You might think that backpacking itself will keep you fit, maybe even shape you up if you’re not that way already. But the impact travelling can have on your health may take you by surprise.
No boasting here, but I found it impossible to add any fat to my frame – until I spent six months travelling Canada. I actually gained several inches & felt my energy levels dip. If you’ve spent months of time & wages on your travels, it’s such a shame to waste them.
Imagine coming home from your holidays in Cambodia having felt too weary to climb to that special mountain temple, or clamber through the jungle to see the baby elephant? To make the most of your travels, try introducing these simple habits into your daily routine:
Rise & Shine
First thing in the morning is the healthiest time to exercise & lets you get it done & dusted, to spend the rest of your day doing whatever you left home for in the first place. Even 5-10 minutes can make a difference – just use them wisely.
- Loosen your joints. Slowly circle your neck, shoulders & hips; draw circles with your feet to loosen your knees. Gently rock between your toes & heels to wake your calves & ankles.
- Warm your muscles with running on the spot, jumping jacks, or simply lifting your knees towards your chest alternately for a minute.
- Stretch. Open your arms wide, reach them forward until your back muscles work. Arch carefully backwards, then roll gently forward & try to touch your toes.
- Once warm & loose, do simple exercises that use body-weight to strengthen many muscle groups at once. This keeps your workouts short & sweet.
- Press ups, done slowly & smoothly. Try to make your descent & ascent 2-3 seconds of controlled movement. This means fewer reps, but in this case quality eclipses quantity.
- Tone those walking muscles with some squats. Standing with feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward, simply lower your buttocks, bending your knees as though trying to touch a chair with your bum. Then return to standing.
- Finally, strengthen your core with the plank. Facing the floor, lay your forearms flat on the ground at a right-angle to your upper arms. Dig your toes into the floor, engage your pelvic floor muscles & raise your torso. Keep your back straight & hold for as long as you can.
This workout is brief & helpful, but you should invest in healthy daily habits too.
Drink lots of water
Being dehydrated by 1% can reduce your mental & physical performance by up to 30%. A little caffeine or booze with meals is okay, but when you’re on the go always have H2O holstered & ready. Dodgy tap water is no excuse to drink Coke instead – there’s nearly always bottled water available.
Lay off junk food
If you’re abroad for a fortnight, maybe you can indulge every day & live with coming home a few pounds heavier. Unfortunately this tactic fails when you’re backpacking for months, so stick to the healthiest options & try to eat only when you’re hungry, not because there happens to be a massive buffet.
My Gung Fu instructor once said to me, “If you could only have one car your whole life, wouldn’t you look after it? Because that’s exactly what your body is. The one car”. Whatever vehicle you’re travelling in, your body’s ultimately responsible for hauling you & your organs around – so it’s best to look after it.
Jonny Good is a writer & martial arts professional who loves scaring himself with shark encounters & travelling with his friends & family.