximise what you can do in a short space of time, because you don’t have much time travelling.
Add some sprints in-between sets, maybe some burpees… fucking push yourself. You can rest after.
But Don’t I Need Weights To Build Muscle?
You don’t. You need to put in enough effort to failure with bodyweight exercise, and progress these exercises to difficult explosive movements or gymnasitc holds like planche pushups or V-Sits.
However, even I find myself in situations where I need some kind of weight. A lot of the time it’s hard to find a pull-up bar so I’ll do this instead.
Get my travel bag, fill it up with all my belongings, and do arm curls with it, wear it while I’m doing pushups or squats and while I’m doing pike pushups.
This allows me to get the weight I would usually get from pull-ups, without the bar.
You can additionally use anything you find that’s heavy and that you can lift. Find a tyre in the park? Do some tyre flips! Find a heavy stone you can lift? Do some curls! Use your imagination and the resources you have to get a good workout in.
Another way to get around this is to use time under tension exercises.
Instead of doing a quick rep pushup, hold it for a couple of seconds. Down for 3 seconds, 2 seconds for up. Do this with all your exercises and it gives your muscles greater time under tension allowing them to break down more.
What About Cardio?
Generally, I like to include cardio as HIIT during my workout. The examples I left above are usually what I will do during the workout to get my cardio fix. If you’re decent with your diet, you don’t need to add specific cardio sessions, especially if you hike a lot, or walk from place to place with your belongings.
I usually walk from hotel to hotel with my heavy bag, which is more than enough cardio. I also like to explore new places and like to go up mountains and just generally get outside. This involves stair climbing, walking up hills, swimming, and a load more. You get more than enough cardio work doing this.
If you really don’t get out a lot, I’d incorporate some runs 2-3x per week.
They don’t have to be long. Start small and build yourself up. Start with a mile, then 2 miles, then 3. You can bang out a 3-mile in around 30 minutes. Then, once you get good, start pushing your times faster and faster. As I stressed, it’s about maximising the time you have and putting in the effort there and then.
Personally, I like to meditate and run at the same time. This kills two birds with one stone. You can do mindfulness practice while getting your cardio in and move two separate things into one saving yourself 15-30 minutes.
To do this, you can do a Vipassana body scan, or focus on your breath the whole way, you can even do a non-dual, drop-everything meditation. Give it a go! It makes the running process go much quicker and you feel amazing afterward.
If you don’t like running or cardio, do a sport. You can always find sports areas while traveling, find other travelers or even locals, and ask them to play. I’ve personally done this, had a great workout, made some friends, and enjoyed myself. I would highly encourage doing this in particular.
Where The Hell Can I Find A Gym While Traveling?
Your hotel room or local park/beach is your new gym. Many places you stay will have a local park with some rusty-ass equipment you can use to workout on. Use it. There will be pull-up bars, and dip bars – this is literally all you need along with the floor for push-ups.
Most beaches generally have workout equipment too (not all, but a lot do). Use these places to workout. You can additionally interact with locals, make new friends, and meet up together to workout again the next day. It’s a great way to meet new people.
Of course, you could buy a gym pass everywhere you go, but I personally think it’s better to learn how to use your body effectively to get a good workout. That way you never need a gym – the world becomes your gym.
If you travel on a bigger budget you can make use of hotel gyms too, but I find it better to get out into the outdoors myself!
Compact Travel Exercise Equipment
You don’t really need travel exercise equipment, but it can come in handy for when you want a full-body workout.
I would personally recommend getting:
- TRX Cable system
- Gymnastic rings
- Thick 20kg resistance band
These are all very portable, take up barely any space in your bag and open your world to a whole new breadth of exercises that will push you to your absolute limits.
For instance, you can use your TRX or Gymnastic rings for dips. The lack of stability make these infinitely harder than normal ones. You can do L-Sits, assisted 1 arm pull-ups and a whole lot more.
We’re Harry & Iris – and we were tired of the same old “10 best places I’ve never been but I’m writing about for some reason” blog posts. So… we’re two young travelers on a mission to travel the world and share our true, unfiltered experience, including all the gristly details. From packing our life into one bag for a year to traveling Vietnam by motorbike, to sorting out Visas for specific countries – we’ve done it all, are doing it all and only give our advice on things we have done – not regurgitated cr*p from another source *cough* most publications *cough*. So bear with us! This project will take some time to grow, and will take a fair bit of money. But we’re determined to make it the single best source of information about traveling on the internet.