After five years of sprints, squats and step curls – give or take a few weeks on travels when there hasn’t been a group cycle class to jump in on – a fellow fitness enthusiast recently asked me “Why do you exercise?”
Honestly, I had never contemplated this question before. In five whole years I had not thought about why I put my body through rigorous lobster-face inducing workouts. As we were lying in our dormitory on an adventure through Western Australia, I had to really contemplate my answer. Was it because I loved the freedom of wearing crazy neon vest tops and printed leggings? Was it the weight loss? Was it because of the endorphins? Was it because I suddenly had a whole new group of friends who were all as mad about exercise as me? Or was it the competition with myself?
Ultimately, it is a combination of all these things as they are all essentially benefits. But when it comes to the crunch, I exercise because I want to push myself and take my own abilities to the next level – sprint faster, squat lower and step curl wider. For whatever reason we exercise, we do it because we love it, but when we travel it can feel like our fitness levels are doomed and therefore the opportunity to challenge ourselves with fitness is diminished.
However, it’s time to make that assumption an urban myth. After two months on the road, in some challenging environments, from cycling in 40 degree Celsius heat to waking up at 3:30am to climb a mountain, it can be proven that with willpower and passion, we can take travelling as a wonderful opportunity to up our game and mix up our fitness routine like a chia seed and celery smoothie.
Combine all of the following on your global journeys and reap the feel-good rewards, because not only are you getting your dose of endorphins, but also you have the self-satisfaction of smashing something new!
1. Getting inside
Ok, so there isn’t always going to be a hotel with a gym – maybe just on those nights you splash out for a little ‘home comfort’ – but essentially these occasions are golden opportunities to make use of the cross trainer, tread mill and weights for core conditioning to get that heart rate up and retain your core strength that you have been putting so much work into.
2. Let your legs do the work
The perfect opportunity to explore your new environment, soak up the sun and plug in to your favourite workout tunes, is a good old run. We love a good sunrise, or sunset run when the temperature is cooler (if you are travelling in warmer climes). I loved a sunrise run around one of the Gili Islands – and I would certainly not consider myself a runner. At 8km in circumference and sandy in parts, it is a challenge for some and a breeze for others, but will get your heart racing whichever of the latter you consider yourself!
3. Use your environment
Have a look around. That log could be used to lie on and do core stability ab-crunches. That bench would be great for tricep dips and press ups to work the shoulders. Squats and lunges can be performed just about anywhere so there’s always an opportunity to work your glutes (apart from in the ocean – that would be cheating!). The point is: you don’t need that fancy step, matt or stability ball from the gym. With a little creative thinking you can work it wherever you are.
4. Find a class
When in a big international city, there will be a big international gym. When there is a big international gym there will be a studio class timetable. For a class addict, it’s a dream come true. I was recently in Melbourne and found four classes in a row that happened to be my favourite classes. Needless to say I did them all… potentially on muesli and adrenalin alone!
5. Release the adventurer inside
Wherever you journey to on your travels, whether it be the national parks of North America or the tropical islands of south east Asia, adventure sports are widely available and offer the opportunity try something new. For example, on my two month trip I have and been trekking in jungles in Malaysia, cycling for hours around the ancient city of Bagan in Burma, canyoning in Karijini National park and taking a day out to engage my leg muscles on a snorkelling adventure in the Gili Islands. It doesn’t have to be extreme sports, and doesn’t necessarily have to take your heart rate to unbelievable heights, but it will be sure to get you moving and take you into some exciting environments at the same time!
6. Conditioning challenges
This is a firm favourite for a traveller who is away for a prolonged amount of time, because it’s a challenge that needs that time! Try a certain amount a day of core conditioning exercises and up the reps to keep you on your toes. We are talking ab crunches, squats or rotator raises with bottled water to name a few. For example, set yourself the challenge to do 20 ab crunches on your first day, and up it by 10 reps daily until you are smashing the 100 mark. The best bit? You can fit most of them in whenever and wherever is convenient for you. So if you are getting up at 3:30am to climb a mountain, you can do your conditioning later in the day after a nap. Perfect.
Whatever you do, don’t just keep it to a jet setters hotel gym. Get out and about and mix it up!
* Photo by Greg Croft, for the Intrepid Photography Competition.