Exercising clears my head and gives me a sense of progress and vitality. I’m happiest when my workout habit is going strong. So, when started with the nomad lifestyle, I was afraid that unpredictable schedules and living arrangements would mean working out falling off the day’s priority list. Fortunately, I’ve gotten into a groove that actually has resulted in a longer workout streak than I had at home.
Working out as part of waking up
I’ve found that if I don’t work out before I start working or going out, it won’t happen. I may fully intend on getting around to it later, but other obligations always seem to arise. So, coupling it with something I do every day (wake up, hopefully), I’ve found that working out just happens. Actually, I first meditate to the Tara Brach podcast after waking up, then get into my workout. This combination actually helps me reduce the agony that I associate with working out, since mindfulness works wonders for pain reduction.
Gear: TRX suspension trainers and a yoga mat
TRX Suspension trainers are basically ropes with handles that can affix to a door, pole, tree branch, or anything that can support your weight. They enable a wide array of movements using your body weight. I’m always sweating, out of breath, and sore after doing my TRX—they’re more intense than they look. Since they’re just ropes, they take up very little space in your travel pack, and are very light.
The TRX set is not cheap (close to $200 USD on Amazon), but, my health is worth it. Plus, the months of gym membership they offset means they pay for themselves.
The TRX comes with a code to access downloadable videos on their site for certain workouts. I’ve found them to be very educational, encouraging, and adaptable to different levels of fitness. Here are the ones I follow:
15 minute Chest and Back workout: equivalents of bench press, pectoral flies, and rows 15 minute Core: many different types of crunches and side planks 15 minute Legs and Hips: lunges and squats 30 minute Full Body: all of the above packed into one The TRX Youtube channel is awesome for free videos as well.
Many of the movements are on the ground, so you’re going to want some padding. For meditation and for floor exercises, I love my travel-sized Manduka yoga mat. It folds into a compact form for traveling, while also giving enough support that it’s not too painful contacting the ground through it. It also has retained a high quality non-slip surface. (Trust me: the initial synthetic smell eventually dissipates).
For running, I just use some normal running shoes (on third world roads, you probably don’t want minimalist shoes), but what keeps me motivated is the latest iPod Nano, which I load up with audiobooks and podcasts, then clip to my shorts. It also tracks your time, distance, and pace. When in a new city, I just Google around for good, clean-air running routes. It’s important to avoid sucking in polluted air (many countries don’t have the same automobile emission standards as the West), so I sometimes opt for a local day pass at a gym, which has been about $2 in Thailand. Running outside is more exciting, of course, since it’s another way to get a feel for your surroundings. But, health first.
I do a four day cycle, which means you end up working 3-4 times a week.
- Day 1: Do one TRX 15 minute workout (usually Chest and Back) in my room or out at a park, then go for a 30 minute run.
- Day 2: Do two TRX 15 minute workouts (usually Core then Legs)
- Day 3: Something intense for an hour. Usually it’s an extended run, but I prefer finding a local activity, like Muay Thai, kayaking, or trekking.
- Day 4: Nothing! The beauty of this structure is that it’s flexible—I can move that fourth day of rest around to accomodate travel days. Plus, there’s always a rest day right around the corner to look forward to, which makes it easier to stick to.
If I wasn’t traveling
If I was just living normally in one place for an extended period of time, I think this schedule would remain pretty much the same. What may change is splurging on some heavier, less pack-able equipment. I’d probably even carve out a little home gym, with the following:
- Squat rack, dead lift area, and bench press
- Heavy punching bag
- TRX trainers (to mix things up)
- Pull-up bar
- These are just to add some variety and get some heavier exercise going, beyond my own body weight. Finding free gym trial periods on the road mean I can sometimes fit these in to my travel routine.
I hope this helps some people find a routine that works for them.