There’s vacation and then there’s lifestyle. What we are on now is a combination of both.
If we ate our way through every place we visited (the way you do on 1 or 2-week vacations) we would most likely be featuring in the next episode of “My 600 lbs life”. Whether your trip is one week or one year, it is easy to lose sight of your health on vacation.
Travelling has become our life and regular schedules are non-existent. We knew we weren’t heading “home” to a gym or regular schedule, so we can’t use the excuse of “It’s OK, I’m on vacation” forever, so having self-control over food and incorporating fitness into our daily routine became very important.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of tips that have helped us throughout the last 16 months but don’t get us wrong… Eating is half the fun of travelling and we’ve gone off the rails numerous times, but we always got back on eventually before it got out of control. There’s no need to feel guilty if you don’t exercise daily, or you eat one too many burgers. It’s all about balance and the smallest things make all the difference.
1. Carry compact, lightweight gym equipment
Carrying heavy weights in your backpack is not necessary, however, it doesn’t mean you can’t pack some of the gym’s equipment with you when you head out on a holiday. We’ve invested in 3 very versatile, light pieces of equipment that easily fit in the side of any bag. A jump rope, a resistance band and a small massage ball that can be used instead of a foam roller. All of these weigh less than 1kg and can be used in a variety of ways – anywhere at any time.
2. Don’t overindulge & share when you can
This is by far the hardest ‘rule’ to stick too. Let’s be real, food is so delicious and when you don’t have to cook or clean it up, it’s even better! Portion control goes out the window when you’re on vacation. You can’t control the portion sizes they bring and if you’re anything like us, we never leave food on our plate.
When you’re in a new country, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of eating out, which can lead to impulsive eating and overindulgence. To avoid this, we often share meals at restaurants (one starter and one main) and find the portions to be sufficient for both of us. If not, then we still have snacks in our bag to fill the last little hole in our tummy’s. Sharing meals not only helps the waistline, it’s also much more cost-effective. If you’re travelling solo, try going light for at least one of your daily meals.
3. Use grocery stores & cook at home
Once you arrive at your destination, locate a nearby supermarket or grocery store and buy food for some of your meals & snacks. This really only applies if you’re planning to stay somewhere for a minimum of 3-5 days. Relying on restaurants for every meal becomes costly, and there are some things you can’t always control.
Grocery stores are one of our favourite things to explore when we arrive somewhere (I know it sounds bizarre, but they are so fun!). Each country always has something different and it’s a fun way to see how the locals go about their daily lives, whilst cooking fresh healthy meals. The best grocery store we ever went in was in Santiago, Chile. It was so impressive we spent almost 3 hours in there!
4. Be active when sightseeing
Mix your workouts with sightseeing, then it doesn’t even feel like a workout! A lot of cities offer active tours, everything from running to walking to biking or hiking. They can be a fun way to get out, get active and see new places all whilst burning some calories. Apart from the Inca Trail, we’ve hiked up numerous mountains, volcanos & sand dunes and rented bikes in a lot of countries. South America especially was full of outdoor activities.
5. Utilize what you have (get creative!)
There’s no reason not to exercise just because you can’t access a gym. There are so many other fun ways to work out that don’t involve being indoors or spending money. Get creative with your space and utilize things like benches, chairs, tree trunks, turtles (?) and grassy parks.
Who’s to say you can’t use a turtle to jump over? Or outdoor furniture to step up on? There have been some very interesting places that we’ve used over the past year. It keeps it interesting, fun and gets us thinking! If you use your imagination, it’s surprising what you can come up with. For a great list of body weight exercises, check out this following page.
6. Carry your own water bottle & prepare snacks
Often we spend entire days outside, building up an appetite and with a husband like Jacob, the man needs to eat every 2 hours. Not only does it take a toll on your bank account, grabbing spare of the moment snacks often results in them being processed and jammed with sugar.
Peanut butter has been a staple in our backpacks for the last 15 months and I believe this is the 22nd jar that we have been through.
These are some of our favourite snacks to pack for a day out.
- Peanut butter on corn or rice cakes. They last in your bag for hours regardless of the weather outside.
- Mixed nuts
- Protein Bars (Quest bars are our fav)
- Cut up mixed vegetables (carrots, celery, peppers)
- Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
We also strongly recommend carrying your own water bottle. A lot of countries especially through Europe allow you to drink the tap water and even if not, restaurants often fill it up for free. Refilling your water bottle saves a whole lot of money and keeps you constantly drinking throughout the day. We advise getting a bottle with a clip or ‘non-spill” to avoid it leaking through your bag… we learned the hard way. Camelbak bottles are our favourite.
7/ Use proper walking shoes & walk the city
We’ve walked for up to 12 hours a day through some of the major cities and there really is no better way to see a city than on your very own two feet. It’s easy to jump on one of those red open-top buses or in a taxi but walking through a city saves you money on transportation and gives you another perspective.
Being on foot allows you to step off the beaten path and discover hidden gems you may never have come across from a vehicle. It will also give you a deeper cultural experience and put you in touch with the locals should you need any help. Invest in a decent pair of shoes and get walking!
8/ Make use of all the free apps out there
Coming up with your own program can be difficult, especially when you feel as though you’re repeating the same exercises on a daily basis. We found the following apps very helpful when we needed something to go too. They are all free and you can customize to your schedule.
Sworkit allows you to customize your own workout with a very extensive list to choose from. No equipment is needed and you can make them as long or as short as you want. The app has its own timer to make it even easier. They have categories such as upper body, lower body, abs stretching or cardio.
- 7 Minute Work Out
12 exercises, 7 minutes, no equipment needed. We use this when we are pressed for time but want to get in something quick. These exercises can be done anywhere and are good to combine with a run.
- Let’s WOD
This is a fun take on exercise and on average takes 30-35 minutes to complete a session. Simply choose 6 exercises, hit the button and the number on the card is the number of exercises you do, after each card, tap the screen and a new exercise and number appears! It’s quick, easy to follow and you can play around with it to make it fun. Note: The joker is 100 so choose wisely 😉
9. Use outdoor gyms & free gym classes
Many cities have free outdoor gyms. Sure, they aren’t as well equipped as an indoor gym but they are better than nothing! You’d be surprised how many cities have them. We’ve definitely seen more than we expected. Some are better than others but it doesn’t hurt to go check them out, after all, they’re free! Get creative with your workouts all whilst being in fresh air.
If you’re staying in the same place for a little while, check out the closest gym. They often have “trial” passes to new customers. Gyms in Central and South America were very inexpensive for one-day visits. Our favourite gym class was SWEAT1000 in Cape Town, South Africa which was free for the first visit. It’s good to get a real ass kicking every now and then.
Vacation is about relaxing & enjoying the time you have away from your everyday schedule, but it doesn’t have to leave you feeling like a complete blob when you return home. Try these tips next time you go away and come back feeling refreshed and healthy!
Married days survived: 482