At home, life is so structured. We wake up at the same time, eat the same breakfast, and perform the same duties throughout the day against the same schedule. But despite this discipline, most of us find it difficult to keep fit.
On the road, when we’re enticed to try local deep-fried dishes and where no day is the same as the next, you’d imagine keeping fit is even more difficult. But it’s actually much easier if you leave the routine at home.
The beauty of travel is that it’s naturally active. If you don’t keep active, then you’re not really traveling. So we can maintain a base level of fitness just by getting out and about. But that’s still not enough, especially when the local cuisine is light on nutrition and heavy on the saturated fat.
A Strong Heart
Cardiovascular fitness is by far a traveler’s best friend. It underpins stamina and resilience, which themselves underpin greater levels of adventure. Plus, a strong heart is important for everyday health and will help prevent heart disease and all those other nasty things that stop us from traveling untethered.
The best activity, apart from exploring a new locale, is the one that doesn’t feel like exercise. That’s because you’re much likely to stick to an exercise routine if you don’t even know you’re exercising. For example, a game of squash or tennis with a friend feels more like socializing than exercising. But as travelers, especially in remote places, squash and tennis aren’t always possible.
So you need to find your perfect medicine; an activity that’s unobtrusive to your travels and easy to perform anywhere. Me? I enjoy running. With running, I can get into that zone where I forget what I’m doing and focus my mind on planning my next adventure. And with a pair of running shoes, I can run anywhere. Swimming, cycling, or yoga may be more enjoyable for you.
The other important consideration is variety. It’s very easy to hit a plateau, but this is where exercise on the road trumps exercise at home. You can run up mountains, jog through a city or hike through a forest; all providing different levels of intensity. As long as you sweat profusely and enjoy the scenery, you don’t need to give it another thought.
A Strong Body
Muscular fitness isn’t all about walking half-naked along a crowded beach. It actually contributes to skeletal health and agility. You can walk longer, climb higher peaks, carry a heavier pack, but more importantly, you’ll experience fewer day-to-day injuries.
Forget the gyms though; gyms are for rigid routines at home. Unless your travels involve carrying tree trunks, then you don’t need to confine yourself to a room full of expensive equipment. Plus, kinesiologists (experts of human motion) agree that the best preparation for an activity is to perform the activity. And most popular gym exercises don’t replicate real world applications.
The most unobtrusive way to strengthen your body is, again, to perform an enjoyable activity. But this is much more difficult for muscular fitness. The next best thing is to find a way to turn your cardio activities into muscular activities too. For me, stair climbing complements my running by providing a muscular component. It doesn’t sound very muscular, but you should try running up the 227 stairs to the summit of Mont Royal, two- or three-at-a-time.
But of course stair climbing does nothing for the upper body, and we need balance. Again, the secret is to keep your activities as simple and unobtrusive a possible. I wish there were something I found enjoyable for upper body exercise, but alas (and I’m open to suggestions). My current solution is military push-ups. They’re really difficult (which is good) if you do them properly and so they entire routine can be over in minutes.
The Road to Success
Forget the routines and the reps. Keeping fit on the road is more art than science. All you need are the following:
- To enjoy the activity so it doesn’t feel like exercise
- To adapt the activity to your travels, not the other way around
- To keep the activity so simple that you can zone out
Of course, a healthy diet is also paramount to healthy living. But if you get too prescriptive with your eating, you’ll intrude on your travels, or more likely, give up on your quest to keep fit.