Laura, aka Global Gym Bunny has been travelling solo around the world for three years. Read her story below on keeping fit travelling.
Hey, I’m Laura and I‘ve been travelling solo since… February 2017! Yep, I quit my job of thirteen years, dumped all my belongings in my parents’ loft, packed my remaining things and that was that. I wasn’t sure when I’d be back, but I had a vague aim that I’d spend at least a year on the road. I certainly never imagined back then that I’d still be going now, three years later.
When I left the UK, there was one major thing which concerned me about going travelling. It wasn’t fear of culture shock, homesickness or giving up a steady income – though naturally these were concerns – it was how I’d keep fit. My 9 – 5 job made it simple to keep up the routine of heading to my local health club after work, pump iron, do classes or hammer it on the cross-trainer. But a life of travel beginning with months in Africa and Asia meant
- I had no idea what sort of gym facilities I could expect to encounter, if any.
- I had no idea if gym casual rates would be affordable to me, now I had no steady income.
- I had no idea how I was going to fit workouts in when there would be so much to see and do and new friends to make. Especially as I’d booked some group tours in first few months, where we’d be following a strict itinerary.
So really, I had no idea about very much at all, fitness-wise. Eek! In fact, some areas I’d be travelling to wouldn’t even have gyms – at least last time I checked, Kruger National Park wasn’t known for its weight-training facilities.
So how would I be able to keep fit on the road?
This led me to ask myself why it was so important to me – people travelled all the time, right? Were they all worrying their health on a daily basis? Probably not and part of me is a little jealous of them. But for me, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy travelling for very long if I felt my health and fitness slipping and piled on the pounds. Knowing that this was not just going to be few weeks away, but a matter of months (or more!) I knew I had to come up with a way of making sure my health and fitness remained a key part of my new life.
The good news is that when you’re travelling, you’re naturally a lot more active that you would be in an office-based job. I certainly wouldn’t be spending all day sitting around in one place (even a beach), very often – I’d be seeing and doing stuff. But that alone wasn’t going to keep my fitness at an optimum level, so I’d have to do better than that!
Running and Walking
The first thing I decided to do was to take up running a couple of times a week. Running is tough on joints so I decided that would be often enough. First and foremost it’s free of charge; secondly, it’s a great cardio workout. Thirdly, it’s possible in most areas, rural or urban. Admittedly I was warned off going running around one area of Botswana where wild elephants roamed, but as a general rule, it’s possible in most places. Whilst city centres aren’t ideal, I often manage to find a park, or at least find the biggest block I can to run laps around where I won’t have to give way to traffic.
If running’s not your thing, don’t underestimate the value of going for a brisk walk or jog. Whilst it is less intense than running, it’s also better for joints, whilst still elevating your heart rate and burning some calories. The faster, the better.
Muscle Toning and Building
As weight-training has been a significant part of my life since the year 2000, I was keen as ever to ensure I kept this up. I love being strong (for a girl!), looking toned – and since muscle mass increases metabolism and burns calories at rest, I was fully motivated to maintain as much of it as possible throughout my travels. After all, I’d definitely be trying every local delicacy going on the food side!
So, I decided that I’d aim to visit a gym a minimum of three times a week, in addition to the running. If that wasn’t practical I’d use my resistance bands – packed precisely for this purpose. On the occasions I had my own room, I could work out in it with bands and do body-weight exercises, and on other occasions I’d find a quiet spot to do this outside.
Ultimately though I’d be aiming to find gyms – being in an environment where everyone else was training too would fuel my motivation, and for me there’s no substitute for having all the familiar equipment to hand. Global Gym Bunny was born!
How To Stay Motivated?
Keeping fit isn’t without its challenges though – tropical heat, gyms without air-con and the distraction of other things to do are all obstacles to overcome. Then there’s the time factor – there’s so much else to see and do. But I have to admit, I’ve always struggled not to roll my eyes when people tell me they “don’t have time to work out”. Time is fundamentally a question of priorities. We all have 24 hours in a day and finding 30-60 minutes to do some exercise is always going to be near the top of mine. For my health, fitness, physique, stress relief and enjoyment I make time for it six days a week. Why wouldn’t anyone?
Prices, Discounts and… Freebies!
And so the gym hunts began, along with bartering for discounts for travellers. You don’t ask, you don’t get! With many Asian gyms costing under $3, I often don’t bother, but in countries like Australia and New Zealand it’s well worth it. Whilst many gyms charge steep casual rates, if you go in with a smile and ask about backpacker discounts, they may be able to offer you a cheaper rate. This is especially the case if you’ll be staying in the area for a week or more.
But every traveller’s dream is of course getting a freebie. And if you’re travelling in western countries or large developed cities elsewhere, you may well get lucky. Many larger chains will offer free trials of 1, 3 or more days on their websites, so doing a little research can pay off well. I’ve enjoyed Body Attack in Hong Kong, free-style step in Guatemala and had a week-long free gym trial in Kuala Lumpur, to mention just a few. Spending a few minutes researching can pay off brilliantly, or save yourself the time and check out my site.
Swimming and Hiking the Great Outdoors
Of course, gyms are not the be-all and end-all and there are many solutions to keeping whilst travelling, especially if you’re near water. Sea swimming is free and some accommodation has pools, which you can check when booking.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed on my travel adventures is doing some of the world’s famous hikes. Everest Base Camp will certainly keep you fit! Not to mention having an experience of a lifetime in the stunning Himalayas. Machu Picchu in Peru and Mount Kinabalu in Borneo are also workouts I’ll remember for the rest of my life, not only for the challenge but the superb scenery and fantastic friends I made on the way. To check out my blogs on these, along with other Travel Fitness Articles, please take a look at my site. You can also get more tips on how to keep fit travelling, cook eggs in the microwave, rehabilitate an ankle sprain and more.
Thanks for reading my story, I hope it inspires you to make fitness a key part of your travels. Wherever you’re heading, I wish you a fun and exciting time. Be safe, stay fit and enjoy!