I wanted to talk about this topic because it’s been a huge portion of the last two years of my life. And that is working out while traveling. Like, what does that reality look like. What I’ve experienced and some of the ways I go about moving while traveling the world.
First off – nothing will be as good as having consistent structure with a purposeful program.
This is why I lose strength and muscle mass while traveling EVERY TIME.
So let’s dive into what working out while traveling the world looks like.
Cardio becomes more prominent for sure. Why? Because it’s easy and it can be done literally anywhere.
The point for moving oftentimes is simply to get our heart rates up. So we run stairs in our building – 4 times from bottom to top, recover on the way down.
We go on runs – this was huge for us in Rio De Janeiro because they had an awesome beach front on Copacabana. The weather was great and the scenery wasn’t bad either. In colder places we will do jumping jacks or burpees. Simple intervals – 1 minute on, rest on heart rate. Or we can do tempo like 15 seconds on, 45 seconds rest. That works really well for more intense work like jump squats.
That’s all way more cardio than I would choose to do at home. But man it just feels good to sweat and move with intention outside of sitting and walking.
Cardio is also mindless and time efficient. And while travel seems like a luxury, and it is I suppose, it’s also draining. Which you know if you’ve traveled before.
We also keep in mind our daily movement. For instance in some locations we walk A LOT, on a daily basis. But in Patagonia, we were driving 8-9 hours per day sometimes, burning the LEAST amount of calories and compressing our spines. After those days the body just craves movements. I would argue that our bodies felt the worst during that road trip. It was so much sitting. Which led to quite a few body weight workouts on days off from driving. Our joints were definitely in need of some love.
In that location there was obviously hiking that was taking place – which killed our feet more than anything. But we were both rather pleased with how our cardio and muscles felt.
As far as exercise outside of cardio, Nate and I are very different. I can’t speak to his logic. But here’s mine.
I have my go-to exercises
These are normally the most bang for buck for retaining strength, having a high metabolic demand, and getting joints moving at different angles.
Most of the time is done with body weight. Especially now that we travel faster. In our 2018/2019 travels we had 4-5 one month gym memberships. So we had more opportunity to work with extra load.
But when we move faster, body weight is what we use most often.
My logic is this: I want to keep movement pattens fresh. So I do a lot of squats, step ups, single leg RDLs, cossack squats, handstand holds and Bulgarian split squats. For core I do a lot of plank shoulder taps, V ups and hollow holds.
Upper body is by far the hardest to get after with body weight alone.
Sets and reps vary as I’m not following a program. Although sometimes I do just pull straight from my Body Weight for Weight Lifters program. Especially if I’m needing some mobility focus.
For lower body I typically stick to single leg exercises because they can be more metabolically demanding. And there’s a heavier load. Right? So when I’m doing Bulgarian split squats with the majority of my weight on one leg, that’s more difficult for me to move than doing a body weight squat using both legs simultaneously.
I also LOVE the deep range of motion I get in that front working leg.
Same goes for choosing the single leg RDL. I normally load those bitches up with a 45 lb dumbbell but that doesn’t mean I can’t benefit from doing them with body weight. They give my hamstring a great functional stretch and lengthening contraction.
And that’s where tempo comes in. So generally I use higher rep ranges with body weight in order to get a workout. But I use tempo heavily in order to make the workouts harder as well. I almost always use a 2-3 second descent on everything, which also keeps my joints happy. And then sometimes I’ll either do an explosive concentric phase or a slow and controlled concentric as well. But rarely am I ever just going through the motion without any purpose. Especially because I don’t love body weight work. So I’m going to make it as enjoyable for me as possible.
For lateral work I love cossack squats. They’re also a godsend for hip and ankle mobility. Again with the single leg work. My adductors get notoriously tight so I do these almost every workout and I swear by them.
Push ups are the holy grail of upper body. They aren’t easy and you can do a lot with them as far as angles, hand width and tempo.
The one thing I hate about body weight and not having a pull up bar or TRX is the lack of pulling. I miss that the most of anything while we travel. I just feel like I lose all grip and back strength.
But I do get the full flexion range of motion and overhead strength with the handstand holds. With these, I am focused on range of motion, full body position, where my weight is in my hands, and retracting my shoulder blades. That goes back to the fact that I enjoy working on skills and being in the process. But I don’t particularly love body weight work, so I learned from last year and have been much more active this year simply by focusing on intention behind my movements just like I would when lifting weights.
I’ll choose lifting weights all day every day, but I’ve been much better about just moving my body in these 2020 travel workouts. I feel better when I move and I feel like I’m shitting on the relationship I have with my body when I don’t move.
Remember one of the goals is to retain as much strength as I can, which won’t be much. Period. Body weight cannot replace lifting weights.
The other goals are simply to move with intention and to get into my end ranges. I felt so out of touch with my joints in 2018 and 2019 while traveling. It was hugely important to me this round to not let that happen again.
I hope you can tell that my logic and intention doesn’t change much from when I lift at home to when I’m doing body weight work around the world.
I do simple movements with purpose. I’m looking for efficient movements and to enjoy what I’m doing. That’s another great thing about single leg work – it often is metabolically demanding, challenges balance and forces me to concentrate of foot contact with the floor. And when I do cardio it’s likely based on heart rate training. Again with the efficiency.
That’s what it’s like to workout around the world.
I don’t follow a program or progress like I would when home. But my body needs to move, so that’s what I committed to doing. And I’m literally happy every time I choose to do some kind of workout. It’s just so worth it.
If you struggle with body weight workouts, check out my Body Weight for Weight Lifters program. There’s 49 categorized mix and match workouts that are all under 25 minutes. Each exercise has a demo video as well.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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