14 Ways to Keep Your Fitness Mojo While Traveling

Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit.

I have a strict Carry-On-Only-Unless-Supremely-Necessary Rule, but I always pack my gym clothes. (Athletic clothes are supremely smushable, and I recommend wearing your sneakers on the plane.)

Yoga Farm
Hola, from a yoga farm in Costa Daurada, Spain.

Next week I am heading to Central America to visit my friend Kelly who moved to Panama City for work. Getting in a workout while living your regular old busy life is hard enough. It’s even tougher when you’re out of your element and so far away from your full selection of Lululemon headbands. But as everyone’s Pinterest board seems to quote: “If its important, you’ll find a way.”

Personally, I feel better when I sweat: happier, calmer, you know, just more amazing. I don’t want to slack off and run low on endorphins just because I’m away from home. (And hotel rooms sort of freak me out anyway – so many closets to open! and beds to peek under! It’s a relentless search to check for monsters, intruders and clandestine ninjas. Hey, we all have our shit.  So as you can see, I can use all the endorphins I can get.) More widely applicable, coming back home out of shape stinks.

So I’ve amassed my own 13 key ways to stay active and to fit in fitness while traveling:

  1. Use the hotel gym and/or pool. Duh.
  2. Buy your favorite studio’s DVD  (Little known fact: Physique, PureBarre, Exhale Core Fusion all make these!)
  3. Try a free workout from YouTube (like FitnessBlender or any of these).
  4. Go for a run. Ask the front desk at your hotel (or a local) where to go or just get lost (but bring cash for a cab ride back). If you have a GPS watch, bring it. If you’re traveling abroad  its often too expensive to use an iPhone app like RunKeeper (though I love RunKeeper) to measure your run, so the GPS watch will come in handy. Pro Tip: Westin Hotels provide complimentary rental sneakers and running maps to guests.
    running in paris
    Matt running in Paris (I was running behind him but not because I’m slower. Ok maybe that’s why)
  5. Rent a bike.  Bike rentals are everywhere now! I was in Vienna last month, and they had free bike rental. What’s the conversion rate on 0 Euros? So yea, put this into your slowly-being-legalized pipe and smoke it: Europe not only provides free healthcare but free bike rentals. How patriotic are you feeling right now, my fellow Americans?
  6. Pack exercise bands (like these for less than $4 ). They take up no room in your suitcase and can add significant extra resistance to your bodyweight workout. I used them in Tanzania and I was pleased to have them with me.
  7. Take a local class. Start with Google Maps and see what’s nearby. Then use sites like Yelp and Rate Your Burn, to find out what the people are into. When I traveled frequently to Boulder, Colorado for work and I found a yoga studio near my hotel. Especially when you’re traveling alone, taking a class with other people (the feeling of a group activity) can make your solo dinner feel less lonely. You might even make a friend (though I didn’t).
  8. Walk everywhere. If you’re traveling for pleasure and not for work, your day is your own. Explore on foot and keep your metabolism working.
  9. Chair workouts. Most hotel rooms at least have a chair, try this routine of exercises where the only prop needed is (you guessed it) a chair.
  10. Pack a jump rope. Like the bands, this takes up a negligible amount of space but can provide a great cardio workout in a small hotel room or in a park.
    Ben playing soccer in Tanzania. Or, where, more easily mimic-able, we also went for runs.
  11. Make exercise the activity: go for a hike, surf, snorkel, climb the steps of a tower. Do something that both makes you sweat and allows you to uniquely experience where you are.
  12. Bring granola bars, but only use them in case of emergency. I pack mini-Cliff bars everywhere I go. If you can’t find breakfast or end up on a longer-than-expected bus ride, you’ll be thankful you don’t have to eat something you don’t like or worse – nothing at all. Avoid hanger pains that lead to bad decisions and low energy.
  13. Set your alarm early (even though your away!) and build in extra time. You’re out of your regular routine, so make a new routine. Take advantage of jet lag if you’re traveling to a later timezone.
  14. Most importantly, mentally commit to exercising while you’re away, but don’t set an unreachable goal. If you’re attending a time-intensive conference, don’t expect to up your bench-pressing game, but do commit to setting your alarm a bit earlier and going to the hotel gym.

OK fitness travelers. What else ya got? How do you stay fit on the road?



  1. camill
    October 3, 2014 / 1:03 pm

    i think you thought of all the exercise things ever

    • Nicole
      October 3, 2014 / 1:23 pm

      Camilla. Well great. Haber. Out.

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