As you guys might know, back home in Vancouver, I’m a pretty fit person. I run, swim, bike, hit the gym, do yoga, etc, etc pretty regularly. Having been raised as an athlete with competitive swimming, soccer and field hockey, moving my body is not only natural to me, but a very important part of who I am and the absence of it always makes me feel distinctly…off (both physically and mentally!). I was so worried before embarking on my Europe trip that I would not only get completely out of shape, but that I would also come home 40 odd pounds heavier and with a serious psychological gripe after a couple months of being solidly sedentary. Thankfully, as I approach the last leg of my trip, I’m happy to announce both that none of the above have happened and I also learned some pretty worthwhile tricks to actually maintaining your level of fitness and potentially (potentially!) actually increase your fitness in some ways! Click through to read about my experience and stow away these tips for your next trip away!
So first of all, full disclosure – these tips are really only applicable to a trip that’s going to require some level of movement. If you’re going to Mexico to an all-inclusive resort and are planning on sitting on the beach all day, then definitely hit up your resort’s gym or take advantage of their classes – these tips are more for the backpacking Europe, adventuring abroad for 2 weeks + variety. With that out of the way, read on!
Use the < 1 hour rule
This might seem like common sense but really and truly, walking everywhere is going to be the #1 one way you’re going to stay in shape. Walking is seriously undervalued as a form of exercise which is a shame, because as Parisiennes demonstrate so well, if you make a concerted effort to walk everywhere rather than hopping into a cab or renting a car, you’ll find you hardly put on a pound. I like to use the < 1 hour rule – as long as somewhere is less than an hour walking away (from Point A to Point B without any stops), than I walk it.
What this means of course is that it usually takes me about 8 hours to walk there since I get lost or stop places or (like a magpie) get distracted by pretty, shiny things and take detours here and there. Taking this longer route has not only kept me in shape on this trip (I haven’t “worked out” in the conventional sense more than once since being here) but it’s also given me the added benefit of discovering so much more and really getting a sense of a city.
Half it and pack it
Obviously, you’re going to want to try tons of different local treats everywhere you are. God knows I had more pasteis de nata in Portugal than any sane human should and have carried on in Paris eating baguette as if my life was going to end. But what I do try to do is that if it won’t completely destroy the treat/meal, I try to half everything I’m going to eat to take back home with me or even to have as a snack later in the day while walking around rather than buying something new. Obviously, this won’t work with an éclair or with any other delicate pastry, but with bread, sandwiches, a big meal, etc, I try to keep a little bit and snack on it later (or sometimes if it was a substantial meal during the day, it doubles as dinner later).
This has a few benefits. First of all, you get to try everything – very important. What’s the point in travelling if you don’t try as much as you can? But you also end up not eating massive quantities at each meal which your body doesn’t really need. Also, if you have something on you most of the time, it keeps you from buying really senselessly expensive and icky snacks from tourist traps (i.e. 10 euros for a subpar croissant and espresso) and it might save you if you end up getting more of a walk in than usual (I’ve had more than one serious blood sugar bottom outs on this trip and having a snack has saved me).
You don’t have to do this every time obviously – sometimes, a meal is so special it deserves to be enjoyed in full, with each course being totally consumed. But most lunches I’ve had have been on the run and are fine to carry along for the rest of the day.
If they offer a hike, do it
Whenever I land in each city, I see if there are any good “hikes.” I use the word hike a bit loosely here because one hike could be to the top of a monument in the middle of city centre (think Montmartre here in Paris) or it could be a “hike” along the side of the road (like my trip to the “end of the world” in Sagres, captured in that pic above) or it can actually be a hike in the traditional sense of the word through forest and mountains. Google hike or walking trails or walks in whatever city you’re in though and scope out the root – these will give you great opportunities to really trek somewhere! Great way to stay in shape if wandering a city all day just isn’t cutting it for you and you really want to sweat a little bit.
It’s so easy to get dehydrated while travelling. The water isn’t always safe to drink everywhere you go and if you’re like me and from somewhere with very clean drinking water, it can be difficult to remind yourself to always pick up a new water bottle. Having said that, as we all know dehydration can sometimes come in the form of hunger pangs and staying hydrated can not only keep “hunger” at bay, but also keep everything else running smoothly (think digestion, sleep, blood sugar levels, etc). It’s so easy to get thrown off while travelling but this is one you really need to keep an eye on, particularly if you’re moving around all day!
Take the stairs
I’m sure you’re sick of hearing this one but it’s true – opt for the stairs when taking the metro wherever you are instead of the escalators. One of the most effective (and cheapest) ways to keep your legs looking toned and to keep the cardio up.
Now for a dose of realism. Will you put on a pound or two? Maybe. Will you lose definition in your abs of steel that you usually spend hours working on at home? Well…definitely.
I’m just not going to suggest that you sit in your hotel room and do crunches. I think it’s silly. You’re having the experience of a lifetime – there are more important things to do than to be working on all your micro muscles. Even if you’re used to being totally toned, try to be gentle on yourself. I certainly don’t want to come home in a body that doesn’t feel like my own anymore, but I also am not going to waste time at a gym when I should be out exploring a city. While you could definitely run in place of walking to explore a city, I’ve just found that I don’t want to spend the time lacing up, showering, getting ready again, etc etc. The above tips have worked so well for me because they really offer a golden mean – you’re still indulging and taking a break from your usual workout circuit, but you’re also still being mindful of how much you consume (though not what you consume – I really think it’s important to eat what catches your eye!) and moving every day.
Do you have any tips for staying in shape while away? I’d love to add them in! Tell me in the comments below 🙂
On another note, I have had the most magical time in Paris. It’s truly a city that completely ensnares you – I actually think I’m going to cry when I leave today (though thankfully, I might be working out a plan to come back again, if only for a couple days!). My mum’s best friend and her family have been so gracious in welcoming me into their home as well and it’s made the experience all the more wonderful. But for now, it’s time to head back to one of my favourite countries so far – Ireland! Stay tuned by following along on Instagram!