How to Exercise While You Travel

girl exercising on beach

Admittedly, it can seem nigh impossible to keep up your fitness routine while traveling. Too busy managing your itinerary or immersing yourself in the exciting, foreign surroundings, right? Or maybe even too ‘busy’ relaxing… Well leave these excuses out of your luggage and make room for a resistance band instead, because there are plenty of ways to incorporate exercise into your plans without sacrificing an itinerary slot or your sanity.

cycling through autumn forest

1. Plan to do something active. Mountain ‘climbing’ via walking paths works your muscles in very different (but very good) ways from an elliptical, particularly if you aren’t accustomed to inclines and heights already. Cycling might be the perfect way to view the countryside, and booking a salsa session might be the perfect way to immerse yourself in the culture (who cares if people judge, you don’t live there). Run on the cliff paths or through the city park, or go horseback riding on the beach (great butt workout!). You could also book your stay at a hotel that has excellent fitness facilities or offers fitness classes with a great view.

girl running on beach

2. With just a 10-15 minute session, you’ll be even MORE relaxed! Honestly, your trip will be an even better experience if you don’t skip out on exercise. Studies have shown that physical activity activates chemicals in your brain that boost your mood and reduce stress. It even helps you sleep better and releases hormones that improve your, ahem, intimate life and make you feel better about your appearance. Run a quick mile around the resort, do 15 minutes of abs, or crush a quick 10-minute interval session (see next point), and your mind and body will thank you.

girl performing yoga on the beach

3. Prepare for something different. As attached as you may be to your 1.5-hour gym routine back home, be flexible (literally) about the type of exercise you do. Many yoga routines and poses are known to be cardio-boosters, which you can follow up with some relaxing poses. It may not feel like you are working out, but your mind, muscles and hormones will definitely feel a difference. Similarly, many Pilates exercises activate a wide range of muscles that aren’t normally targeted or used but should be in order to increase stability, flexibility and safety for other ‘standard’ exercises. You don’t even need to worry about packing bulky gym shoes for these styles! I myself have a separate pair of shoes for running and exercising when I travel that are lighter and trimmer than my normal gym shoes.

Additionally, many interval-style routines take very little time to accomplish the same level of exercise as what you might consider a ‘standard’ cardio work out. For instance, running in intervals accomplishes the same cardio effect in half the time of steady-paced running, and will even burn calories for the 24-hour period following the session. Interval training consists of alternating high-intensity spurts of activity with low, almost resting state  activity. An example would be 30-second sprints with 1-minute walking intervals, but you could even do intense jumping jacks or high-knees ‘sprinting’ in place followed by an interval of rest. The actual time of the intervals is up to you and depends on your level of comfort, capability and fitness. Review this style via a quick web search in order to better understand the details, but the concept is simple and can save loads of time.

4. Pack one to two outfits. You might be going on a one or two week trip, but this doesn’t mean you need a fresh gym outfit for each or every other day. Many quick-dry materials are easy to wash or rinse out in a sink and hang dry quickly, so you can save room by reusing. Check out our women’s style guide for more ideas. Plus, each time you see these pieces in your drawer or luggage, you’ll remember to fit something in – you didn’t bring it all this way for nothing!

5. Use non-equipment routines, resistance bands or travel fitness gear. You need exercises that require little to no equipment but are still effective. For men and women who have more intense regular work outs that include weightlifting, these exercises need to be highly effective. Sometimes this means using compact, easy to pack and easy to use pieces of equipment that add difficulty and intensity to regularly non-equipment (AKA body weight) exercises. Push ups have always been touted as an extremely effective body weight exercise due to the amount of muscles activated by the simple movement when executed properly. Similarly, planks are excellent for core-building and do wonders for your physical and mental stability. (Hey you, muscle man, don’t pass it off! I beat Will in a plank-off, and he lifts 3.5 times what I do!) Split jumps and jump squats are also highly effective, as well as pull ups if you can find a bar.

Thanks to the universality of the issue of fitting in exercise while traveling, many simple pieces of equipment can be used to work out effectively and luggage-wise take up very little room and add very little weight. Door-anchored resistance bands can provide 25 lbs. of resistance, and Perfect Push-ups (rotating push-up handles) add difficulty to the standard push-up by engaging more muscles in the back, shoulders, chest and arms.


Still feel like skipping out, using travel as an excuse?

arnold says put that cookie down now

Then apparently you need more inspiration. Or more discipline. Or both.


How do you fit in exercise while traveling? Share with us in comments below!

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