Ways of travel

While some modes of travel like hiking and kayaking equals to a high dose of long-term and low-intensity physical activity, other modes of transport such as vehicle-borne expedition travel and long-haul flights means by its nature very little of the same deal.

In the latter case, it is therefore necessary to take short breaks at frequent intervals to avoid prolonged sedentary sessions.

A basic rule says that you should take a break at least once every hour, but once every 30 minutes is significantly better. The movement break does not have to be long, but it should include some kind of short physical movement to trigger blood circulation in the body. For example, making 10-20 “air squats”, ie max depth “ass to grass” squats, is a good way to activate the quads, hamstrings and glutes that are radically under stimulated by longer periods of sedentary travel and inactivity.

A short break every 30 minutes may seem a bit too much if you drive long distances, but aim for at the very least once every hour and try to keep regularity and frequency. As a bonus you’re getting out of the car, taking in the surroundings and get to breathe fresh air. I promise that the renewed energy you get from a short activity break is worth the few minutes it takes to stop at the roadside!

The same goes for longer flights. Stand up in the cabin way, make some quick deep squats and stretch your body. Strange looks from fellow travellers aside, you’re significantly increasing your “travel health”.

Rest & recovery

In addition to taking regular and frequent breaks when away on that overland expedition or backpacking trip, the activities throughout the journey often involve more or less some degree of physical activity. You’re going hiking in the mountains, walking between different scenic attractions, renting a bike and doing a lot of other frequent low-intensity activities. All of this is obviously very good to keep your health in check, but depending on your daily routine back home you may soon feel restless and be in the mood of a sweaty workout.

There are many advantages to actually let the body rest and get a break from the intensive exercise routine in your everyday life at home and just do fun things that may be physically challenging but not a regular workout.

Training by nature means that the body is exposed to stress, which in this case is a good thing because the body then chooses to become stronger and more resistant if exposed to similar stress in the future (i.e next training session). Over time, this means that you become stronger and more persistent, based on what your workouts consists of.

A regular and frequent exercise routine can sometimes create too much stress, especially in combination with everyday life challenges like pressed time schedules, work-related requirements and family commitments.

The result of all this accumulated stress can lead to overtraining and burnout.

Not having too high demands on yourself, listening to your body and getting proper recovery through good sleep and calm, no-stress activities is incredibly important to avoid the negative cycle of constant stress and risk of burnout.

Not minding to take a rest day or replace a scheduled workout with a quiet walk in the woods can often be difficult for the high-performing “type A” individual. But it’s an extremely important ability in order to achieve a sustainable lifestyle in the long run and actually optimize performance.

This leads us to the fact that it can be both a very nice, but actually also a necessary opportunity to take a break from everything that is recognized as a high-load training schedule and just enjoy being active and for the time being, letting go of your own set high standards on achievement and performance. Grab the opportunity to release strict workout routines and actually utilize your hard-earned strength and stamina for something else than just exercise. Go explore the surroundings; climb mountains or trees, swim, dive, jump from cliffs into the ocean, surf, mountain bike or do something exciting just because it’s simply fun and playful!

That being said, if the trip is extended for a long period of time, you may travel around the world for six months, then you may want to actually do some workouts to maintain your performance and strength. If that’s the case it’s nice to know that it’s very easy to keep your performance level by simple, short and intense workouts that can be done anywhere–often with nothing more than your own body as workout equipment.

Travel workouts

In this case it is truly only your imagination that sets the limit. Functional full body exercises with correct technique but with high intensity varied in many different ways are extremely effective and easy to implement while requiring little space and equipment. Classic exercises such as burpees, squats, push ups, V-ups, sit-ups etcetera are great to combine for a certain number of reps and rounds at high pace. Best of all they work just as well in a minimal hotel room as on the beach. In the latter case, it is advisable to add short barefoot sprints in the sand to further increase the intensity level.

Run higher up on the beach in the loose sand to make the sprint heavier or down by the waterline to make them progressively easier but faster. Or why not start far up on the beach and run down into the sea as far as you can until it’s not possible to run anymore, and then turn back. Extremely hard and intense, but super fun!

As you can see, you can vary your workouts almost in infinity with some ingenuity and imagination. A large part of the equipment you usually find in the gym or in the CrossFit-box can often be improvised with simple means and objects you find at the site.

Do dips on the chair in the hotel room. Fill your backpack with heavy things, wear it when you sprint or do squats and push-ups, or carry it in your arms or hold it over your shoulder and use it as a kettlebell to swing. Find heavy rocks to throw and to carry, or do presses and thrusters with. Do overhead squats with old tree trunks of suitable size found in the woods. When searching around, you often discover things that can easily be used as exercise tools.

Heavy weights such as kettlebells or dumbbells are obviously unsuitable for bringing along on the trip, unless you want to limit the rest of the luggage to a toothbrush and credit card. But, for example a TRX suspension trainer or a pair of roman rings are good and versatile tools that weighs little and take a minimum of space in the luggage. A good place to hang them from is rarely hard to find. The roof rack on your car, a door post or a strong tree branch usually works fine.

For those in lack of inspiration there are many online resources for workouts that are easy to do with just your body as resistance. CrossFit’s “Bodyweight Workouts” is an example of a solid list of different WOD’s for the die-hard CrossFitter.

Running is another activity that can be performed almost everywhere, with the added bonus of being an excellent way to explore your surroundings!


Mobility work

In addition to regular training sessions, it is important not to forget about mobility training. Especially during those trips that involve a lot of sedation when muscles and joints tend to grow stiff and inflexible. In addition to the mandatory “movement breaks” we discussed above, it is a great gain if you can carry out some simple dynamic mobility exercises. These can be done at any time, but preferably before a workout to prepare muscles and joints to what is about to happen, as well as to increase the range of motion before the workout.

Ankle joints, hips, back and shoulders are body parts that are often more or less stiff, especially in individuals who have a sedentary lifestyle and/or work situation. Attack these body parts with dynamic exercises where you stretch out and try to increase your maximum range of motion for each repetition.

Perfect stretch, dead hang, scapular pull-ups, scapular push-ups, Ido Portals “2.0”, Power Monkey Fitness and everything from the mobility guru Kelly Starrett are examples of great exercises and mobility programs to explore further.

A detailed instruction about this would be too bulky and not a great fit for this book, so I recommend searching for the mentioned names and exercises on YouTube for good instructions to follow.

If you’re into yoga, it’s another great way to develop everything from mobility and body control to strength, balance and muscle endurance that can be performed virtually anywhere. Social media is literally flooded with pictures of yoga practitioners who perform yoga exercises with various beautiful natural sceneries as a backdrop, so inspiration is not hard to find!