How Do You Stay Fit When You’re Traveling?
Ask Rolf: Vagabonding traveler Rolf Potts answers your questions about travel
05.20.08 | 2:13 PM ET
How do you keep fit on the road?
Believe it or not, travel itself keeps me fairly fit, since walking (sometimes with a backpack on my back) is my favorite way to experience a destination. For simple reasons of fitness, I advise all travelers to take advantage of walking, even when a bus or metro is an option. Not only will it make you fitter, it will show you parts of the city (or countryside) that you’d never see if you were always taking public transport.
For cardio reasons, I also go running when I can—though I find that I rarely run more than three days a week on a journey. This is largely because I walk so much when I travel, but also because running takes a heavy toll on my laundry (that is, I don’t always have time to wash my running clothes two or three times a week). I am slightly lazy with laundry though, so if a given traveler doesn’t mind washing his or her running clothes in the sink every day or two, I’d say do it as much as you want. Just be aware of cultural norms, and try not to go running in places where bare legs and sweaty torsos will offend local mores or draw too much negative attention.
Finally, when I’m traveling, I try to do the equivalent of a muscular strength or weight workout—usually a combination of push-ups, crunches and other simple exercises. For the past three years I’ve been traveling with a resistance band, which is a big rubber tube with handles on the ends. Resistance bands can be bought for about $12, and are easy to pack. There are many different kinds, but I just use the basic kind with handles on both ends. There’s a picture of one here—it’s the one called “Fit-Tube.” You can find it, or a similar band, at any sporting goods store.
Here is my travel workout for six days a week (resting the seventh), alternating A-days and B-days.
* A-Days: First, I combine push-ups, crunches and obliques—usually alternating three sets of crunches, three sets of left obliques and three sets of right obliques inside 10 sets of push-ups. Second, I do a set that combines shoulder and back work. Shoulders I work using the resistance band by standing in the middle of the band with my hands at my sides. Then I slowly raise my arms to shoulder-level against the resistance band. I do five sets of shoulder flys, alternating with four sets of back-raises (where I lie on my stomach, put my arms on my head, and lift my chest off the floor). Thirdly on A-days, I go for a run.
* B-Days: Since I don’t run on B-Days, I do a little leg work first—squats and calf-raises. I typically don’t worry about weights—I just do a couple sets of very slow “air” squats (use the same body position as when you have weights; it still burns the thighs) alternated with a couple sets of slow calf-raises. Second, I do five sets of bicep curls and tricep work using the resistance band. Third, I do sets of on-my-back leg lifts, holding each for 10 seconds.
That system works pretty well for me—even if I’m sometimes too tired or busy to be fully consistent on a day-to-day basis.
I’d recommend these simple exercises—or a variant thereof—to anyone who is interested in basic fitness on the road.