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Top Tips for Staying Fit While Traveling

So you want to backpack worldwide, yet don't want to look like a person living off airline food? Staying fit while traveling is not a myth; it is easier than you think! 

Follow these easy food and exercise tips to maintain (or even reach) top shape anywhere you go.

Staying fit while traveling (photo: Jlla00, Wiki Commons)
Staying fit while traveling (photo: Jlla00)

Stay Fit While Traveling

Make Simple Substitutions

Studying abroad on a limited budget made me creative. Eating from the supermarket might not seem attractive when visiting a new country.

Yet, there you can find healthier alternatives to local favorites. Better yet? Even cheaper than at the local restaurant or deli!

Are fatty foods or dressings your guilty pleasure, though?

Alternatives like the eggless Just Mayo by Hamptoncreek or reduced-fat Alfredo sauces allowed me to enjoy my favorite sandwiches and pasta on the cheap–while still making healthy choices.

Other accessible alternatives for your health include always taking the stairs and exploring that new city exclusively on foot.

It takes 30 minutes to get to that monument by public transportation and walk there instead. You have no idea how many hidden gems I discovered this way!

Is it possible to stay fit while backpacking and eating local delicacies? YES!
Is it possible to stay fit while backpacking and eating local delicacies? YES!

Eat Slow

There might be some situations where food substitutions are out, though. What if you are invited to a local family's home? We know it isn't polite to turn down local food…

What to do, then?! Eat slowly.

It takes your stomach 20 minutes to tell your brain it is full; thus, eating slower gives your stomach the time it needs to relay that message to the brain. We hope your local hosts understand.

Control your Portions

Pick up the habit of eating small meals or snacks throughout the day. Eating small every three to four hours will kick-start your metabolism, and you won't feel deprived of trying all those excellent new dishes.

Avoid Soda

To put it into perspective: sucking down a liter of soda is the same as chugging 4-5 chocolate bars.

Soda is liquid candy, for lack of a better term. Avoid it, and save those calories and grams of sugar for a local dessert you haven't tried before.

Deck of cards
Stay fit anywhere with a deck of cards

A Deck of Cards = A Deck of Exercises

The only piece of equipment I need to exercise anywhere in the world is a deck of cards.

Here's how it works: give each suit an exercise, i.e., clubs = sit-ups; hearts = push-ups; spades = squat; and diamond = jumping jacks.

Then, each number equals one rep of each exercise, with “royalty” counting as ten and Aces as 11.

What about the infamous Joker? Pick some dastardly exercise you hate, but you know it's great for you (my favorite for Joker is 25 burpees. Owww).

Lastly, try to rest as little as possible between exercises and attempt to make it one card further the next day.

What's best about this deck of cards workout? You can adapt the exercises to whatever equipment or terrain is available at each location.

Even if you stick with the same exercises for a week, all you have to do is re-shuffle the cards, and boom–an instant mix-up of different reps and exercises.

Related: Best Bodyweight Workout for Travelers

Travel fitness while backpacking: plan a scavenger hunt (photo: travelwayoflife, Flickr)
Travel fitness while backpacking: plan a scavenger hunt (photo: travelwayoflife)

Make your Workout a Social Event

Nothing is worse than you working out–then looking over and seeing five to six people drinking and partying. It sucks the will right out of you.

Get creative with your workouts, making them social events. Invite everyone at your hostel!

Things we have come up with include the following:

  • A travelers scavenger hunt, with the first team to complete certain feats and hit a predetermined bar (the finish line!), buying rounds for everyone else
  • Rent bikes and race down a pre-drawn course–with the finish line being a local food stall you all wanted to try

You get the idea! Having a partner or ten, even if for a few workouts, will make it easier to stick to your goal, work through those temptations, and burn them off in the process. Bring them cervezas by the beach.

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