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Workout Exercises for Travel Part 1

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How to Exercise/ Work Out/ Lift Weights While Traveling

This entry about working out and exercising when traveling was first published in January, 2009. My exercise routine has since expanded and changed, as part 2 of this entry will show, but the work outs outlined below are still recommended.

Sometimes in travel you get into spurts where you push yourself to the limits of your physical prowess daily, as you hike up mountains, swim in lakes, kayak, and walk across entire cities; and sometimes you find that you are lazy as a slug, as you spend entire days just sitting on buses, trains, airplanes, lazing in hostels, eating, and drinking to excess. Sometimes in the life of the modern human, one’s energy output does not equal ones caloric input; sometimes in traveling, you find that you just want to exercise.

So how to you implement an exercise routine while on the Road? How do you keep yourself from letting the long bus rides and train journeys take their slothful toll?

What follows are the exercises that I do almost daily while traveling.

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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
January 10, 2009
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I have always enjoyed doing strength building exercises all throughout my life, so when I began traveling I was caught in a sort of chasm: how could I bring my weightlifting routine on the Road? I knew that I could not carry weights with me, and I also knew that the amount of time that I usually stay in places would be inadequate for a gym membership. So I developed a simple way to build weight resistance: water or other heavy implements placed securely in my backpack.

I began filling up water bottles – preferable two gallon or 10 liter gallon jugs – up with water and putting them in my empty rucksack. From here I could use the handles on the bag to do a variety of strength and endurance exercises.

Warning: Make sure you bag is empty before putting water bottles in it!

Once you have a bag that is full of an adequate amount of weight, you can begin doing the following exercises:

Bicep curls

First, pick up your backpack by the top handle with one hand and then, with your arm fully extended towards the ground, pick the bag up without moving your elbow so that your bicep is flexed. Look at the above photos.

Muscles worked: biceps

Standing rows

To do standing rows with a backpack simple grasp it evenly from the top handle with both hands and lift it up to your chin. Make sure you allow the bag to go all the way down until your arms are fully extended before lifting it back up to your chin. Try to use your back and shoulders rather than your biceps when you do this exercise.  Repeat this movement 8 to 12 times, and add weight if you can do it more than this.

Muscles worked: shoulders and trapezius

One handed rows

To do one handed rows just grab the backpack by the top handle with one hand and, with your body bent down early parallel with the floor, lift it as far as you can. You should try to work your back as much as possible. Repeat this exercise 8 to 12 times and then switch arms.

Muscles worked: back, biceps

Tricep extensions

Grab the bag by the top handle and lift it straight up over your head and then bring it all the way down until your elbow is completely bent. When in the down position your wrist should be touching your shoulder. Do one arm 8 to 12 times and then do the other the same.

Muscles worked: triceps, shoulders, back.

Squats

Put the weighted backpack on your shoulders while in a standing position and then kneel down all the way, keeping your back straight and at a 90degree angle to the floor, and then stand back up. Do this as many times are you can. This is a good exercise for building up your leg muscles for hiking or mountain climbing trips.

Muscles worked: legs

Lifts

This is a variation of the squat exercise. But instead of kneeling all they way down you just put the weighted backpack on your shoulders while standing and push up with your ankles until you are on your tip-toes. Simple go back and forth between standing flat and being on your tip-toes. This is also a good exercise to prepare for hiking or walking long distances.

Muscles worked: calves, ankles

Weighted pushups

Put your fully weighted backpack evenly upon your back – make sure that the straps are pulled tight and the pack sits upon the upper part of the back rather than the bottom. With the backpack on just do normal pushups. Do not arch your back. This is my favorite exercise.

Muscles worked: chest, triceps, shoulders, back

Pull ups

Find a secure ledge, bar, step (or something) that is above your head but within reaching distance. Grab onto it with both hands and pull yourself up until your chin is level with your hands. Do as many as you can.

Muscles worked: biceps, back, forearms

Sit ups or abdominal crunches

I feel as if sit ups are self explanatory. I usually do as many sit ups or crunches as I can, take a short break, and then do more until exhaustion.

Muscles worked: abdominals

Summary

This is just a sample of the exercise that I do when traveling. Sometimes I exercise more than others, sometimes I do not do all of these exercises, and sometimes I do more. I usually do each exercise tree to four times, alternating between exercises like a cycle. I normal do this strength building routine while in the place where I sleep before I go to sleep or in a public park during the day. If I am camping on the sly, I usually just do some push ups and sit ups before turning in.

I have found that traveling is no excuse for giving up the exercise routine that you have at home. It is my impression that you can find ways to do almost any exercise while in travel.

Thanks!

As always, take this travel tip and follow it, or laugh at my silly suggestion of exercising while traveling and finish drinking your beer.

Reader Comments

1/15/2009 10:45:56 tommy t says . . .

To save time focus more on compound excercises. You do list squats, pushups and pullups. But deadlifts are probably the best of all closely followed by olympic lifts. Olympic lifts really work your heart and muscles. They’ll make you gasp for air. Curls and rows are more for vanity muscles. Make the arms look nice but they waste a lot of time and don’t work the major muscles like legs and back. tommy t


Wade says . . .

Thanks Tommy T, you are correct here. Some of these exercises do not really work out muscles that are needed for travel. I mostly just do these exercises for fun. I should have added squat thrusts, as they are great for the whole body and do not require a lot of space.

Thanks for the comment!

Walk Slow,

Wade


5/6/2009 18:06:47 Joelifting workout says . . .

i was overtraining myself by going to the gym every day. Wasn’t letting my muscles fully heal. The guys at live forever at http://letslivelonger.blogspot.com/2009/04/lift-weights-to-lose-weight.html told me to cut back to 3 days a week. Much better. I am wasting less of my time and gaining more muscle from the times I do a work out. Good to have some days just for cardio too. Thanks guy

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Filed under: Exercise, Health

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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