A Guide To: Returning home
fatter fitter than ever
Well, kind of. Maybe not fitter than ever
First things first. I'm not a fitness freak, trainer, instructor or otherwise. I'm from the opposite end of the spectrum. An infrequent participant. I'm the lazy backpacker who, in the past, has returned home after months of travelling and realised how incredibly unfit they'd become and thought oh God. And now, with heading home looming on the horizon once more, I'm
writing about doing what I can to prevent feeling daunted by the thought of returning with my currently weak 'travel-bod' in tow.
So, in case you're like me and find it hard to exercise without a regular routine, here's my top 15 travel fitness hacks. They're not excessive and in no way will they help you become anything that remotely resembles an elite athlete. But, if done regularly they should have you break even, or at least minimize the damage without having to sacrifice too much time or (more importantly) any of the wonderfully delicious foods that are a delightful (and arguably the best) part of travelling.
Here they are:
1) Resistance band. If you haven't already left, buy one before you go. The flat type. They are cheap, small and importantly, lightweight. They can be used for a whole range of exercises and stretches. If you need something to lever off of, consider bunk bed posts, fence, or even a tree if outdoors. I keep a screen shot stored on my phone with some basic moves.
2) Yoga mat. Many hostel or other budget accommodation floors are often either a) not clean, and by not clean I mean completely vile, or b) made of tiles, concrete or some other incredibly hard surface. The thought of getting down on them is unappealing to say the least. I won't lie, I haven't tried carrying a yoga mat with me but only due to not thinking of it before I left home. A thin mat which has been trimmed down to the length of your spine and the width of your hip bones, would be really useful in bringing floor ab exercises back into the equation. Trimming it down helps save on space too. In addition, if you feel like doing some yoga or other exercises on the beach and want some stability, you're set. It will also help avoid a sand invasion where you don't want one.
3) Beach days. They have the potential to be the laziest of all the days. While you're lying there anyway, why not throw in some planks, hovers or push-ups? Even mountain climbers if you're super keen. Best thing is, you can rinse off right away. No excuses to lie there lazily now, eh? #sorrynotsorry
4) Chilling in the water? Do some high knee runs or even simple water walking. From a distance, no-one will even know you're doing it. Or, bring it back to the obvious and actually swim. Like proper laps, within the gigantic lap pool which is the ocean. Take a mask or goggles too, there's more than likely something interesting to see underneath you.
5) Walking with your pack. I won't lie, this one is so unappealing. Sounds ridiculous coming from a backpacker, I know. But ignoring that, booking accommodation within walking distance from the bus or train station you arrive at will make getting a taxi unjustifiable. This will allow an added exercise opportunity where you would otherwise miss it. Plus, you save some dollars (no, not to be spent on ice-cream later. No).
6) Paddle boarding or kayaking. As a budget conscious backpacker, I know that beach equipment rental prices can often be hard to justify. However, consider the rental cost, the enjoyment and challenge of exploring the beach, nearby islands and of course the workout gain. In comparison to what you'd spend on a single excercise class back home, it might not actually seem like a rip off afterall.
7) Water bottles. I like this one. Unfortunately for the environment, in a lot of travel destinations you have no choice but to buy bottled water. Given that, you probably have them hanging around already. Convenient. Using two 1.5L bottles as free weights, hold them by your sides while you lunge or use them for bicep curls, flys, standing chest press or just one for overhead tricep curls. The possibilities are endless.
8) Heel raises. These are so easy to do almost absoultely anywhere. If you are concerned about looking strange doing them in public, do them in the shower while you're waiting for your conditioner to work it's magic. Did I just ruin your relaxing shower time?
9) SWORKIT. I love this app. It has a huge range of exercises, stretches, pilates and yoga. It's free, AND you can create custom workouts to suit your needs or in the backpacker's case, surroundings. I selected a range of exercises that are plausible to do with standing room only. That way I am able to do them in most hotel rooms. No more space-related excuses. You can tailor the length of the workout from 5 to 60 minutes, which is perfect if you've got a few spare minutes of down time before heading out.
10) Running. While I'm traveling, my surroundings are usually unfamiliar, which is good. It's precisely the reason I'm there in the first place. However, creating a route for a run proves difficult when I don't know the neighbourhood or what the sidewalks are like. The unfamiliarity is an unfailing
excuse deterrent for me. A lot of places have parks though. Often these parks are are worth seeing anyway and give an insight into local daily life, so why not incorporate a run or walk into the visit? Many parks often have workout equipment stations dotted throughout so you could kill two birds with this one.
READ : Top 10 beaches in Brazil
11) Take the stairs. I used to do this everyday back when I worked on the 7th floor in a city office job (ah memories of earning a living...). If you're staying in accommodation that has an elevator, try not to use it. You can be in and out of your hostel multiple times per day so you can actually get a semi-decent workout. You could even request a room on a high floor if you're serious about trying to keep in shape. It's an obvious one I know, but easy to forget or avoid if a conscious choice is not made.
12) Public exercise classes. Particularly relevant to Southeast Asia. These are fantastic and should be on your 'to-do' list regardless of their potential excercise value. Mostly at dawn or evening, locals gather in parks while an extremely enthusiastic instructor, complete with mic, blaring music (and often leotard) conducts an aerobic workout. They're extremely popular and depending where you are can have quite a turnout. The laughing you'll do feeling like an uncoordinated fool adds a bonus ab workout.
13) Walking or bicycle tours. Self-guided or organised, choosing either of these options over a bus tour or private taxi tour can really help clock up the miles. En route to the 'must see' attractions you'll be able to see alternative areas, poke around backstreets, and unexpectedly go inside places you would have otherwise bypassed. Even without a tour route in mind, opting to walk places instead of taking public transport is a good way to keep you on your feet that little bit longer.
14) Tricep dips. Easy peasy. You can do this almost anywhere. The edge of the bed or night stand is usually good (test it first - if you're not a member of the Rolling Stones, breaking hotel furniture is not cool). Put the water bottles (mentioned above in 7) on your lap if you want a more intense 'workout'.
15) Hiking.You can if you want, but you don't have to do killer, multi-day treks where you scale the rim of a volcano or anything as severe as that. If there's one or more trails where you are, it's probably going to be worth the scenery regardless of the fitness aspect. Especially viewpoint tracks. More often than not they're high up (duh), so you can assume it's a bit of a workout to get up there. Hike up, be rewarded with a view, then it's literally all downhill from there.
There they are. My 15 justifications to eat and drink whatever I please while travelling.
It may not be much but it will send you home somewhat stronger and healthier than you would have been otherwise, and if anything, may make that first day back at the gym feel a little less like a particularly cruel form of punishment.
Now, please excuse me while I powerwalk down the road to my Nutella-banana pancake.