Before we begin, let me express my sincerest apologies for the atrocious title of this post. It seems there is indeed a limit to the number of times one can post a witty, rhyming blog title, and I suspect I surpassed that limit long ago. So, with my guilt somewhat assuaged by this confession, let’s proceed with the good stuff.
Exercise. Most would agree that it’s hard enough to achieve “optimum” levels of this at the best of times, even when you’ve splashed out on that gym membership and it’s literally right across the road. You know the one – you walk past it every day on the way to work, eyes averted. But throw in an extended trans-continental road trip, and it seems completely hopeless. You might as well just accept the fact that you’re going to turn into a podgy, amorphous blob before you reach your end destination.
You, sir (or madame – but I’m sure you understand that sir sounds much more engaging in this particular context, so just let me have my fun please), would be sadly mistaken. While we were living back in Toronto, exercise was easy, with a gym actually located IN my condo building and oodles of lakeside and riverside trails but a stones throw away. I, too, thought that it’d be hard to stay in shape while on the road, but it turns out that it was easier than I thought (but not so easy that I didn’t need to write this article…).
In fact, after a few weeks on the road, I was given the opportunity to shed my travel-stained gypsy rags (via a shower) and observe in a mirror what I expected to be an enlargened paunch. One look told me that this disagreeable state of affairs had happily not come to pass, and I was in fact looking more toned and trim than ever. In all honesty, some of this was probably due to a marked drop in day-to-day stress levels and sustained amounts of adequate sleep, but a lot was also due to my exercise “regime” while on the road. In order to save you from being bombarded by my cacophony of words, I’ve kindly provided a photo montage below showing some of the many exercise forms myself and my partner, Liivi, embarked upon while travelling.
You’ll notice a few patterns emerging from the above – we’ve done a LOT of hiking, but we’ve also made a point of kayaking, biking, running, swimming, climbing, and generally just doing crazy things like pushups under glacial waterfalls, for shits and giggles. The point is, there are so many ways to keep fit on the road, particularly if you have access to the great outdoors (which you should, considering you’re on a road trip). But, if you’re confined to cities or it’s raining outside or you simply don’t feel like hiking up a mountain or into a canyon, here’s a few tips for staying in ship shape.
1. Find a rock or something heavy
Rather sadly, I actually get quite excited when I’m out for a stroll and see a large rock sitting on the ground. This is because rocks are nature’s kettlebells/dumbbells/medicine balls, and you can get a great workout using them. Choose one which you can lift without breaking your back, but which you can still move around with while working your muscles. I like to aim for around the 50lb/20kg range, but this will vary per person.
Exercises which can be really effective with a heavy rock include squats, walking or static lunges, “kettlebell” swings, cleans, weighted situps, slams, and just throwing the darn thing. Get creative, but mind you don’t put your back out! Also, maybe ignore the fact that we’re wearing flip flops – shoes would probably be preferable, if you’re planning on dropping your rock on your feet.
2. Find a tree with a sturdy lateral branch
Trees are awesome. They’re essentially the equivalent of a jungle gym or chinup bar, but cooler. Mainly on account of the fact that they’re trees, but also because you’re working out in nature and additionally receiving some good vibes from touching a living thing, rather than cold hard metal thoroughly slathered in the previous guy’s sneeze residue.
Trees are everywhere, so there’s no excuse. Even if you’re stuck in a city, chances are you’ll be close to a park. And what do you typically find in parks? Trees! So, get hunting for a tree with a thick, sturdy, lateral branch which is higher than your head but still reachable, and test it to see if it will comfortably hold your weight (and ensure there isn’t a large nest of fire ants or an angry spider residing therein). Then, grab hold and just muck about. I like to just hang off the branch for a few minutes, as this helps to realign my shoulders and spine and helps build muscle through gravitational resistance. Then I typically do some reverse grip chinups, wide grip chinups, followed by some leg raises for an excellent core workout. Or, you could just climb said tree – it’s fun, it’s great for coordination, a good full-body exercise, and you’ll be prepared for when that grizzly comes chasing after you in Yellowstone.
3. Use any available space
Even if you don’t have a tree or rock on hand (unlikely), there’s still no excuse. When this kind of situation arises, I typically adopt a daily routine of doing short bouts of bodyweight resistance exercises before meals, as it gets the metabolism pumping and it’s always advisable to eat soon after exercising so that your muscles can begin the repair and rebuild process. I’ll typically do a mixture of pushups, bicycle kicks, tricep pushups, lunge walks, squats, squat jumps, calf raises, burpees, plank, and mountain climbers. All of these are good core workouts and will get your heart racing and your muscles burning.
If all else fails, just head out for a walk, and intersperse the walking with 100 metre sprints. You’ll be thoroughly lathered in no time. Go forth, dear roadtripper, and de-flabbify!