Let me start by saying that walking around a city with a 15kg backpack strapped to you, in 30°C weather, is a workout! You will sweat, your legs will burn, your back will ache – you will definitely be strengthening both your mind and your core. But, some of you, may be coming from a 5 day-a-week workout schedule, and the idea of not exercising for weeks may be holding you back from taking the plunge on a long-term trip. I’m here to say, you have PLENTY of options to stay fit.
When I’m home, I workout 5-6 days a week. When I would travel, I would work out zero days a week. For me, this drop in dedication and strength was a mental strain and made me question taking long term trips for fear that I would slip out of my healthy lifestyle. Over the years, I’ve grown to find a happy medium in my fitness while on the road. Here’s what I’ve learned and happily recommend to you:
The most important thing to accept is that no, you will not workout as often. And that is ok! You have busses to catch, sites to see, food to eat, people to meet, experiences to have. Fitness is not going to be your #1 goal, and that’s ok! I try to workout 3 days a week while traveling (and not 3 gym days!) I combine at-home yoga, hikes, runs in parks, classes, and give myself a break if I’m tired, sick, or just plain don’t wanna do it! I bring things that are packable and light and then adjust to where I am and what is feasible.
Use the outdoors!
In every “A Couchsurfer’s Guide to…” I ask our Ambassadors ‘Where to sweat!” And 9 out of 10 times they give a beautiful park with running trails or a gorgeous local hike. You will kill two birds with one stone, see something incredible and unique and break a sweat. So skip the cable car, raise the pace to a jog, find a viewpoint to climb – many cities have plenty of outdoor space for you to take advantage of. Or, just explore the city! Walking around for hours is still exercise! So if one day you walk from Trastevere to the Roman Forum, don’t downplay how much exercise you are getting!
Take a class!
We are truly in the age of the class. In most major cities, you can find a spin class, yoga studio, Crossfit gym or other group fitness class to fit any desire. They range in price and are varied enough to fit most interests. Spend a little time on google or maps looking up local classes – or post in a Couchsurfing thread or group and see if some locals can recommend one! As someone who has done yoga in 4 languages, while only speaking 1.5, I can tell you it is a workout for your body and your mind!
Pack the basics!
I travel with a yoga mat and resistance bands. That’s it. The yoga mat I spread out in the living room, the park, the roof, wherever I can find the space. The resistance bands can be done literally anywhere. Looped under your foot, to a tree, or to a bunk bed pole. These two things, and a little self-dedication will get you the burn you crave and are a great start to the day!
Find a gym (and workout buddy)!
I have been to hundreds of cities, and have always been able to find a gym that sells a one day pass. In Jaisalmer, India, it was ‘pay what you want’. In Kathmandu we had to take off our shoes and workout in the dark during power outages. In Buenos Aires, well that gym was the same as my gym back home. Point being, google ‘gym’ or ‘fitness center’ (or ask on CS) and ask for the day rate. Get on ‘hangouts‘ and look for a workout buddy. I’ve had hosts give me day passes to their gym, and I’ve done the same when back home. Couchsurfing is all about finding people who share your interests, and guess what, many Couchsurfers share your interest in fitness!
For the amount of time I spend working out, I have no self-motivation. I need something to tell me what to do, how long to do it, and when to stop. I rely on apps. Youtube has a great selection of classes. ClassPass Go is $8 a month and connects you to audio classes. Alo Moves is my choice for yoga and core classes on the go ($20 a month). Shred is what I use for all of my workouts, and they have plenty of options for those who hate the gym. Jump in the comments to share your favorite app.
Whatever your travel plans are, there is a way for you to fit fitness in. Not only can it be used to explore the city, but many studios revolve around community and you may just make a friend or two at the smoothie bar after yoga. And there is no better way to bond with your host or new hangout-buddy than breaking a sweat!