This post (probably) contains affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you click one. This is at no extra cost to you and I'm incredibly grateful for it because it allows this site to keep running.
Of all the challenges I’ve faced since becoming a digital nomad, staying fit on the road has been the hardest of all. Without doubt.
One of the biggest benefits of working for yourself is being able to do what you want, when you want. But sometimes that lack of routine can be more of a barrier than a blessing. Of course it’s possible to build routine into your travels – but it also defeats the point of having the freedom. Not to mention that it kinda sucks the fun out of it.
I’ve been experimenting with my travel fitness routine since day 1. And while it’s still not perfect, I’m finally finding ways to make travel and fitness work together. Here are my tips for incorporating fitness and a healthy lifestyle into your own travels.
Balancing travel and fitness
You don’t have to be a digital nomad to worry about staying fit on the road. Whether you’re focused on staying fit on vacation or want to keep losing weight while travelling, it’s possible. It might be a little hard to keep up a fitness habit, but it’s certainly not impossible.
9 travel fitness tips
With a little bit of prep, staying fit on the road is probably easier than you think. Here are my best tips for keeping up with fitness while travelling.
1 – Know what travel workout equipment you need
Whether you’re travelling indefinitely or just for the weekend, you don’t have to leave all your workout equipment behind. The trick is to focus on what you truly need, rather than what you’d ideally have.
To keep up my own fitness routine while travelling, I only need a few things. Weights and other heavy things are nice to have, but I don’t truly need them. All I truly need is a pair of wireless headphones, a resistance band and an arm band for my phone. No matter what, I can make do with these lightweight essentials. Anything else I can get my hands on is a bonus!
Of course, if you’re into a particular sport or activity you might need more than me. Hikers will need, at the very least, a good hiking backpack and walking shoes. Yogis might want to pop a lightweight yoga mat in their suitcase. My friend Greg even carries around SIX frisbies (his sport of choice!) and that’s with carry-on only. If he can find room, so can you.
2 – Commit to it
As with any goal, the biggest step is commitment. Commit to stay fit, even when it’s hard or not ideal, and you will. I aim to workout a minimum of 4 times per week, but will increase this to 5 or 6 when I’m not busy with work.
It’s easy to make excuses for something that’s hard, and it’s even easier when you’re travelling. Whether it’s an urgent work task or a cool spot to explore, there will be plenty of other things to be doing. If you truly want to stay fit, you need to prioritise it.
3 – Forgive yourself
That said, sometimes things do come up. I’m not going to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because it would disrupt my workout schedule. I’m also not going to make my jetlag worse by missing out on sleep when I need it.
If you need to take a break, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s not easy to maintain a fitness routine on the road, so don’t beat yourself up when it slips. Just make sure you get back at it as soon as possible.
4 – Schedule it in
Just like taking client calls, eating breakfast and remembering to shower, fitness is easier when it’s part of your daily routine. Schedule it in so it doesn’t feel like it’s taking away from your work or travel time.
5 – Pack the right travel workout gear
It may sound obvious, but you’re going to need the right clothes for your workouts. I tend to overpack when it comes to gym clothing because it doubles up as plane clothing, chill out clothing and hiking clothing when I want it to.
My workout gear is always the comfiest clothing in my case, so I wear it as often as possible: while working, when camping and even on long-haul flights. That also means I never have to justify the space it takes up!
When in doubt, pack more workout gear and less regular clothing. I promise you won’t regret it.
6 – Exercise naturally
I usually find the best exercise is the kind that doesn’t feel like exercise at all. Hiking, swimming and even getting lost in a busy city can all be great exercise. Heck, the time I spent all day hiking to Havasu Falls (and doing zero work) was basically a day-long workout.
All of the above are things you’re likely to do without thinking while travelling. Yes, some places are more suited to hiking and outdoor activities, but there’s always a way to get active. And when you’re not sure, there’s always walking!
Travel Tip: If you love active destinations, you need to know about Saalbach Hinterglemm
7 – Find a short gym contract
Lots of gyms offer free day trials. Some even have one-week trials. And even if you can’t get a free trial, there’s a good chance you can buy a short-term pass.
If fitness is important to you, join a local gym. Admittedly, this is easier when you’re staying somewhere for a month or more. But if you’re like me, having a gym makes working out SO much easier.
If you’re staying in a hotel, it’s even easier – just look for one with a gym when you book. In some countries, you can even find Airbnb apartments that have a gym in the building!
8 – Have some ‘anywhere’ routines
While it’s nice to have a gym to work out in, it’s not essential. Having some go-to bodyweight routines that you can do anywhere will mean you never have an excuse to skip a workout. Plus, you never know where you’ll end up working out. I’ve found some great rooftops, concrete beaches and parks when looking for a workout spot.
9 – Download some apps
If you still need a helping hand to stay fit while travelling, apps are your friend. Whether you need help with workout inspiration or find it helpful to track your progress, there are loads of apps that are great for travelling.
Eating healthy while travelling
Fitness and healthy eating go hand in hand, but neither is easy when you’re travelling. And that’s especially true when the local food is incredibly tasty (but not so healthy).
I struggle with healthy eating a lot. Some places are easier than others, particularly in North America and much of Europe, but it’s a constant battle. The key really is to be flexible and adapt your diet to your location.
I tend to let myself try whatever I want went I first arrive. Once I’ve tried it all, I try to stick to the healthier options moving forward. If I’m only somewhere for a couple of days, though, that rule goes out the window!
When in doubt, I focus on the three things I know my body needs: protein, healthy fats and vegetables. I also take iron supplements when I’m not eating meat, but that’s only because I have mild anaemia.
Whatever your own personal needs, I’m yet to find a country that doesn’t eat salad. If you’re really struggling to keep healthy eating habits while travelling, choosing a salad once per day is an easy way to up your veggie intake.
A final word on staying fit while travelling
Stress is one of the worst things for your health. Trust me – it’s something I know well! So while it’s important to look after your body while travelling, don’t get so caught up in it that your mind begins to suffer.
Enjoy your travels, keep the good intentions and habits, but don’t be so hard on yourself that it makes it all redundant. And have fun!