This is the first post in a new series by guest contributor Katelyn Michaud.
You’ve been dreaming about your big round-the-world adventure for years.
Finally, it’s a reality. You’ve seen some of the most magical places on the planet, experienced beautiful cultural festivals, and basked in stunning sunsets. Sounds perfect, right?
Okay, in reality, you’ve probably partied nonstop from sunup to sundown with all your new hostel best friends and have munched on cheap but delicious street food for the past two months. It’s beginning to feel a bit like college.
You’ve heard the term “freshmen 15.” Or perhaps you even gained the freshmen 15 in college. It happens to the best of us. It’s also common to gain the “freshmen 15” while traveling too.
All of a sudden, you are plucked from your everyday routine of going to the gym, work, and then eating dinner at home.
On the road, you sleep in noisy hostels, eat street food or hostel-cooked pasta, and drink a lot of beer.
While eating street food and drinking beer in moderation is fine, doing it regularly can turn that 6-pack into a mini-keg in no time.
Staying fit and healthy on the road is just as important as staying fit and healthy at home.
When you begin to become unhealthy and unfit on the road, not only will you have to buy new pants, but your immune system can start to weaken, making you more susceptible to illness.
And I can guarantee no one wants to be sick during Thailand’s Full Moon Party.
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your body. Healthcare providers recommend between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.
How often can you get that at a hostel? Not much.
Sleep is integral to keeping you healthy as it is the time when your body heals itself, and memories are stored in your brain.
If you’re struggling in the sleep department, consider staying in a private room for a night or two to catch up on sleep or take a nap during the day when all your roommates are at the beach.
2. Eat your fruits and vegetables
Street food is delicious, and I always encourage people to try local food. However, we live in a world where fried food is prevalent.
It’s fine to eat it in moderation, but if your diet consists of fried food and bread, then the pounds are going to pack on, and you are more at risk for developing diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
Fruits and vegetables are full of healthy vitamins and minerals that are essential for normal body functions like sleep.
Sometimes the healthy stuff can be hard to find, but spend some time scouting out the local markets and vendors that offer veggie options.
Trust me; you’ll find those leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables soon enough.
Buy some, bring them back to your hostel, and eat them. Just make sure you wash them thoroughly, as food poisoning is no joke!
3. Walk More
Do you have all the time in the world?
In some countries, transportation only costs pennies; however, walking is still free.
Wherever I go, walking is always my prime mode of transportation unless it’s unsafe, or I’m in a hurry.
Studies have shown that walking at a moderate pace for at least 30 minutes a day can not only help you maintain healthy body weight, but also cut your risk of heart disease, blood sugar levels, and osteoporosis.
If that doesn’t sell it, it’s also a great way to get rid of a hangover!
Very few hostels offer gyms or exercise equipment. Don’t let that stop you from exercising.
If you’re staying in a place for a while, sign up for a gym membership or check out the local yoga or Muay Thai studios for classes.
Many gyms and studios offer a drop-in rate for visitors passing through on short stays.
However, you don’t need a gym. Hit the hiking trails, swim laps in the ocean, or create a circuit of bodyweight exercises like push-ups, burpees, lunges, and planks.
You don’t need a lot of space and equipment to get in a good workout.
Quit making excuses and lace up those running shoes!
5. Drink less alcohol
I know, I know. Say it isn’t so! Alcohol is a significant contributor to weight gain.
Those cheap beers at the beach are just too good to pass up. However, your waistline and body will thank you later.
Your body can’t store alcohol, so it burns it right away, meaning that fatty burger and fries you just devoured with it won’t get processed as efficiently as it would without the alcohol.
Over time, your body’s metabolism slows down, and you gain weight. Hello, freshmen 15!
It’s okay to let loose every once in a while and have a night you don’t remember all too well, but every night of the week is not okay.
Learn what it means to drink in moderation. Moderation for a man is about two drinks per day, and one drink for a woman (totally not fair by the way!).
If you like pictures, check out this awesome infographic on Lifehacker.
It’s time to push all those excuses to the side and get fit and healthy on the road.
With a few simple fixes, you’ll be back to that 6-pack in no time (and no, I’m not talking about that 6-pack of Chang beer)!
Katelyn is a freelance writer, healthcare analyst, and solo budget traveler currently based in Portland, Maine (USA). Next winter she is embarking on her Great Escape around the world and landing in Australia for a working holiday visa. Outside of her professional life, Katelyn teaches spin and boot camp classes at several location gyms and is a competitive triathlete finishing Ironman Lake Placid in 2013. You can follow her adventures on Diaries of a Wandering Lobster.