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Guest Post: My Top Tips for Staying Fit While You Travel

I have always had an insatiable appetite for traveling. I’d blame somebody like my parents or an especially free-spirited friend…but then I’d be lying. When my fellow high school students were saving up money for prom or buying (old, but still cool) cars, I pinched my pennies so that I could buy myself a ticket to Italy to visit family. I wasn’t anti-social (I still went to homecoming!) but I prioritized differently. When I graduated, I it shocked nobody that obtaining my TESL/TEFL certification became the next step in my wanderlust journey.

While I was in high school various activities like volleyball and running from the cops (I’m kidding…about volleyball) kept me in pretty decent shape. Teaching abroad, however, was not as kind. It didn’t take me long to figure out that eating copious amounts of delectable local cuisine sans a regular fitness routine did not spell good news for my waistline. I mean, my stretchy-pants (we all have that one sacred pair) could only give so much, and I was pushing them to the very limits of their existence. After years (and by years I mean decades) of teaching and traveling, I have ultimately managed to whittle out a fitness routine that is both travel and waist-line friendly.

1. Step Up!

Getting your steps-per-day in is no joke–there’s a reason that we should all aim for 10,000 (or more!) per day. Being sedentary is incredibly easy to do (especially if your job requires it), but it is unfortunately terribly hard on the body. I don’t need to preach to anybody about the benefits of exercise, but the negative effects of sitting all day are a bit alarming (read more here). Since I enjoy having a healthy heart and functioning circulatory system, I decided to actively monitor my steps. I find pedometers to be strangely motivating (I intentionally park and walk now), and there are no shortage of available options. Invest in a Jawbone, Fitbit, or good-ol’ clip on pedometer (whatever works best for you) and challenge yourself to meet (and then exceed) your daily step goal. Pace while talking on the phone, walk-and-talk with friends, or (if you’re out of options) simply run in place–every step counts!

2. Yeah, I’m Putting you Down for Cardio

If you thought that I had found some magical way to leave cardio off of this list, you are about to be sorely disappointed. There is just no way around the multitude of benefits that come with getting your heart-rate pumping. If running is out of the picture for you (injury, personal revulsion at the mere thought, etc.) then find another outlet. Bike, swim, rock climb–however you decide to exert yourself, do so with dedication and enthusiasm. It’s a sad but true fact that if you half-ass cardio, you are only hurting yourself. If you’re going to be out-of-breath and sweating your butt off, you might as well make it worth it and give it all you’ve got. Plus, looking on the bright-side, this will also double as a great way to explore your new geographic location!

3. Use your Surroundings

If traveling has left you without gym access, fear not–your room is undoubtedly full of equipment that is just dying to help you maintain optimum physical health. Use the edge of your bed (or a chair pushed flush against a wall) to do triceps dips, lift your suit case (or your kitty) over-head to add some resistance to squats, and known ab-killers like push-ups and planks need no equipment (so… short of injury,  you have no excuse to avoid them). Even better, invest in some exercise DVD’s to take on the road with you. Pop one into your laptop, and let somebody like Billy Blanks or Jillian Michaels push you past your breaking point. Remember–the mind will quit before the body does!

4. Eat Mindfully

I can’t encourage you strongly enough to make sure that you take every opportunity to indulge in the local foodie culture when you travel–eat, drink and be merry folks! But, as with most things in life, moderation is key. Be mindful of portion sizes and aware of calories. You can’t out-exercise a poor diet, that’s just an unfortunately sad but true fact of life. For me, living by the 80/20 rule works best: 80% of the time, I am mindful of what I eat. The other 20% of the time, I treat myself to the indulgence du jour. Life is about balance, not deprivation.

I have found that these simple steps work best for me, and I hope that some of them will benefit you, too! Let me know if you have suggestions–I’m always looking for a new/better/smarter way to do things!

Julia Randall is has recently put down some serious roots in Boise, Idaho (but still travels every chance she gets!). When she’s not busy doing her own home renovation (hello new hardwood floors!), you can find her writing something riveting.