Explore. Dream. Discover. Workout?: Tips For Working Out While On Vacation

by Vikki Schembri
Explore. Dream. Discover. Workout?: Tips For Working Out While On Vacation

Huddle up, athletes!

This week we’re chatting about working out while on vacation. Let’s begin with one of my favourite quotes about travel:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."

- Mark Twain

I love this quote because I love the thought of casting off into the sunset, leaving behind routines and responsibilities and finding new harbours and opportunities.

But the unfamiliar territory that comes with travelling can be a curse as well as a blessing. As much as I love the prospect of new places and experiences, in reality it can be a little unsettling.

Sleeping in a bed that’s not mine, living out of a backpack, being away from my cat, and, of course, being away from the

gym means my sleep schedule, habits, and workout routine get interrupted.

While I can’t do much about my bed, backpack and cat (Garth doesn’t enjoy travelling, unfortunately), there are a few things I can do to keep my workout routine from getting completely derailed due to exploring, dreaming, and discovering.

Now, the last thing I want to do is tell you, athlete, how to take your vacations. I don’t intend to lecture you on how you need to bring your Synergee equipment on every trip. And I definitely won’t suggest you bring your Synergee Games Bar on the plane – but if that’s what you’re into, YOU DO YOU!

What I will do is provide some tips and tricks to help you achieve whatever it is you set your mind to when you throw off your bowlines!

I’ll share what I have learned from the internet, things I have put into practice myself on previous trips, and I will let you know what I am doing right now to prepare for my upcoming trip to Asia!!

First, THINK: Working out to ENHANCE, not RESTRAIN, your experience

I’m a thinker and I like to analyze things before I take action. So my first tip is to THINK: think about how working out while on vacation will impact your experience. Let’s THINK together!

Consider resting, not stressing (2-10 days of vacay)

So my first suggestion for working out while on vacation is… maybe don’t?

Attaining an ideal state of overall health and wellness requires work as well as rest. If your vacation is a much needed 2-10 day break from all your routines – including going to the gym and following your diet – then listen to your body & give it what it needs!

Exercise stresses out your body (duh, that’s the point) and any good program includes rest days, so do (or don’t do) what you need to so you can return from vacay in a better state than when you left for it.

Missing a day or two (or seven) of exercise will not ruin your progress. Especially if you have been working out for a while (i.e. several times a week for more than a year), strength loss takes about 2 – 3.5 weeks of inactivity. Cardio and sport-specific muscle fibre loss can start after a week, but they can be reclaimed and a break will not be catastrophic to your gains.

Anyways, chances are if you plan to spend a lot of time walking and exploring, you are going to be moving more than you regularly at work. But even if the most exercise you will do for a week is walk from your hotel room to the beach, cut yourself some slack and enjoy the break! Do what you need on your vacation so you can return home refreshed.

Consciously choose to rest: focus on catching up on sleep, staying hydrated, and having fun!

Choosing to workout (1 week + vacay)

Now, if you’re going to be gone for a while (1 week or more), or if exercise is as essential to your existence as breathing, you’re going to want to find a way to incorporate exercise into your trip!

In my case, I will be travelling to Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand for 3 weeks!

I am sure that exercising is something I want to incorporate into my travel plans. For me, three weeks is a long time to break away from my fitness routine. Working out keeps me feeling happy, confident, and strong.

Also, I know that when I spend 2 days or more not working out, I simultaneously get antsy/irritated and really whiney about working out. My medicine becomes my poison, so it’s best to just workout before that happens!

Setting a realistic goal

Accordingly, consistency is what I am going to strive for - it will be my realistic goal. I’m not going to set ridiculous expectations to crush PRs or lose 10 lbs while I am away. As long as I move and sweat at a level-8 intensity (i.e. high-intensity) for 20 minutes or level-6 (medium-intensity) for 1 hour with no more than 1 days rest in between workouts, I will be satisfied mentally and physically.

My Realistic Sweat Goal will keep me in check without restraining my travel experience!


You’ll notice that my Thinking includes compromising. I’ve to terms with the fact that my workouts might not be as intense as I’m used to; and additionally, I will be unable to touch a barbell for 3 weeks. Whomp whomp.

The barbell is my best friend in the gym but I will need to plan for workouts that require little to no equipment. My accommodations (hostels and Air BnBs) won’t have weight rooms. I have little interest in spending energy

researching nearby facilities, time in a gym, and money on drop-in fees when all those resources could be spent exploring.

I have set Exploring as my priority for these three weeks of travel, and I'm stickin' to it! So bring on the cardio and bodyweight workouts!!

Get excited about working out!

Now, for getting excited! Activities that I love doing – biking and hiking, especially – are awesome cardio exercises and opportunities to explore! They can help me achieve my daily Sweat Goals and I’ll be able to see beautiful sights along the way!

I can easily motivate myself to do these activities on days I’m feeling less inspired to sweat it out.

My Realistic Sweat Goal will keep me in check without restraining my travel experience!

Plus, I can do workouts on the beach - I'll get to workout in a beautiful place and hop into the ocean to cool off after! Amazing! Definitely worth getting excited for!

If I treat working out while away as a chore, or worse, as punishment for all the Vietnamese food I’m going to enjoy, it defeats the purpose of treating myself with a fun trip in the first place.

In short:

  • When you think about working out while on vacation, think about the intention of your trip and if/how working out should/can be incorporated.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • What about your workout routine (and your trip) is most important, and what can be compromised?
  • Lastly, think of your Sweat Goals as fun opportunities to explore and enhance your trip, rather than restrain it.

Then, PLAN: Setting it up to make it happen

Let’s say you decided to incorporate working out into your trip! Good for you!

You’re only going to achieve your Sweat Goals if you plan for them. I’ve said it before in my blog and I’ll say it again – failing to plan is planning to fail.

Finding gyms

If you’re planning to workout in gyms, book hotel rooms with weight rooms or near facilities you want to go to. Plan out your mode of transportation to get to the gym: depending on where you go, you might need to rent a car, bike, or take public transportation. And you can always check online reviews to see if that gym can be your home away from home for a little while.

Finding gym alternatives

I don't want to spend time in gyms. What I’ve done is search Travel Blogs and Vlogs to find awesome, inspiring hikes and cycle tours I want to do!  I usually look for national parks nearby, check websites like Lonely Planet or blogs like Hostelworld’s, and then loosely plan when I want to do these activities.

This allows me to pack essentials and book accommodations accordingly. I am sure to book hostels near the activities I want to do, and pack shoes for hiking, a hat, lots of sunscreen, and long clothes that’ll protect me from the sun while keeping me cool!

Another option is to book Group or Private Tours that can introduce you to new activities! Try trekking, rock climbing, kayaking, or surfing! All these activities are incredible forms of exercise and will help you stay active! Again, figure out what you want to do, then pack and plan accordingly.

BYOE - Bring Your Own Equipment

Of course, you can always bring lightweight and portable equipment with you!

I will be bringing my Synergee Skipping Rope, Mini Bands, and Core Sliders to Asia with me. They all fit easily into my backpack, add virtually no weight, and there are SO MANY THINGS I CAN DO WITH THEM! Plus, they can be used practically anywhere - I hope to do lots of workouts outside and on the beach!

Be Resourceful

You can also make do with what you find nearby. For example, find a park near your hostel or hotel. A jungle gym is an awesome place to play and workout, even as an adult (just ask Cori from Redefining Strength)!

Or get a little ridiculous: on my last trip farm-sitting in Newfoundland for 2 months, I came up with awesome (and hilarious) workouts with full paint cans! They’re awesome free weight replacements - great for overhead presses! In the early days of my trip, I looked for makeshift workout equipment to ensure I got my strength and conditioning in, and paint cans did the trick.

Get creative, have some fun, and find some makeshift equipment to get your sweat on!

Focus on your Goats

Your escape from The Familiar is an awesome opportunity to expose and work on your weakness – Goats[1], if you will.

Again, when I spent those 2 months in Newfoundland, along with hiking almost every day and my paint can work outs, I decided I would dedicate 5 minutes every night to working on my push-ups or pistols.

3 x 10 push ups or 5 x 3 pistols (per side & assisted) before bed brought about incredible improvements and I went home stronger and feeling more confident in these skills!

Plan your workouts

You are not the first one to travel and workout. So there are lots of resources out there to help you achieve whatever your personal fitness goals are while on vacation. For example, this article by Stephanie Lee (nomad writer and fitness enthusiast) is awesome!

My perusing on the internet informed me about Sworkit, Freeletics, and Aaptiv: apps that will give you workouts and provide personalized coaching and training tips. Exercises offered range from bodyweight, cardio, running, yoga, cycling, boxing, meditation, stretching.

I emailed Freeletics asking for a Free Trial, and they hooked me up with 14 days of free workouts! Along with this free trial, I’ll be bringing a list of workouts to Asia with me. In the weeks leading up to my trip, I’ve been tracking, Pinning, and writing down ideas and workouts that look fun and challenging, and that can be done with the equipment I am bringing!

I’ve started a list of exercises to target muscle groups with my bodyweight and my Sliders and Bands – for example, glute workouts with bands, full-body moves with sliders, arm workouts with bands, and a whack load of bodyweight CrossFit exercises!

I have also found some progressions for working on my Goat of choice – strict pull-ups! I plan to follow a Two-Day Skill Schedule: Bodyweight Wall Slides (3x10) and Saws (3x til failure) on "Day One", and 3x10 Push Ups on "Day Two". My skill work will be in the mornings before I start exploring, and will be separate from my 20 min/1 hour Sweat Goal!

Lastly, DO: Put that plan into MOTION!

Alright, all you gotta do now is to action that plan! Once you’ve arrived at your vacation spot, remind yourself of your goals and start chipping away. It might help to write your goal down and leave yourself reminders, to tell your travel buddy to add some accountability, or schedule the workout into your travel plans.

I’ve already mentioned my Goat Skill Work will take place in the morning. As for my Intensity-8, 20 min workout and my Intensity-6, 1 hr workout, I will schedule the workout into my day’s plans the night before.

For example, if I plan to do an active day of hiking, biking, or learning to surf, I know I will get my Sweat Goal done and that’s all I need to do!

But if I expect to spend a day at the beach, I’ll pack my sliders and bands into my day pack, choose a workout to do, and then aim to complete the workout the next day within an hour of arriving at the beach (i.e. before I get too comfy in my beach

chair).  Or, if I expect to spend a day of easy walking, I’ll wake up an extra 20 min early the next morning to get my workout in before I leave my hostel.

Adjust your plan as needed – stuff happens! But most of all, enjoy your vacation!

All packed up and ready to go!

Whether you’re travelling now or later, have fun challenging your fitness in new places! I’ll post a “How I Did” follow-up blog in the near future. Get ready for some views of Vietnam!!

Thanks for reading, athletes! As always, keep pushing and working towards your goals – no matter where you are!

[1] GOAT: A movement or lift that you just plain suck at. Something you dread coming up in a workout because you either suck at it, hate it or both. Common goats include double unders, muscle ups, running and handstand push ups. We all should be working on our goats, constantly. Definition by CrossFit Livewire.