How to stay fit while travelling – mini workout you can do in any hostel with no equipment
August 4, 2016
Stay fit anywhere with this simple 20-minute body weight routine perfect for hostel or hotel stays while travelling.
Apart from being a writer, I am also a dancer and circus performer, so exercise has always been a big part of my life. I am one of those weirdos who actually uses the hotel gym while on vacation but you don’t need to be a fitness buff to know staying active helps not only your fitness and waste line but your mental attitude as well. After my article ‘Make and Keep Habits for Healthy Travel’ got such a good response, I decided to go one step further and create a simple workout you can do anywhere without any equipment.
If you are travelling for an extended period of time, staying fit and healthy can be a challenge. You are away from your usual routine and equipment and though you thought all the walking, hiking and exploring would keep you in shape. The sad fact is that for every hour you spend walking you will spend another sitting on a bus or in a bar. A steady diet of take-out and beer can take over your good intentions surprisingly quickly.
There are a few challenges to working out on the road. One is motivation, this varies from person to person but as I mention in my ‘Make and Keep Healthy Habits for Travel’ article, a lot can be solved with a routine. When you are travelling for an extended period of time, with different locations and people, a morning or evening routine can often save your sanity. I believe an exercise routine should be done at least three days a week to be effective and as I specially designed this as a mini-routine you can complete in less than half an hour, I would aim to make it part of my morning routine five days a week. We all know that circumstances don’t always cooperate when you’re on the road so aiming for five days should make sure you hit at least three.
The next problem is space. If you are in a hotel you might be lucky enough to have a private room or gym facilities in which to exercise. If you’re in a hostel, especially if you’re shy, it can be a bit harder. I have found that there is often a reading room somewhere in a hostel that is often empty. There is even the large stall of the disabled toilets if you’re desperate for privacy. I would probably drag my new friends out onto the lawn and make them give it a try. (Trust me you won’t be the most gumby/hungover one there.)
The last problem is equipment, which I have solved by creating a body weight callisthenics routine with a few exercises for each area of the body. It is a series of 20 body weight exercises. The aim is to repeat each exercise for 50 seconds and then spend 10 seconds moving to the next exercise. Starting immediately giving you 20 minutes of continuous movement. Don’t worry if at first you can only maintain the exercise for 20 seconds, your endurance will increase with practice. You can time each exercise on your phone or watch, or if you have no stopwatch count slowly (one one thousand, two one thousand etc.) If you are having trouble when you first start you can also add a one min break every 5 exercises. It doesn’t matter where you start, it only matters that you improve on your personal best over time. Follow the exercises below to make sure you are nice and warm before going 100%.
(Disclaimer, it is advisable to consult a medical professional before starting a new exercise program. I am not a health professional this workout is simply a small snippet of my own personal routine.)
Complete this workout in order repeating each exercise for 50 seconds before moving to the next.
Rotations - Rotate your wrists, shoulder, neck, waist, knees and ankles 20 rotations each to get warmed up and create space in your joints.
Shoulder twists - Extend your arm out to the sides, stretching open. Rotate your shoulders and arms so your palm faces the ground then the ceiling. Repeat.
Mountain climber – Take a plank position, run your knee into your chest right, left, right, left.
Switch legs – Hands on the ground as if you were going to try and kick into a handstand. With straight elbows and knees, kick one leg into the air just high enough to change legs. Kick right, left, right, left.
Knee tuck jumps – Jump into the air with both legs, trying to bring your knees to your chest, can alternate with bringing feet to bum.
Weighted squat – Feet hip distance apart, back straight, squat down and up bending knees. If you need a challenge try holding your pack in your arms or across your shoulders.
Shoulder tap plank combo – Take plank position, lift right-hand tap left shoulder, and place back. Repeat on Left, then do a press up. If a press up is too hard, drop your knees down for press up but come back to your toes for the shoulder taps.
V snaps – Lie on your back with arms extended straight over your head. Bring your arms and legs straight up and together, so hands touch toes. Open till hands and feet touch the ground and repeat. Don’t bend elbows or knees.
Sexy cats – On hands and knees, bring right knee under to meet your chest and extend behind you. Repeat for 20 then hold your leg out extended for 20 before changing to the Left side.
Slow motion press ups – Either in push up position or with knees down, drop slowly into a press up. Keep moving at the same slow pace the whole way down (25 sec) then press up slowly and steadily using the whole 25 seconds. You can try variations. Diamond hands, elbows in or hands wide press ups for variety.
Russian twists – Sit on the ground with knees and feet together knees drawn up. Lean back 45 degrees and take feet off the ground. Place hands together in a prayer position and then rotate so hands touch the ground on either side.
Lunges – Step one leg back so knee nearly touches the floor, step back leg up till foot touches butt, back into the lunge, then knee up to the chest. Repeat on alternating sides.
Plank - Side plank, one hand down, other hand on head, feet stacked so you face the side. (For extra challenge dip hips down and up in this position) Hold for 20 sec. On stomach come into a plank on your elbows (for a challenge, alternate leaning forward and back over your elbow’s) Hold for 20 sec. Turn to your other side and hold plank 20 sec.
Fire hydrants – On your hands and knees, with knee bent bring it out to the side and in, repeat for 20 then hold knee out for twenty before doing the other side.
Side to side press ups - Press up position on toes or knees. Press down at bottom make small movement right, centre, left, and centre. Then press back up. Repeat on other side.
Bum lifts – Lie on your back with legs extended up at a right angle. Lift up so your bum pulses off the ground. Focus on squeezing you lower abs rather than getting height.
Hip flexor lifts – Sit on the ground with your legs open in an L shape. Place your fingertips on the ground between your legs and lift your legs up, knees straight, toes pointed. Hold as long as you can.
Dip with leg lift – sitting with your feet and hands on the ground press your hips up into a table top. Extend on leg out and bend your elbows in a dip. Alternate legs.
Cobra lifts – Lying on your stomach, place hands behind head. Relax bum and peel upper body off the ground and relax. Repeat.
Handstand against the wall - If there is a wall or an unused door, Place hands about a foot from the wall and kick up into a handstand. Make sure elbows are straight, ribs are in and legs extended then hold for as long as possible. Make sure you do some wrist rotations after this one.
That’s it you did it! You should have been working out for around 20 minutes depending on how many rests you had, well done. I would strongly recommend you spend the next 10 minutes doing some Stretches! I haven’t included a routine here, as flexibility ranges hugely. It is safe to say that if you felt a muscle burn during this workout, you should give it a quick stretch now. I’m not talking a gymnast level split sequence just a few stretches that you are comfortable with. Trust me your body will thank you tomorrow and in twenty years’ time.
If you didn’t find this routine challenging enough you could start with adding more reps. Another option is to add some incline, things like the dips can be done off the edge of a chair instead of on the floor, or you could put your feet up on a chair when doing press ups etc. The other thing you can do is add some weight. I bet you are travelling with a pack or suitcase that weighs a tonne. Try adding your bag in your arms or across your shoulders for exercises like squats or across your hips during your dips and you will soon notice the difference. Just make sure you add weight slowly so you do not injure yourself.
The other thing I personally do is travel with a stretchy resistance band which doubles the number of exercises I can do in a small space without taking virtually any room in my pack. (Also great for stretching and fixing the tent in the middle of the night at a pinch.)
I hope you enjoyed my exercise on the go routine and that it helps you keep fit and healthy while you travel. It is amazing how much more you can get out of your adventure when your body is feeling strong and relaxed. If you have any exercises that you use in your own routine that you think I should include please comment below, I love new additions to my workout.