Exercises to do while travelling – Body Weight Based or with improvised equipment
When we packed up all of our stuff from our UK home before moving to Chiang Mai, I was sad to leave my free weights behind. Even though I hardly used them in our tiny one bed apartment, I knew I would have more time and determination to use them when I got to Thailand, but obviously lugging 20kg+ of metal around with us was never going to happen.
My good friend and Gym buddy anticipated this and bought me a set of high tensile resistance bands before the big move. Since then we have started a whole new exercise routine that can be performed on the move. Whether we are at home or in hotel rooms, on the beach or just about anywhere you have the courage to flail about like a lunatic raising that heart rate.
Free Weights Alternatives / Substitutes
Obviously trying to transport chunks of heavy metal around in your check in luggage is out of the question. So resistance bands have provided a decent alternative during our travels. They practically weigh nothing and hardly take up any space at all, yet when you combine all the bands together onto the handles they make a pretty challenging workout. It is a very different kind of sensation from lifting weights but if you pull on the bands with correct form and slowly release them back down they actually work very well and tax the muscles more than you’d think.
Here are some resistance band exercises that we find effective:
Bent Over Row
This one is good for toning and building strength in your middle back. I find it is more effective to stand with my legs slightly further than shoulder width apart on the resistance bands so that they are continuously taut even when I release them slowly downward. It’s a great workout for girls too, think of those backless dresses you want to wear.
Standing double bicep curl
This is the main exercise that I use the resistance bands for. Most of my body weight exercises are push up based which works the triceps quite well. But finding a good bicep exercise using just body weight is tough unless you have a bar to do chin ups off of. Standing slightly wider than shoulder width on top of the bands, keep your back straight and look forward. By pulling the bands simultaneously in a curling motion, your biceps get a solid workout. Just remember to let them down slowly to increase the intensity of the exercise. You can also lift each band individually but I find that less effective.
Wrap the bands around a solid table leg or bed post that is low to the ground or failing that just use your own feet. Sit flat on the floor and shuffle backward until the bands are taut. If possible brace your legs against the same table/bed but if your legs aren’t long enough you can place your feet flat on the floor and push against whatever grip you can get from the floor surface. Wearing trainers (sneakers) helps if you are on a tile floor. Pull on the bands with your palms facing each other. Remember to keep your back flat and get a good pinching motion between your shoulder blades at the end of your pulling motion. This exercise works well as a bicep exercise and also a great back workout.
A Good set of resistance bands can be used in so many ways
5kg Rice Bags
I’m not kidding, 5 kg rice bags can be picked up all over Asia for around £2 or less. I keep one near to my laptop when I’m working at home and do front raises and lateral raises with it between moments. The bonus is, when we forget to do the shopping there is always a plentiful supply of rice to eat 😉
There’s always time to exercise – This rice bag cost 100 THB
3 x 6L Water Bottles in a back pack
A new way to recycle 😉
These big 6 litre bottles of water are always available nearby. When they are full and you place three of them inside a ‘round the world’ sized travel backpack it weighs just under 20kg. Recently I have been using this weighted back pack during my push up sets. It’s pretty heavy and really forces me to engage my core properly while performing the routine.
Doing push ups with 20kg on my back is pretty hard for me
I also do deep squats, deep lunges and it can be used somewhat like a sandbag as well. But be careful where you lift it from or you might tear some stitches on the back pack.
This one really gets your heart racing
I have also tried doing one armed bent over rows off the side of the bed but the back pack straps aren’t quite long enough without adjustment so the bag tends to touch the floor when my arm gets tired. This would work better if the straps were pulled really tight or by using a higher sturdier surface than the bed.
Tabata Timer App
So simple yet so effective
The Tabata Timer is the best app available for busy people that keep saying they have no time to exercise.
Basically the Tabata Timer is an exercise system based on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). You exercise really hard at maximum intensity for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 and repeat 8 times, totalling 4 minutes per session. Everyone can spare 4 minutes of their day right! You might not think that this amount of time is effective, but trust me when I say, if you are going ‘ALL OUT’ for 20 seconds you will definitely feel it. Saying that, Sacha and I like to do at least two Tabata sessions back to back with a one minute rest in between, totalling 9 minutes of exercise, have you got 9 minutes? Sure you do.
You can do any exercise for 20 seconds – challenge yourself
If you don’t use apps you can google Tabata Timer on your computer and there are plenty of free online timers you can use for your workout. If you don’t have access to the internet you can buy and set up a cheap interval timer to give you 20 seconds exercise time, 10 seconds rest for 8 rounds.
Online Workout Resources
Without a doubt our favourite online fitness resource is FitnessBlender.com. These guys are a married couple from Canada, two personal trainers that provide free workout videos on youtube set against a studio white back drop. It’s really simple and clean cut, no music, just like having a personal trainer in your home. The workouts can be searched in categories on their website and sorted with tick boxes so that you can omit the exercises that require weights or equipment that you don’t have. It’s perfect for exercising at home.
MyFitnessPal.com is basically an online food diary and database. You input what you’ve eaten in a day and it uses its huge library of food stats to calculate if you are under or overeating. In essence ‘it is’ calorie counting which has a big negativity attached to it, but if you are honest with yourself, as long as you don’t go overboard and get obsessive there’s nothing wrong with monitoring how much you are eating. Sacha and I have cracked the code of our previous weight loss/gain problems by using this site.
TabataTimer.com – Sacha uses this every morning. It’s an online version of a tabata timer. If we don’t have the internet we use the ipod touch and the free tabata timer app. Just search the apple app store 🙂
Another website that Sacha follows is Blogilates.com, it’s made by the U.S Pilates personality Cassey Ho and features some pretty hardcore Pilates based exercises. She also has a segment on her website called cheap clean eats where she modifies normal recipes into healthy alternatives. We’ve discovered some pretty amazing substitutes for flour and butter whilst making some of the cookies and muffins on her website or youtube channel. It’s worth checking out.
There’s also a Blogilates Android App available too.
Fitness on the move – Summary
Our makeshift gym
I am no fitness expert, but over the years having tried many different types of exercise the tips laid out above have worked best for our lifestyle, especially since moving to Thailand. They are great for toning and weight maintenance but not for bulking. I haven’t found a good way to put on serious muscle without weights and the gym environment.
How do you stay fit while travelling? Do you have any ‘on the road’ exercises that work for your body type?
Jmayel – 8 miles from home