Travel Friendly Workouts: Staying Fit on the Go

Travel Friendly Workouts - a woman is outside on concrete in the press up position


Introduction: The Challenge of Staying Fit While Travelling

Staying fit usually involves a good routine – which is a trait that your normal day-to-day lifestyle and your lifestyle while travelling, often do not share! Part of the joys of travelling is giving yourself permission to be spontaneous and ‘seize the day’ in whatever way you fancy. This lifestyle isn’t exactly conducive to staying fit and so it becomes more of a challenge than at home. On top of this, going travelling is often a way to get away from it all and to take a break from normal life, so motivation to do anything remotely productive nosedives –  there is nothing wrong with that, unless there is actually something you still want to work towards, such as your fitness.

Another reason staying fit becomes more difficult is that, depending on where you go, it might be very hot and so moving more seems so much more difficult. You also might not have access to a gym, or have much space where you’re staying, or access to a suitable outdoor space. The food/drink you have around you may not be as nutritious, which could lead to lower energy levels, and again, motivation.  So, fitness while travelling can often be a lot more challenging than at home, But not impossible. So, if you’re serious about staying fit on your next trip, read on for a bunch of travel friendly workouts!

Benefits of Travel Friendly Workouts: Why They’re Essential for Travellers

If you haven’t given your fitness routine much thought for your next trip – think again!

Depending on where you’re staying and your style of travelling (fancy hotels with a gym vs budget-friendly hostels with limited space) you’re more than likely going to need to adapt your current programme. If you’re staying at hotels with gym access, then this blog isn’t for you, you can likely carry on with the same sessions as you do at home.

For any other accommodation type, you may decide to pay for gyms, however for most of us, we’d rather be spending our travel budget on actually travelling and seeing some cool shit, right?!  So, finding workouts that are space efficient with limited/no equipment is going to be the way to go.

Planning Your Fitness Routine: Setting Realistic Expectations

It depends what your fitness goals are as to what sort of results you can expect while away. If you’re looking to build your cardiovascular fitness, you may actually find yourself progressing more than at home. However, if you’re into running or cycling or HIIT sessions, a change of scenery (particularly stunning scenery) can be just the thing to kickstart some fresh motivation to train even harder than when you left. If you’re travelling somewhere hot however, it may take a few days for you to get used to the heat, so don’t expect to be able to hit it hard from day one.

If resistance or hybrid training is more your jam, you may need to set lower expectations than at home, as you won’t be able to add quite as much resistance to your sessions. For example, if you’re used to squatting 80kg, it’s going to be difficult to mimic that using bodyweight or other bits of resistance equipment like bands. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still get a good workout and push your body in other ways. You can still maintain the muscle you’ve built with good nutrition and doing some form of resistance training.

Bodyweight Exercises: Your Portable Gym on the Road

The first and easiest option for travel friendly workouts is to go for bodyweight exercises. For more experienced lifters, you may be thinking that body weight is too easy, but trust me, they can always be made more difficult! For example, you may find bodyweight lunges are a bit too easy for you, so you can make them harder by adding in static holds, pulses or jumps. One set could look like this: 20x lunge pulses, 1 minute hold, 20 jumping lunges (where you jump and switch your forward leg backwards and vice versa simultaneously). You could do the same with squats. For glute bridges/hip thrusts, you could go for single leg versions, perhaps 20x pulses at the top, 1 minute hold and then 20 normal reps. 

If you are focusing on your upper body, you can work on your press ups and pull ups. For press ups, you can work your way up to bodyweight by firstly working on Eccentric Press Ups then build in the upward phase of the movement as you get stronger. If you’re already able to do press ups, you can make them more difficult by slowing them right down on the downward phase, think 4 seconds down, 1 second up. You could then add a pulse at the bottom, so: down, up a quarter of the way, back down, and then press all the way up. This one burns! From here, you can start to work on Plyo Press Ups

For pull ups, you will need some sort of bar/tree/doorframe to hang off of, and if you can’t do bodyweight yet (don’t worry, these are hard!) something to stand on underneath. This is so that you can work on the eccentric phase (the way down) just like with the Press Ups. You jump up and hold the Pull Up at the top and then bring yourself back down as slow and controlled as you can. It may be that to start with, you can’t really control it much at all, but keep working on it and you will find that you’re able to slow it down more and more. Once strong in this, you can start to put less energy into the jump up, and pull yourself up a bit more. Again, work on reducing the jump:pull ratio until it’s all pull! And there’s your pull up! To progress these, use the same format as the Press Ups, by slowing the downward phase right down and adding a pulse, so you could pull all the way up, come down a quarter of the way, pull all the way back up and then all the way down to finish the rep. You can start to get more creative with these as well and find your own ways to make them harder!

Bodyweight workouts can really be this simple: a squat movement, a hinge movement, a push and a pull. Travel friendly workouts don’t need to be fancy to be effective!

The Minimalist Approach: Equipment-Free and Travel Friendly Workouts for Travellers

Here are some more exercises with regressions and progressions for ideas of what to use in your equipment-free workouts.

Make it easierExerciseMake it Harder
Hold onto something for balanceSplit squatProp your back foot on a chair, bed, bench and perform Bulgarian Split Squats or Jumping Bulgarian Split Squats
Hold onto something for support or use a bench to sit down and stand up.SquatAdd pulses at the bottom and/or add a jump
Same, glute bridge is beginner friendlyGlute bridgeSingle leg glute bridge and/or add pulses and holds at the top
Plank/Side Plank from kneesPlank and Side PlankMilitary plank, Plank Rotations, Knee Drive Plank, Leg Lift Plank
Incline press ups then Eccentric pressupsPress upAdd a pulse or try Plyo Press Ups
Eccentric Pull UpsPull UpPull Up with pulse and slower downward phase
Bring feet further towards you so knees are bentTricep Dip on chair, bed, benchAdd pulse and slow down on downward phase
Don’t go as wide/lowLateral lungePlyo Lateral Lunges
Work up to 1 minute1 min Wall Sit Single leg holds, alternating marching legs
A selection of travel friendly workout equipment including a rolled up yoga mat and a selection of resistance bands

Resistance Bands: Compact and Versatile Exercise Tools

Resistance bands are a great way to add resistance to your workouts while being lightweight and compact and therefore super easy to take with you. They’re also incredibly versatile and can add a good amount of resistance to many different exercises.

When you think of resistance bands, your mind may jump straight to booty bands, but there are also longer versions with various attachments or strong loop bands that can be used for so much more than just getting that booty burning (for which the booty bands are ideal!). You can perform the majority of exercises that you would perform at the gym using these other varieties. For example the Bent Over Row, different Deadlifts, Squats, or Overhead Press and many more. You can work every muscle group using bands, so if you’re used to lifting heavy and want to still work with some resistance while you’re away, these are a great option.

Running Routes and Trail Exploration: Travel Friendly Workouts in New Destinations

If you’re into running, then travelling is a brilliant opportunity to discover some epic trails. Personally, one of the reasons I travel is to see some gorgeous views and scenery, and often there’s no better way to do this than to get out on foot and see the sights. I’d suggest planning ahead to make the most of your time in each place you visit, so if there are any particularly unmissable routes, you can plan them into your trip. You could also see if there are any apps that are particularly good for where you’re going, as different apps will specialise in different areas of the world. However, often one of the best ways to find local gems is by asking a local! Again, it really depends where you’re going but if there are any sports/outdoor shops/centres then they’re always a good place to start.

If you’re going to a part of the world that doesn’t have many routes mapped out and you’re unlikely to see anyone else on your trail, I would most definitely plan routes before you go out and have some sort of GPS tracking on you so that someone can locate you if needed. Whether you are out running or not, I would always recommend this – safety first please!

Going for a run on a trail with a mountain view in the background

Utilising Fitness Apps and Online Workouts While Travelling

You might have got to this point and read a few ideas that sound like they could work for you, but you’re still not sure if you’re going to be able to keep up a good routine, or even be able to construct enjoyable, productive workouts for yourself while you’re away. So maybe using apps or online workouts could be just what you need to ensure you can stay fit while travelling.

There are SO MANY apps to choose from with lots of pre-set template workouts ready for you; you could start by having a look through your app store to see if there’s any that grab you. You could also go more personalised and have someone plan your workouts for you, specific to your fitness level and goals. This service is called Online Coaching. You can check in with your coach regularly and get feedback on your form and progress.  They can also alter/tailor your sessions as needed, depending on where you are and what equipment, space and time you have available. If this is something that you think would suit you for your next trip, fill in an interest form and we can have a chat about your plans.

Rounding up

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration and confidence that you can keep up your fitness on your next trip! The lack of routine can often be one of the biggest challenges once you have a plan sorted for how/when/what you are going to train, so setting realistic goals in terms of how often you will train is important, that way you’re not too hard on yourself. Realistically, you might not train as hard as you would at home, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. As long as you are staying active and healthy, go enjoy the part of the world you’re visiting to the FULLEST. 

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Picture of Ray Hickford

Ray Hickford

Hi, I’m Ray, a health and wellbeing professional in Manchester working with clients through training and nutrition programmes to help them feel more confident, strong and happy both in and outside of the gym.
As a Qualified Personal Trainer and Level 4 RSPH Nutrition Advisor, I am constantly learning myself - from my clients, from other industry experts and sometimes myself! And sometimes I write some of this down for ya.

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