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Travel Fitness Tips
Helping women stay fit on the road

Being fit on the road is essential, and these travel fitness tips should help you do so - even if your inclination doesn't!

Why is it essential? Because with unfamiliar food, strange beds, lapsed gym routines, poor transport or unexpected tropical pests, your health may take a beating. If you want to stay on the road for any length of time, you need to keep fit. If you're staying in hotels with gyms, that won't be a problem but if you're off the beaten path and backpacking, you'll need to keep up your strength to carry your gear and walk long distances.

These travel fitness tips will vary depending on whether you are an athlete or a couch potato, or whether you are traveling in cities or in rural areas.

Fitness tips before you travel

If you're lugging something along - a backpack or a heavy-ish suitcase - you'll need strength, a good back, and some measure of hardiness.

So before you leave, concentrate on training both for strength and cardiovascular health.

1. Research your destination
How fit do you need to be? Are you climbing mountains or lounging on a tropical beach? Is there good public transportation from A to B or will you have to carry your stuff for miles? Are you away for a week, a month or a year?

2. How fit are you?
If you're already super-fit, chances are you'll have a bit of leeway before you have to work at it. But if you're puffing by the time you go up a flight of steps, climbing Kili your first week away might not be wise.

3. Start ahead of time.
Don't wait until you've got your plane tickets in hand - start now! Unless you're a regular at the gym, you'll need a bit of time to get into optimum shape.

Exercising the way it used to be. otisarchives3 via Flickr CC

The best thing you can do is get fit before you go. I'm no fitness instructor and getting fit for a trip is always a challenge but it makes sense to match your present fitness level to your upcoming trip.

Here are some basic travel fitness tips you should follow before leaving - this is what I try to do to get into shape when I'm going on a long trip:

  • Practice walking until you can walk past Starbucks without dashing in. You should be able to walk several hours without crumbling.
  • Build up your upper body strength - arms, back, shoulders - so you can carry your gear without keeling over.
  • Build up your leg strength - you may be walking for hours and you'll need to be pain-free.
  • If you're backpacking fill your backpack with 15-20 kg of books, rocks or clothes, and carry it around with you until it feels 'normal'. You should be able to lift it on your own, get it on your back, and carry it for a few kilometers without fainting.
  • Build up some aerobic exercise - you'll be grateful for this when you have to chase after a bus with your backpack filled to bursting.
  • Join a yoga class. It'll strengthen you and make you more flexible for those nights on the beach or on hard bamboo beds.
  • Exercise in similar conditions as your trip. If you're headed for the mountains, practice on hills if you can.

Staying fit once you're on the road

Once you leave, in prime condition, it's easy to forget all that training and assume the very act of traveling will keep you in shape.

Wrong!

Unless you plan on hiking major distances each day, much of your time may be spent sitting on a bus, sampling local cuisine, or relaxing with new friends (often in front of an alcoholic - and calorie-laden - drink). Not a great recipe for travel fitness!

There are a few things you can do to make sure all that preparation doesn't go to waste:

  • If you've been walking all day, make sure you stretch at the end of it.
  • Once in a while, rent a bicycle to visit the town or countryside.
  • Eat right - it's easy to get waylaid by all that scrumptious street food, unless it's fresh fruit. If you overindulge (and we do when we travel) go easy the next day.
  • Take a resistance band with you and use it - it weighs nothing and keeps you toned.
  • Drink as much water as you can (but make sure you have access to a bathroom).
  • Don't just lie on the beach - swim!
  • Find a park and practice your yoga or stretching. In Recife, Brazil I found an early morning exercise class right on the beach, free. I exercised the entire week I was there.

Whatever you do, staying active is something... active, not something that just 'happens'!

Do you have any tips to keep us in shape when we're away from home?

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