By Leo Babauta
One of the big successes so far in my Grand Travel Experiment has been my fitness while on our long European trip.
As my family of eight enters its last week of this four-week trip, I have to say that I’m probably just as fit as when I left, and in some ways even fitter — I can do more pushups and walk farther and longer, for example. My eating hasn’t been perfect, but it hasn’t been horrible … and I’ve done pretty well with exercise, so they’ve more than balanced out.
This is a huge victory for me, believe me. I don’t usually keep a good fitness routine while traveling — I try, but it’s never as good as when I’m home. This trip has been a big change for me, and today I’d like to share what has worked.
Here are 6 things I’ve been doing that have worked for me:
- I keep the workout short and minimal. Every day, I alternate about 10 minutes of writing with my exercise for the day — either pushups or bodyweight squats. Just one bodyweight exercise, probably 4-6 sets (not including warmup sets) of as many as I can do. That’s it. But even with that minimal exercise, I’ve increased strength in those exercises and I feel that it’s been working fairly well. And because the workout is so simple, it’s hard to say no to it. But that’s not all I do for the day! More below.
- I don’t give myself a choice. This is probably the biggest change for me this trip — usually I procrastinate on exercise, probably because I my usual travel workout routines have 4-5 different exercises and seem too difficult. This time, I’ve simplified it to just one exercise, so I don’t procrastinate. And turning this trip into a Grand Experiment, where I have to report back to all of you, turns up the accountability so that I don’t want to fail. So every morning, I meditate for a few minutes, I do an hour’s worth of work (writing and email), and I do my one bodyweight exercise for the day, no excuses. That routine works really well, if I don’t let myself off the hook.
- I walk a crapton. Eva, the kids and I all walk a lot, every day. Usually for hours. That’s way more than we walk at home, so we’ve gone from walking wimps to walking gods in just a few weeks. Sure, we take breaks and stop for gelato and lounge around in public squares … but most of the time we’re walking through winding, cobbled streets and just admiring buildings, statues, cafes and the light softly illuminating a city that’s old but new to us.
- I run up every set of stairs. As we explore these cities, there are lots of steps leading up bridges (in Venice), stairs going up from underground metro stations, steps going up a beautiful museum building … and I sprint up every single flight. If I see a set of stairs, I gleefully run up them, two or three steps at a time. Sometimes we’ve climbed up hundreds of stairs (Eiffel Tower, Arc de triomphe) and I only run up some of them, but I love stairs of all kinds!
- I sprint. Every day, I sprint at least a few times. Maybe I’ll race the kids to a statue, maybe I’ll just sprint down a small alley for fun. For me, it’s a form of play. I don’t go on long runs while I’m traveling, but I do take the opportunity to sprint when I can. I usually end up exhausted at the end of each day!
- I try to be mindful, and not overeat. To be honest, the foods I’ve eaten haven’t been that healthy — pastas, pizzas, French breads, vegan gelato. I’m OK with that — in the past, I’ve stuck to a healthy diet while traveling and it wasn’t as fun. So this trip, my goal is to eat mindfully, and not overeat too much. I’ve only been somewhat successful — I have definitely overeaten more than I’d like, but less than in the past. Still, I think for the most part I’ve been pretty good, and the times I’ve overdone it, I think it’s been balanced by the exercise.
- I skip and dance with the kids. Finally, the funnest part! I will hold my daughter’s hand and skip merrily along these European streets. For me, it seems less embarrassing to skip merrily (or often, crazily) in public if I’m holding a child’s hand. I’m not as brave by myself, I think. Also, I dance with them in public. I’m not the world’s best dancer, but I can get a good disco fever going, or do the Twist, or the ever-reliable Running Man. America’s Got Talent, look out.