How To Stay Fit While Traveling


, by Charlie Boscoe

Getting it done while traveling. Photo: Spectral-Design, Shutterstock

For most of my life, I've had jobs that involve long-haul travel, and I can attest that staying fit on the road is hard. There is no getting around the staggering amount of sitting that is required for plane/car/train journeys, and it's all but impossible to maintain ideal optimal nutrition and sleep on the road, but there are still some great hacks that can help you minimize the effect of travel on your fitness. Some of these suggestions (mainly the ones around sleep schedule) apply primarily to longer journeys, but even a one-night trip to a destination within driving distance can be improved by using a few of the suggestions in this article.

Cold and snowy conditions for a hike, but it cured the jetlag! Photo: Boscoe Collection


Whenever and wherever possible. There's increasing evidence that walking as much as possible benefits every area of your life, from body composition to mental health, and it's never more important than when traveling. Motion is lotion, so if you want to remain loose and ready for more strenuous exercise, keep your body moving - take the stairs instead of the escalator at airports, and only use the horizontal escalators if you're late for a flight. Modern hub airports are huge, and you can cover some serious distance if you shun the various artificial methods of moving you around them. I've logged some impressive mileage days whilst moving around airports, so get Strava recording and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

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Once at your destination, keep walking as much as you possibly can. If I have time, I'll walk anywhere I need to get to, provided it's within an hour or two. My record for city walking was in Taipei, when I went to a museum on the outskirts of the city and then walked 11-miles back to my hotel. I've had fewer more enjoyable days in a foreign city and certainly never seen so much of a place in a single day. Walk, walk, walk.

Download Routes and Maps

A huge part of walking a city is being able to navigate, so prepare all the maps and routes you might need so you're not reliant on having cellphone service. The other way in which maps are useful is in identifying potential workout spots - my first task when I've reached a hotel room is scouring the map for the nearest green space. If it's close by, that's great, but if it's a few miles away, I just log more walking!

Sometimes walking is not a chore! I used FATMAP to locate this exceptional hike above Bellinzona, Switzerland. Photo: Boscoe Collection

Get Creative

Following a workout regime is the best way to maximize your training, but sticking to any schedule is difficult on the road. If you have a ton of different workouts up your sleeve, one of them should be possible where you are. Over the years, I've built up a repertoire of training sessions, and I pick the one most appropriate to the time and facilities I have available. Sure, it would be great to do the exact workout I want, but time and equipment are usually limiting factors, and just doing something is the key.

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Running is an easy win just about anywhere in the world, but the challenge of navigating a new city can make it relatively inefficient. If I'm in a new place, I'll generally do a run on day one and treat it like a recce as much as a workout. Once I've figured out a nice route, I can repeat it without navigating nearly as much. 

As this shot from Sofia, Bulgaria, proves - running isn’t always scenic, but at least you’re outside. Photo: Boscoe Collection

Other "go-tos" for me are circuit training workouts, and some of them are possible in a hotel room. One of my favorite formats is the 1-10-1 workouts: pick 2 or 3 exercises and do one rep of each exercise, then do 2 reps of each exercise, then 3, and so on up to 10, and then all the way back down to 1. Doing a 1-10-1 with jump squats, pushups, and situps is a great little workout and requires zero space. Other "easy" (logistically, not physically!) options are hill sprints or shuttle runs on a sports pitch. 

I've never been in a place where a workout is impossible, so even if all you have access to is a hotel room and you only have 20 minutes - do something! Anything is better than nothing.

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Think Nutrition

Unless you take huge amounts of food with you, your options for nutrition will be dictated primarily by your location. In some countries I've been to, it can be tricky to find healthy food choices. I do the best I can and always carry vitamin supplements so that I'm at least getting some nutrients, even if vast quantities of saturated fat and e-numbers are watering them down. 

Intermittent fasting is a great way to minimize the negative effects of a bad diet, so if I know that everything I eat for the next few days is going to be unhealthy, then I tend to skip breakfasts so that I'm at least ingesting less. Depending on your schedule and physical requirements, this might not work for you, but eating less is a surefire way of consuming fewer calories. 

Training is much easier if you're eating right, so do all you can to optimize your nutrition.

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Prioritize Sleep

I wish I'd known this 15 years ago, but your eating schedule is almost as crucial for overcoming jetlag as your sleep schedule is. Your body sleeps when it gets the right cues, and a huge part of that process is eating at the right times. When traveling across multiple time zones, I set my watch to my destination's time as soon as I arrive at my first airport of the day, and I try to eat at times appropriate to my destination, not my location. This gets problematic on planes when you can't dictate when you eat, but skipping a meal on a plane if it doesn't fit in time-wise can have an extraordinary effect on your jetlag. Figuring out the importance of eating on my body clock is the best travel hack I've ever discovered.

A stroll through Salzburg, Austria, to start the process of winding down for bed. Photo: Boscoe Collection

Aside from eating, the other way to get some sleep is to prioritize it. If you want to sleep at a certain time but jetlag is lurking, do all you can to encourage sleep - don't look at a screen for at least an hour before bed, start trying to slow yourself down by turning down the lights and reading, and try to avoid eating within a few hours of bed. There's no guarantee that you'll stay asleep, but if you're calm, comfortable, and not too full of food, you stand a chance of getting some rest.

Sleep is the most important element of physical and mental health, so prioritizing it is the best way to maximize your on-the-road training.