Exercising and staying active on this extended trip has proven more difficult than I imagined.
Though I had a regularly established workout routine at home, I’ve found it challenging to establish one while on the road, especially when a gym isn’t available — much less just a tiny hotel room with barely enough space for my body to fit between the bed and the wall.
I’m sharing this article* to provide a few exercises and insights, but mostly to help myself stay motivated and focused on consistently exercising! I hope with a little extra mindfulness, I can transform these tips into habit.
(*The article idea came by way of my always-fit-and-fabulous-yogi friend, Becca).
So, through learning from our failures, we’ve put together five easy ways to make sure a little bit of exercise is built into every vacation!
1. Make use of limited space.
Because of our budget, we’ve stayed in some pretty cramped places. In one room, for example, we barely had enough floor space to walk next to the bed and get to the bathroom. When this happens, I can be a little discouraged about how I’m going to exercise.
No matter where we’re staying, though, we can utilize our space for an effective workout. Scrunching myself between bed and wall in a tiny hotel in Myanmar, I was able to do planks, push-ups, and even lunge jumps (forward lunge with your right leg, then jump up switching the left leg to be in front, and then lunge down on the left. Keep switching legs on the jump). Usually I do a set of 20 (10 on each side).
Our hotel room floor didn’t look like my usual corner at the fancy YMCA, but it got the job done!
2. Be creative with your props.
Without normal gym equipment, I’ve found it difficult to figure out how exercise can be done. In each new space, I try to get outside my initial challenge and look around to see what I can use instead.
For example, instead of a workout bench, I use a bed, chair, or outside ledge to do triceps dips.
And instead of the kettle-bell I love at home, I pick up our 5 liter and 1 liter water jugs for my arm exercises and weighted squats. It’s a little harder to balance the water jugs which adds an extra element for those smaller muscles.
Other ideas include using food or luggage as weights, hopping up and down on a stair for 20 jumps, or running a flight of stairs.
When I was hauling buckets of laundry up the stairs in Calcutta, I sprinkled in 8 bicep curls and 10 shoulder raises. The other volunteers laughed at first, but before I ascended again, they were doing bicep curls too.
Oh, and since there’s always a wall available, you can enjoy legs-up-the-wall at the end of any workout for a nice relaxed inversion.
3. Mix-up your walks.
Usually when on vacation, we’re already doing a lot of walking due to sightseeing and simply getting around.
We did a fair share of walking in India and didn’t always feel up for a workout at the end of the day, so we tried to mix in different exercises.
Sometimes we’d do lunges to the end of a hallway or stop for 10 push-ups at a street corner. We may look a little goofy to bystanders, but our health is worth it, right? And if there’s no one around, even better.
Mixing up our walks with small exercises adds variety to the muscles we’re using, and gives us a peace of mind that at the end of the day we don’t need to squeeze in a workout.
Joe sometimes mixes it up by picking up kids for his “lifting”:
4. Plan one day ahead.
For me and Joe, almost every day is different on the road. As with most vacations, we have an itinerary: things you want to do and see. Sometimes the day already includes exercise, like a mountain hike or day of snorkeling. That’s a bonus!
And sometimes activities may require you to make an early start, at 5 or 6am, and at other times, the day will go so late that you feel too drained to exercise when you arrive “home.”
In order to make sure we exercise (which doesn’t always happen), we try and look one day ahead to see when a little movement would work best.
If we have a long day, maybe we make a commitment to sprinkling in small exercises when we can. If we know that the temperature is going to reach 100 degrees by mid-day, we’ll push ourselves to rise for an early run.
By looking ahead and putting a plan in place, we’ve found we’re far more likely to exercise than if we leave it up to chance.
5. If all else fails: stretch!
Stretching is a part of exercise and staying healthy that I often overlook.
According to Shape magazine we overlook it because, “the results are not as visible as lifting weights and squatting.” Or so we think. Shape goes on to say that, “Stretching can lead to better posture, fewer aches and pains, greater confidence, and a cheerier outlook on life.”
There are travel days I don’t feel up to exercising, like when I’m sick or exhausted.
Even still, stretching for just 10 minutes has a load of wonderful effects. Peggy Hall, wellness expert states that, “stretching increases your blood flow and circulation for a healthier body and sends oxygen to your brain for a clearer mind and sunnier moods.”
And you can stretch nearly anywhere: on the floor, on the bed, using the wall, and of course: outside.
Stretching at the very least will give your muscles a chance to recover and set you up for more great exercises and walks on the upcoming days of your trip.
By using these tips, we can feel healthy and vibrant while on vacation and when we return home. Rather than slipping into less-than-desired habits when traveling, we can benefit from staying active!