Before starting our trip I exercised regularly with a mix of running, tennis, pilates, yoga, and weight-training classes. I wanted to continue a routine as we traveled. I wasn’t sure what exercising with no equipment for a long period of time would look like, and when I tried to find information online there wasn’t much that seemed appealing. Some articles suggested finding a gym in every new city you stayed in, others sang the praises of youTube workout videos, I even read a crazy blog post about buying bulk bags of rice and using them and old milk bottles to make your own dumbbells.
So, in the interest of helping out anyone else who is wondering what exercising with minimal equipment on the go looks like, here is what I do and some things I packed for working out while traveling. Now that many people are sheltering-in-place at home, these suggestions may be useful for those looking for a low-equipment routine.
What I Do
I try to run at least every other day, and the days I don’t run I do bodyweight exercises.
Running in an unfamiliar place can be intimidating, and after arriving at a new location I’ll usually try to scope out a running route the first day or two. It can be challenging if we’re staying in a very urban area, and in those cases I’ll usually look for a nearby park or a stretch of street with timed stop lights so I don’t have to wait at every intersection.
While I rarely ran with my phone before, now that we’re traveling I take my phone with me on every run and make sure that I have the address of our hotel/AirBnB saved on it. This is essential as I’ve gotten lost many many times. Overall I find going on runs a good way to explore a new area, as you can cover more ground than you would walking and running routes will often take you to areas you wouldn’t otherwise see.
For bodyweight exercises, I don’t follow any workout videos or plan, I just make it up as I go along. There are so many Instagram accounts, youTube channels, Pinterest boards, etc with different exercises that it really isn’t hard to come up with a routine.
What I Brought
A Packable Yoga Mat
I have this travel yoga mat from Jade Yoga. It was something I asked for at Christmas specifically for our trip. It is very grippy and I actually like it a lot more than the regular yoga mat I was using before this one. The mat is thin and folds up easily. To pack it I just fold it into a rectangle and sandwich it between the two sides of my suitcase. It packs down small enough that it could also fit into a backpack or tote bag. I think this mat would be a good option for people who wanted to go to a yoga class after work but didn’t want to haul around a roll of foam on their commute. The only downside of this mat is that it’s thin (which is why it folds so easily), so it’s more for grip than cushion.
Daniel was skeptical when I packed this mat. He didn’t understand why I wanted to give up suitcase space to bring it. I agree that you really don’t need a mat to workout, but I also feel like bringing it with me made me more likely to exercise. When you have fewer things, the things you do have become more important; every time I unpack the mat I’m like, “oh yeah, I need to make sure I use this.”
Before we left San Francisco I bought a set of resistance bands from Amazon. It has three bands of varying thickness and a door anchor so you can attach them to a point above your head kinda like a TRX. There are lots and lots of options for these online, and you can find them fairly inexpensively. They’re definitely not as good as a set of weights would be, but they are useful working out your arms. Also, they take up very little space in my suitcase. If you google “resistance band exercises” there is a ton of useful information on ways to use them.
Clothing for Exercise
Around a third of the clothing I packed is activewear. I tried to bring things that could also be worn out-and-about without looking like I just left the gym, but that was sort of hit and miss. Along with activewear I brought my running shoes, running hat, and running belt (which I use to carry keys and my phone).
My everyday watch is a Garmin Forerunner. It’s the second Garmin watch I’ve owned. I like this brand for running because unlike a lot of other activity tracking brands it has built-in GPS, which means I can run without my phone and still have an accurately calculated distance. Being able to see all of my activity data and having the ability to track it over time is really nice. I can see how many miles I ran this week and compare it to the same week last year, or see how my resting heart rate is trending over the last few months, see if my cadence is increasing, etc. I love keeping track of this sort of data, and previously I kept track using a spreadsheet. This is much easier.
Other than using it for step-counting, heart rate monitoring, and activity tracking, I like to use the watch’s pre-programmed workouts. From the face you can select a workout and it will walk you through the movements by showing animations of the different steps and cueing when to switch actions. I’ve mostly used the yoga workouts. I find that I actually like doing yoga from my watch way more than following a youTube video; there’s no one telling me to breathe, setting intentions, hitting little gongs, etc. Basically, it allows me to do yoga without all the woo.
“Splits Training” Stretching App
I have an app on my phone that leads me through a stretching routine for about ten minutes every day. I find stretching boring and uncomfortable and if I had to develop my own routine I never would. The one I’m using now is called “Splits Training” because it’s specifically for mastering the splits. Never in my life have I ever been able to do the splits–and I don’t think that I ever will be able to–but I like to think that the app is helping limber me up.
It’s very rare that I follow a video workout. I feel like I’m always staring at a computer screen and I like to use exercise as a break from that. However, Daniel finds them useful. Specifically, he likes Pamela Reif’s Youtube channel for her whole body workouts (he wants everyone to know that he does not do her “booty” workouts, hehe).