How to stay fit when travelling the world

If you are into fitness like me, you probably thought about how to stay fit when travelling abroad. Being on the road with a constant changing environment makes it hard to maintain a workout routine, especially if you are used to visiting the gym regularly. While it is not impossible to stay in shape when travelling, it does takes a lot of determination to accomplish this.

Realistically, you will definitely lose some of your fitness level when travelling because of the infrequent (and likely unhealthy) meals and increase in alcohol intake. Coupled with the occasional late-night parties late and sleeping-in during the day, we have the perfect combination of an unhealthy lifestyle.

Research about your travel destination

Understand what is available to you at your next travel destination. Is there a local park, beach or public swimming pool near your hostel? Can you ditch the cab and walk to the tourist attractions that you plan to visit instead? In my entire trip in Cambodia, I did a lot of walking, and even swam a few laps in a hostel’s swimming pool (surprise!).

Bring your own gear

Make no excuse! Pack your running shoes and workout clothes in your luggage and bring them along for your trip. I always bring my Fitbit Flex to track my walking milage. In trips where I would have access to a gym or running facilities, I make it a point to pack my Vibram Komodo Sport and workout clothes. Because of my barefoot running lifestyle, my gear is compact and lightweight (consistent with my backpacking style of travel).

Improvise your workout routine

When you are backpacking most of the time, it’s unlikely that you are going to have access to dumbbells for strength training. Improvise your workout routine by looking around and see what is available. Fill an empty juice bottle (the kind with a handle) with water and you have your makeshift dumbbell. A plastic bag containing a few canned goods will work as well. Consider adding bodyweight training which simply means using your own weight for strength training.

Watch your diet

When you go on a vacation, does your diet do the same? Most travellers use vacations as an excuse to eat more than they normally do. Don’t get carried away on your adventure to experience all the different cuisines the world has to offer.

  1. Consider eating in at least once a day to save on both calories and money. You can prepare your own meals (if the hostel allow guests to use their kitchen facilities) or purchase healthier food options from the local market.
  2. Choose zero-calorie beverages like unsweeten tea or ice water instead of coke to reduce your sugar intake during meals.
  3. Most restaurants serve incredibly large portions of food. Downsize your portions by ordering from the kids’ menu or split the main course with your dining partner. You can also opt to save half of your lunch for dinner by bringing your own tupperware (I always bring my Lock & Lock food container with me on every trip).
Measure your calories

Being an analytical person, I prefer to use numbers and statistics to measure success. After looking around at the online fitness platforms available, I decided on using the Fitbit platform to measure all my activities and calories because it is fast becoming the gold standard in fitness tracking. Fitbit also allowed developers to interact with Fitbit data so that data from other sources such as Garmin Connect and MyFitnessPal can be synchronised with Fitbit, allowing me to have a comprehensive view of all my workout routines and eating habits.

If you look at my Fitbit data below, it shows that I have managed to burn a lot more calories in most of the days during my trip in China.


Drink plenty of water

Drinking plenty of water ensures that your blood will carry plenty of oxygen to all the cells of your body, allowing all of your body’s systems to function adequately. Your digestive system will also stay strong so that you can properly digest your food. Water also increases your body’s metabolism, reduce excess hunger, and helps your body maintain its muscle tone.

The classic rule of 8 glasses of water per day is outdated for travellers. You may want to consume up to twice as much based on your activities that day. I always have my 1-litre Platypus Soft Bottle with me so that I stay hydrated the entire day.

Maintain proper sleeping habits

If your plan for the trip is to party till wee hours every night, you can skip this section of the article. Otherwise, you should know that 8 hours of sleep to function optimally. Like your body, your mind needs to be ‘recharged’ to work effectively and efficiently and that happens when you sleep.

  1. If you are staying in hostels sharing a dormitory with other travellers, bring eye masks and ear plugs so that you won’t wake up in the middle of the night when someone needs to use the toilet.
  2. Research shows that your body’s core temperature should drop a bit to signal your body that it’s time to sleep. Have a warm shower around 2 hours before bedtime so that your body knows that its time to rest.
  3. Be consistent with your wake time. Dr. Michael Breus, author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plane: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep says that, “If you wake up at the same time every day, you will fall asleep more regularly.”
Stay calm and keep exercising

Remember that nobody is expecting you to stick to your workout routine 100%. If you can complete 2/3 of your workout schedule and eat sensibly during your trip, I’m sure you will return home with the same body you started the trip with.

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Disclaimer: Some posts on this article contain affiliate links. I receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links but not at your expense. All opinions expressed are solely my own, and I only suggest products or services that I believe will be helpful to my readers.

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