If you’re anything like me, you have a tricky relationship with fitness.
I tend to either set my goals way too high (like signing up for a half marathon in a month even though I’ve never ran more than a few miles) and then become discouraged when I can’t maintain them, or I don’t set any at all and therefore have no plan — becoming aimless.
However, in this past year, I took tremendous strides in my health. And it was certainly no thanks to my travel schedule, considering I was away from home almost as much as I was there. But even with interrupted schedules, changing rhythms, or limited equipment at campgrounds and hotels, I feel healthier than ever.
The reason? I was able to change my mindset, slowly evolve my diet, and incorporate workouts that actually matched my speed and current circumstance.
So whether you’re in the midst of travel, limited in your current location, or just looking for some ways to change things up, here are a few things I’ve learned about fitness on the road.
I am not certified or credentialed anyway to Sunday when it comes to fitness. I’m just a guy who tries to stay in shape and has picked up a few tricks for staying active even while living out of a suitcase (or an RV).
If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, know that I am thrilled for you, and wish you all the success in the world, but please, please, please make you sure to consult a medical professional first before heeding any of these tips.
If you’re looking to see changes in your diet or your body, you need to start by changing your thinking.
As I mentioned, I oscillated through a viscous cycle of “all or nothing,” and would often find myself whiplashed between discouragement and apathy. Neither of which was doing me any favors.
But one day a friend told me that “Something is better than nothing.” Which, admittedly, isn’t rocket science, but it’s what I needed to hear. Change rarely looks like clearing higher hurdles overnight, so much as it does being consistent and just doing something.
Maybe you had a goal to run that half marathon but didn’t quite hit the 13.1-mile mark. But if you never really ran before that, now you can confidently say you can run a few miles at a time. That’s a net positive.
Or maybe you’re on a mission to eat cleaner food, and keep giving in to that sweet tooth. But, you’ve now developed a love for nutrient-rich foods you never would’ve considered before. That’s a win.
Whether you’re just adding in a 5-minute walk or eating a few more greens, little changes will add up over time and pave a way for more success. Stop reflecting on what you didn’t accomplish, and start focusing on what you did.
Growth takes time, and health starts with a healthy perspective.
You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule and that when it comes to health, how you fuel your body is way more important than how you exercise. Now, obviously, when you’re on the road, it’s a little trickier to maintain normal rhythms with your diet, but being nomadic doesn’t mean you have to throw it out either — you just have to get a little creative.
Now, everyone and everyone’s body is different, so I’m not going to weigh in on what type of diet you should pursue, or what dietary rhythms work best (i.e. intermittent fasting, macros, veganism, etc). What I will say is that food is fuel. Period. Some fuel is loaded with nutrients (like chicken, brown rice, or squash), and some fuel is fun (like pizza or Doritos). Again, with the help of a professional, figure out what works best for you…but also, to quote the great Julia Childs, “Everything in moderation. Including moderation.”
Your body needs calories, and your fitness goals directly determine how much you should be consuming. On average, women require around 2,000 calories, while men need about 2,500 in order to maintain their mass. If you want to lose weight, you should operate in a caloric deficit, and if you want to gain weight you should operate in a caloric surplus. There is no fad exercise, diet, or pill that magically transforms your body outside of the amount of calories you take in.
Protein and amino acids are critical for muscle growth, repair, and maintenance. There’s a lot of research that suggests your body needs about 1.2 to 2 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. So, if you’re 175 lbs, you’ll want to consume about 95 to 158 grams of protein a day.
Obviously, these numbers can fluctuate depending on whether you’re looking to maintain, gain or lose mass, but as you think through your diet, make sure you’re incorporating plenty of high protein options for life on the road. Nuts, Greek yogurt, and jerky are all fairly easy to pack and will help keep you going.
I’m not here to step on anyone’s toes…or anyone’s “ke-toe-sis” (I will not apologize for this joke), but the truth is that your body needs carbs. In fact, decades of research show that a healthy balance of carbohydrates will sustain your body over a longer period of time and optimize performance. Not to mention it quells “hanger,” and certainly makes me a more pleasant person according to my wife.
The more active you are, the more carbs you should consume – especially during workouts or hikes. Generally speaking, you’ll want to aim for about 1 gram for every pound you weigh. Keep a good mix of fruits and veggies, and maybe throw in a sandwich on whole wheat.
Fats got a bad wrap in the 90s, and there’s still some lingering distrust. Yes, there is a difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, but fats are still vital for healthy nutrition. Aside from the energy that your body gains from fat absorption, unsaturated fats tend to be high in vitamins A, D, E, and K. Not to mention, they taste great. For optimal energy and results, aim for foods like avocados, olives, nuts, or flaxseeds.
Helpful dietary apps
This is far from an exhaustive list, so make sure you do your own research and figure out what works best for you. And then if you need a little help tracking your nutrition, apps like MyFitnessPal, MyPlate, and Noom are great resources and will help keep you in step with your fitness goals.
Alright, so you’ve got the right mindset, you’ve given some thought to your diet, and you just got back from watching Creed III. Sounds like it’s time to start thinking about exercise. Here are a few mobile-friendly ideas for workouts.
Walking and hiking
In terms of effective exercises, you really can’t beat walking. Several studies have linked walking to preventing cancer, easing joint pain, strengthening immunity, and even boosting mental health. Plus you can literally do it anywhere considering all you need is a sidewalk or a paved trail.
I used to hate the idea of cycling, but then my wife bought a Peleton last year. Let me just eat crow and say that I totally get it now. In addition to a lot of the benefits you’ll find from walking, cycling has been shown to decrease stress, improve posture and develop even more strength in your legs. Plus you can ride with friends and basically say that you’re in a biker gang.
Incredibly effective for heart health as well as coordination, jumping rope is great for cardio, shoulders, and calves, while being super portable.
Bodyweight strength training
I’m always delighted when I show up to a campground or hotel and they have a gym. I’m ecstatic if the gym has more than a yoga ball and a broken treadmill. If you find yourself with some weights there’s obviously a ton you can do; but even if it’s just you and gravity, there are still a lot of ways to build strength.
Here are just a few workout types you could incorporate virtually anywhere:
- Tricep dips
- Pull ups (assuming there’s something tall and sturdy you can grab onto)
- Mountain climbers
- Air squats
- Jumping jacks
Full body (more or less)
- Bear Crawl
Putting it into practice
When you’re on the road, the reality is that there will be fewer elements you can control. So just focus on the things you can.
Here are three things to remember:
1. Start with a healthy mindset and know that just doing a little bit of something every day is better than nothing.
2. All food is fuel, and balance is about figuring out the right combination for you and where you’re currently at – while also remembering to enjoy your life. Also, it helps to pack ahead.
3. There are tons of ways to exercise, even if you don’t have the “ideal” equipment. If all else fails, go for a walk, stretch, and remember to breathe.
Healthy habits on the road
Being proactive and developing good day-to-day habits can be applied to fitness and travel alike. Investing in a service like Good Sam TravelAssist can cover the gap in the event of an emergency – bringing more peace of mind and time for the things you love.