Staying in shape while traveling isn’t easy. Broken treadmills and missing weights—assuming one is lucky enough to have access to a gym—are very common in budget-friendly establishments and even plague a number of high-end hotels. Hunting down hotels or hostels with a gym leads to wasted time, less overall options, and the risk of inadequate equipment. I’ve now learned my lesson and prefer to bring my own minimal workout gear—along with a few scalable workout routines—to stay fit traveling regardless of the locale.
My workout gear packs very light and consists of one resistance band and a pair of push-up stands that can be de-assembled in a matter of seconds. Both items easily fit into the front exterior pocket of most roller-style carryon bags and can otherwise be stuffed in between clothing for those toting backpacks.
Wanderlust TipPick either the resistance band or push-up stands for shorter trips—both are unnecessary. For longer trips, the minimal packing space required and the fact it's good to mix workouts over the long haul makes packing both a great idea.
People who prefer hostel stays might feel strange working out in a dorm room amongst people trying to sleep or otherwise staring in wonderment at the fool doing squats on the floor. I do, too. Yet staying in shape while traveling is important to me and I’m willing to spend a little extra money for a room of my own at least two or three times a week, whether it be a private hostel room, traditional hotel, or apartment. The quiet time is also useful for catching up on sleep and any work responsibilities. Recharging one’s body and mind—along with paying the bills—is well worth the added costs.
Full Body Resistance Band Workout
The full body resistance band workout featured on Men’s Fitness is a great cycle of six exercises taking no more than 5-10 minutes per set. The number of reps and sets may be increased as needed and the workout hits all body parts. I wasn’t able to embed the video, but the link provides a visual instruction of the six moves listed below. Kudos to anyone who knows these moves without checking out the video. For those not well versed in workout lingo, I worked out along with the video once and was good to go.
Resistance Band Exercises
- Band Thruster: 10-15 reps
- Bent-over Rows: 10-15 reps
- Resisted Pushup: 10-15 reps
- Reverse Flye: 10-15 reps
- Monster Walk: 10-15 reps
- Split Squat to Curl: 10-15 reps
Best Resistance Bands for Travel
I recommend picking up these resistant bands from Black Mountain. The top selling bands on Amazon.com with detachable handles don’t work as well for the above exercises and also take up more packing space.
Full Body Push-Up Stand Workout
Push-up stands have literally revolutionized my problem of how to stay fit while traveling. The simple equipment enables anyone to use their body weight—much like traditional push-ups and sit-ups, but the added range of motion and wrist-saving perks associated with push-up stands is significant. One can truly get a full body workout with minimal gear. The 20-minute iFit workout video below does a great job of showing the variety of moves available to owners of a push-up stand and various other full body workouts with push-up stands exist on YouTube. The number of reps or duration for each exercise can be increased based on each person’s fitness level and preferences. I typically use the workout routine in the video, but add seconds to each exercise and mixup the rotation of jumping jacks to include running in place and other cardio activities.
Push-Up Stand Workout Video
Best Push-Up Bars for Travel
I started with a cheap set of Gold’s Gym push-up stands—pictured above and on the video—available at WalMart for $7. After quickly realizing the stands were going to be my go-to option on the road, I upgraded to a similar, yet sturdier, pair of stands from Gorilla Fitness.
Stay Fit While Traveling: Other Tips
- Walk! Walking might seem obvious, but a lot of travel involves sitting down in buses, stadiums, or hotel rooms. I make a point to get out and walk 4-5 miles most days—even if it means donning a rain coat and traipsing around a deserted park in Zagreb.
- For people who work remotely and need to squeeze in long days of computer time, consider a collapsable stand-up desk. The Traveler Folding Standup Desk sits on top of a traditional desk or table and easily fits into carryon luggage. Does the added bulk make sense for backpacking trips? Absolutely not. Yet the desk is extremely light and at least worth considering for those spending the majority of time in a handful of cities with weeks at a time in one apartment or hotel room.
- Cheap (or free) passes exist at a number of bonafide gyms. I’m not suggesting sneak in or blatantly lie, but acting like an expat considering a move to the area often gets a free week pass for five minutes of trouble. Others will hand out day passes like candy.
Feel free to leave other tips, suggestions, or links to workout routines in the comment section to help other readers learn how to stay fit while traveling.