Staying Fit On The Road

One of the biggest problems I’ve had while traveling is staying fit.

I’ve heard many people say that they lose weight while traveling. I can totally understand that. Depending on where you are, you can walk a lot and eat well. When I was in the Pacific and in Japan, I probably lost about 10 pounds. This was because the bad food choices were really limited (and in the case of Japan, I love Japanese food which is good for you) and I was able to walk a lot. If you are on a shoestring budget, you can really cut your calorie intake. In places like Fiji or Samoa, I could go swimming/snorkeling every day, which is a great workout.

Other places I’ve gained weight. Australia was bad because I spent so much time driving and bad food was easily accessible. In Vietnam, I could eat like a king for next to nothing. In Taipei there was a 24 McDonald’s a block away, and many of the Chinese food options aren’t necessarily that healthy. I know I’m not a lone in this. Dave from Go Backpacking (who I met in Bali, Indonesia) said he’s also gained some weight while traveling.

The impetus for this article came from a photo posted on Arun Rajagopal’s blog. We went to the Muscat Fest in Oman and he took some photos of me. I am usually alone and there isn’t usually an opportunity for me to have my picture taken. This is one of the few times I’ve been able to have another person take a photo of me that didn’t involve me in a wet suit (and everyone looks good in a wet suit).

It is pretty obvious that I’ve developed a gut. It is not something I’m happy with.

There is obviously a need to do change things moving forward:

1) Buy a pair of sneakers. Believe it or not, I did not pack a pair of sneakers with me. My footwear selection was one of the hardest I had to make. I ended up packing a pair of leather Keen shoes. They are fine shoes, but they aren’t really made for running. At some point, I should buy a pair of running shoes and send the walking shoes home.

2) Eat better. This is a no brainer, but it is easier in some places than others. The more urbanized and modern a city is, usually, the food within a short distance of wherever I’m staying is going to be bad. A good rule of thumb (but not perfect) is to eat local food whenever possible. I’ve been trying to consume more fruit and vegetables.

3) Develop a work out routine I can do in a hotel room. I’ve started the 100 Push-Up Challenge and and plan on starting the 200 Sit-Up Challenge. These are both exercises I can do with very little space and zero equipment. Both of these have a related iPod Touch application, which really helps.

4) Try to do more physical activities while traveling. The biggest physical activity I’ve engaged in on my trip is SCUBA diving (yes, it is physical. If you dive 3 or 4 times in one day, you will be exhausted at the end). I haven’t done a lot of hiking. I don’t know how much I can schedule in the next few months, but in the future, I’d like to schedule trips around something like this.

If there is anyone out there with suggestions, I’m all ears. The challenges of trying to keep fit with no steady place to live are difficult. If anyone has experienced similar problems, let me know in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Staying Fit On The Road”

  1. Hey Gary,

    Craig and I found long-term tramping a great weight-loss technique. We both lost about 6kg in a month walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

    I agree with the other comments though, it's important to make it part of your routine. I try to have one glass of juice, one piece of fruit, and a serve of veges with dinner every day – not quite 5+, but acheiveable.

  2. Hey Gary, My computer connection is a bit f*d so not sure if others have said the same as I – but basically, I have found when I am traveling the only way to stay in shape is to treat exercise as part of my daily routine just as I would at home. Even when I backpacked through Asia I brought my running shoes with me , and went running 3-5 mornings a week. I got a lot of funny looks, but it made a huge difference. I also rented bikes frequently to get around – did that in Asia, Australia, & Europe.
    Good luck. Liz

  3. Gary, you could try eating only vegetarian food, and fish, for a few months. That might work. It's hard to find vegetarian food on a daily basis in a city sometimes, I would imagine not at all very easy when traveling. Good luck! I loved the interview. 39, eh?

  4. Gary, this is a really hot topic with most Americans from kids to seniors, steadily gaining pounds. It really is about the habits you develop and I know that traveling makes it difficult to stick to good ones. I rarely gain weight on my trips because I awlays eat the same way wherever I travel: No red meat, heavy sauces or saturated fat, brown rice and flour, vegetables and fruits with at least 2 meals. If you can't always manage that, pay attention to the portions you eat. Just because they serve a platter of food, doesn't mean you should eat all of it. Try to always have leftovers on your plate that you can save for the next day or meal. Stay away from fast food. Fresh, native food is always better. Jay's idea about renting a bike is also great.

  5. Rent bikes for transportation. They are a very common mode of transport, especially in Europe and East Asia – as I'm sure you've seen. I bet it would be cheap. It would also give you a different perspective on the places you visit.

  6. Gary, I've found this hotel room workout video to be quite helpful. Doesn't need gear, can be done in (nearly) the smallest hotel rooms, and is pretty easy.

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