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Travel Fit: How to Stay in Shape Abroad

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that travelling makes it incredibly difficult to maintain a regular workout routine. When you’re in a new environment, you crave local delicacies, forget about calorie counts, and focus on being as indulgent as you possibly can. As understandable as this approach to “vacation travel” is, it can also be exhausting to recover from.

During my first year of living in Spain, I lost track of my own gains. In fact, it wasn’t until I left Spain, went home, and got back into a regular routine that I began to shed some extra weight. The moment I returned to Spain, I had experienced about one month of being in-shape only to return to a not-so-fit version of myself.

Now, that isn’t to say that I was ever past an unhealthy level of overweight. However, as a lifelong athlete, to be at a point where I’m unhappy with how I feel is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, despite my love for Madrid, it took me a while to understand how to use my surroundings to my advantage. As anyone who’s lived in a wonderfully fun, busy, and exciting big city would know, it can be hard to pencil in some gym sessions in-between work and social gatherings.

However, once I made the move to my new neighbourhood in Madrid, I decided to make use of its nearby runner’s park. One run, coupled with the amount of walking I was already doing, made a noticeable difference. In fact, all it seemed that I needed was a weekly run and some daily pilates to be where I needed to be.

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Frappuccinos and walks – the best of both worlds.

Of course, being the type of person who can’t help but keep pushing, I decided to go for bi-weekly runs. Then, two weekly runs became three. I never really ran more than that while in Madrid, considering all of my social activities, but that was more than enough. Given how generally wonderful Madrid’s weather is – even during those colder winter months – it’s completely feasible to use the outdoors at all times. In fact, I found that once I gave up on indoor gyms (which are a little stifling in Madrid) and shifted my focus to running outside, I became much better at maintaining a fitness regime. It worked out perfectly, as I personally prefer going outdoors to workout over using a gym, but had become so accustomed to the latter whilst growing up in a country with ridiculously cold winters!

In any case, there are some very basic, obvious, and easy steps to take in order to minimize weight gain whilst on the road. Give or take a few sacrifices, here are some of the ones I tried to follow:

  • Walk when you can. If the weather permits, and the city isn’t the size of Paris, use your feet! It also saves you some cash.
  • Use the stairs. Many destinations have buildings with only stairs, so this one might often be your only option. Still, if you’re only going up a few flights of stairs, try to use the stairs even if there are elevators around. Your legs will thank you for it.
  • Try going for brief jogs. This one is actually far easier than it sounds. Sometimes, all it takes is a quick jog outside – whether that be near the beach, by a park, or even in a quieter area of the place you’re visiting. If you’re the kind of person who hates running anywhere other people can see you, however, try to find a gym.
  • Go for strolls after you eat. As a follow-up to the last point, you can use this to substitute jogging should you find that to be more difficult to implement. Brief post-meal walks keep your heart rate up, and help you burn any calories you may have regretted consuming during meals.
  • Drink lots of water. This goes without saying: water is extremely vital for the mind, body, and soul. If you have access to clean water, consume at least 1.5L of it every day. That’s the bare minimum.
  • Eat your greens. A lot of people hate ordering salads while on trips. It makes sense – all you want to do is eat the richest, heaviest foods you can find while on vacation, right? Still, a rich salad can go a long way. During my last few months in Madrid, I made sure to have a salad at lunch every day. This was, perhaps, the biggest reason why I was able to get back in-shape so quickly. Eventually, I started to crave a lot of greens, which has only worked in my favour.
  • Eat – or drink – fruit. Fruit is easy as a quick snack. If you’re strolling through a city, it’s usually okay to whip out an apple or banana (yes, even in public-eating-phobic Madrid) and replenish. Some people love having fruit for breakfast, which helps kick off the day. Personally, I like having a big breakfast, so I usually blend a few different fruits together with yogurt and milk for a morning drink to go along with what ever else I happened to make.
  • Carry snacks. On my own trips, I’ve tried to make sure I have at least fruit (whether that be an apple, or nuts) around. It helps keep you at bay, which can be especially important if you’re on a road trip, or anywhere you might not have immediate access to good, healthy food.
  • Don’t obsess over what you eat. Just eat in moderation. People often overlook how important it is to have a healthy relationship with food. It’s easy to get caught up in social pressures, but nothing of the sort should ever make you feel guilty. If you want a pasta-filled dinner, go for it. If you want to eat some macaroons, do so, but don’t eat 20 of them. As long as you understand what your body needs, and what it doesn’t need, you can make it all easier on yourself.

So, while these few points seem very obvious, they’re obvious for a reason. You should keep moving, keep drinking water, and keep things in moderation. Although things get a little more hectic while travelling, eventually focusing a bit more on your habits will lead to a lifetime of self-awareness on the road to better fitness.

What are your healthy travel tips?

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3 thoughts on “Travel Fit: How to Stay in Shape Abroad

  1. Great tips Ghezal! I personally enjoy going to the gym (haven’t yet signed up this year), so in the mean time I do T25 and yoga at home… If the Galician weather permits, I go running. A short, 15 minutes of any activity makes me feel a lot better. I also try to start every morning with a glass of lemon water to help flush out toxins.

    • Thanks, Nicole! I think drinking some lemon water is a great way to start the day. Yoga also seems to help out a lot wherever you are. I’m more of a pilates girl, but those mobile at-home types of exercises are great to get used to.

  2. I wanna share my unexpected weight loss while travelling I have: my 1-month in Italy and Greece last summer. I lost 4kg (applaud me please).
    Low budget, hot weather and an accompany indeed made that happen. We set 2eu per day for food target and walked everywhere. One day we could make 10km by foot, and we drank a huge water amount to hydrate.
    Anw, true that gaining weights is so much easier than losing weight. I sign up for group lessons at the school gym now, as a tool to self-control a bit hopefully. Hopefully I hit my target after 2 months onward. Wish me luck 🙂

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