I am by no means a fitness expert, but I do work out on a daily basis. I lift weights for at least 30 minutes and mix in some cardio when I feel like it (which is never). Over the past eight months or so, I have seen a transformation in my body with which I am very happy. When I started planning my Gap Year, I began worrying that I would not be able to maintain the same level of fitness while I was traveling. I mean, I would be spending the majority of my time sitting on trains, planes and buses or eating copious amounts of international delicacies. It seemed inevitable that I would gain weight, so I immediately started concocting a list of ways to keep my body in peak physical shape while still enjoying one of the main reason that I love traveling, which is food.
Like I said, I am not a fan of cardio. I hate getting sweaty and feeling out of breath constantly. I used to run marathons, so I am no stranger to running, but it is so boring! I would get about 5 miles into my run and I’d start wishing I could be doing literally anything else; counting the seconds until I would reach mile 6, 7, or 8 so I could stop. Obviously running, which is how many travelers maintain their physique, would not be an option for me. If like me, you are completely opposed to traditional cardio routines, I have outlined a few ways that I plan to stay fit while traveling extensively.
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So you hate running? Perfect, I have just the solution. Walk up hill. Sure, it doesn’t seem like hiking would burn as many calories as running does, but you might be surprised. You have to take into consideration the duration of each activity. Most people with a moderate level of physical endurance can run 3 miles. Say it takes you 30 minutes to do this, you will burn about 350 calories. However, if you plan a 3 mile hike (6 miles round trip) with a 1000ft in elevation gain, it will likely take you about 3 hours. The average person burns about 250 calories in 30 minutes of hiking, which would result in 1500 calories burned during your leisurely uphill walk. Now tell me you still want to run a 5k this weekend.
Don’t scoff at me just yet. Most travelers walk a ton, especially budget travelers like myself. I nearly always choose to walk over taking cabs or public transit for a couple of reasons. First, it’s free. Second, you get to see more of the city or town you are visiting. You would never wander past the cute antique shop in the alleyway if you were riding a bus. The average person burns about 100 calories per mile while walking. That doesn’t take into account the amount of weight you will be carrying if you have your backpack with you, either. The next time you are planning to take a tuk tuk from point A to point B, opt to walk instead. Your thighs will thank you later.
Don’t know any yoga poses? Where have you been for the past 10 years? Don’t worry, you can find an unlimited number of pre-fab yoga routines online for free. However, most people I know have been to at least one yoga class in their lifetime, whether they went willingly or by force. Yoga is a great way to unwind, figuratively, from the daily stress of travel, as well as an excellent exercise. Plus, it doesn’t require any equipment, and can be done outside or in the common area in your hostel. If you are a veteran yogi, try hosting a class at the hostel for anyone interested. This is not only a great way to stay in shape, but also a fun way to introduce yourself to fellow travelers.
Though this might be harder to accomplish in more remote locations, most major cities have a bike sharing program, or at least have shops where you can rent a bicycle for the day. Take advantage whenever you can. Not only is biking just as convenient as walking, but you will be able to cover more distance in a shorter time period while burning quite a few calories. If the average person bikes at a speed of 10-12 miles per hour, they will burn around 400 calories. That would allow you to throw down on 2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon and a piece of toast with butter (I love breakfast). Definitely worth an hour of your time.
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Like biking, swimming slowly burns around 400 calories per hour. The average sized Mai Tai is 250 calories. That means that for every two drinks you have served to you on the beach, you need to spend 1 hour slashing around in the surf. What hard lives we travelers live.
Recently, I had my first chance to go rock climbing, and found it to be an excellent substitute for lifting weights when I don’t have access to gym equipment. Sure, it focuses mostly on your upper body, but who wants flabby arms in their Instagram photos? Not me. Also, from what I have heard, people who are really good at climbing get a full body workout from it. The average person burns about 450 calories per hour climbing up, and 250 calories per hour climbing down. Plus, most outdoor climbing opportunities require some hiking to reach the site, so it is the ultimate travel workout. Give it a try if you have the opportunity to learn. I know you will fall in love with climbing just like I have.