Travel vs Your “Fitness Routine”

Anna Maria; foot in sand

Mark Dilworth is a former Division I athlete, trainer extraordinaire and friend whose fitness and training savvy has been recognized by Stanford University Wellsphere (amongst many others). When he asked me to share how I fit “fitness” into my travels, I sent the following (from California where I was at the time hiking through Yosemite National Park, mountain biking in Mammoth Lakes and… you get the idea… ).

The gym is unfamiliar or even non-existent. Or maybe you’re in a different time zone, struggling against your own body clock.  Whatever the particulars, travel presents unique challenges for the fitness-minded.  More positively however, it can also gift you with some new opportunities to energize and enhance a humdrum routine!

A little research will widen your options from what is available strictly at your hotel.  Fitness offerings there can be as elaborate as a pass to a full scale health club or as paltry as a couple of dumbbells stacked in the corner of a closet-sized room! It’s good to know what you’re likely to find before you start packing. Check local websites for trails and parks.  Details won’t be necessary until you arrive but know your options by getting a visual of area parks and recreation areas.  Many hotels have runner’s maps available at the front desk or with a concierge, but don’t stop there.  A short drive or ride might take you to a more scenic trail that you’ll remember long after the endorphins fade away.

Note:  Before sprinting off into an unfamiliar area ask the right questions: “Are there any areas I should avoid?”  and  “Do locals or other hotel guests typically run this route?”  Carry your cell phone (with the hotel’s phone number in case you get lost) and focus on the details of your new route or trail.  Skip the iPod until you know the area better.

Of course cardio isn’t limited to runningVacation travel can and should be geared around the activities you already love or want to try outHike or run up a mountainside; rent a kayak, a bike or a horse…  Stretch your muscles and your mind with unique experiences.  The best destinations offer a range of flexible options.  You can build easy exercise into city stays by choosing hotels within walking distance of most meals and points of interest.  Plan ahead, and then plan to be flexible.

Weight work is typically harder to arrange if you lack a decent gym.  Have a plan to work with nothing more than your own body if need be.  Print out some new exercises to try in your hotel room. Push-ups and crunches in a multitude of challenging variations can be done anywhere, and playgrounds have monkey bars for pull-ups and chin-ups.  Pack swim goggles and resistance bands to create even more options for yourself.

~And don’t discount the tremendous value of local knowledgeWhere do you think travel books  and websites get their information? I make it a point to ask those I encounter for their personal suggestions and find many to be worth pursuing.  Area residents have directed me to excellent snorkeling spots, challenging trails and even lent us snorkels and hiking sticks!

Business and group travel and traveling with younger children can require extra creativity in achieving even an opportunity for workout time!  -But it’s always worth trying.  A few minutes of something is always better than nothing at all -if only for the fact that you are maintaining a habit of health.  The point is not to replicate your home work-out but to take advantage of what you find at your destination.  Consider it a sampling of the local fitness cuisine.  You can order “the usual” when you’re back at home again.

When travel lands you on a new playing field without all of your usual equipment, forget about your “fitness routine”.   Instead, make it your routine to pursue fitness in all its varying forms.

*Some fun ways to exercise on-the-road: running, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, climbing, zip-lining, walking, hiking, biking, wind surfing… Fitness has as many “shapes” as we do!

Columbus Things To Do

Hikes through Southern Utah

Cave Adventures

Kayaking with Manatees

13 Comments to Travel vs Your “Fitness Routine”

  1. Hiking is my routine to keep fit. The two hours round trip exhausts me at the end, but help refreshing me.

    I found one new trekking trail. It is even more demanding. That rate of heart beat pumps blood to all my body parts so well. Wooooo…

  2. Walking and getting lost in a new place tends to keep me fit when I travel. Often not by choice. I do love hiking though, not a great fan of running.

  3. juno

    hi.great work.i also hv a tourism related review.r u interested?

  4. Heather

    Rainfield: It’s a wonder you get the photos you do at that pace (I’m glad you do)! I remember you mentioning a new trail. I look forward to reading what you found on your trek.
    Cate: I walked many miles through San Fran the past couple of days. Loved it. It’s definitely better to get lost walking than running -less distance to retrace when you figure out you’ve gotten turned around!
    Juno: Thanks much! I will check out your site. ~Always interested in good travel info…

  5. Maintaining an exercise routine is a challenge for me on my travels. I’m going to put your ideas into practice, Heather. My main problem is having the energy to do it all. Great post.

  6. When travelling I think exercise can often be built into the actual trip. Walking alone goes a long way towards keeping healthy and that tends to be easy to do when visiting somewhere. Work trips can be more challenging for health routines but often when vacationing, I come back feeling healthier than when I arrived simply because I had more chance to walk, kayak or whatever. Good article (as always!).

  7. I walk for fitness absolutely everywhere. When we visited Vienna we stayed at a hostel at 20 min walk from the city center. Likewise in Budapest. I love to discover walking tracks in the parks as well.

  8. We agree that travelling provides a unique opportunity to add more life to your exercise program. Here on the Authentic Seacoast with fresh sea air you might want to hike an ocean side trail, grab some resort bikes and cycle by the sea, pitch some horseshoes, try your hand at golf, play a little badminton, try some Scottish dancing and the list goes on. Travelling can be a great way to find new muscles ignored by your day-to-day routine and bring more joy and enthusiasm to exercise.

  9. Heather

    Donna: I know you’re constantly on-the-go! It helps me to track what muscle groups I’m using each day as I travel. This allows me to fill in fitness gaps with activities and/or work-outs aimed at the muscles that have been used less.
    When energy is an issue, I think it’s acceptable to do less but important to do “something”. ~Better to tread water and maintain your position than to quit moving at all!
    Mark: Vacations can be our best opportunities to do what we love. Like you, I tend to ramp up my fitness when on vacation. ~And you’re right about walking! The best views are seldom found through a car window.

  10. Heather

    Cristina: Our fast-paced lives make walking seem the ultimate luxury sometimes. I have to drive more than I like when at home. Exploring a new location by foot (or bike) lets one engage with it at a more memorable, intimate level. It sounds like you truly made the most of your trips to Vienna and Budapest!
    Authentic Seacoast Resorts: Nova Scotia offers so many terrific fitness options in such a lovely setting. I’ve Mapquested it twice in the last couple of months. Soon!!

  11. Thanks for the great article! Not exercising when you travel can throw off your routine for weeks and months! Great tips from a professional traveler!

  12. Heather

    Mark: Always happy to collaborate with you! Your site has some great exercise options for those times when one has less than a full gym available.

  13. Maintaining a workout routine or exercise plan while out of town for business or pleasure can help you stay motivated, relieve stress, and continue getting fit. Although traveling can be an excellent opportunity to try new exercises, do not go beyond your comfort limit. If you are unsure how to perform an exercise safely, skip it in favor of an exercise you can perform without risk of injury.

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