So you’ve spent months and months getting yourself in shape, or you’re training hard for an upcoming event, or perhaps fitness is purely part of your lifestyle and routine. Either way that daily routine that you have become accustomed to, which is just part of your healthy and active lifestyle now is going to be interrupted by that upcoming trip. This was one of my two biggest fears before I embarked on a six-month solo backpacking trip (which turned into about two years). It’s something I consciously tried to plan for and manage. It wasn’t easy but is possible.
Aside from all the gains in progress you have made from your training, whether that be muscle mass, strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, stamina or cardio capacity; the feeling (or withdrawals) from not training just scratches the surface when you consider the slide backward experienced from a break. According to Ryn Gargulinski who wrote an article for Livestrong.com
“In the most drastic scenario, you can lose up to 80 percent of your fitness level in as few as two weeks if you’re new to exercise”. Similarly, “Studies of runners show VO2 max drops about 6% after 4 weeks, 19% after 9 weeks and by 11 weeks of no running, drops by 20-25%” as reported by Melissa Mantak on Training Peaks.
But it’s not just the reduction in conditioning, rather the time taken just to get back to where you were. Here Mantak also reported that “In one study, an Olympic rower hit peak fitness during the Games, then took an 8-week hiatus from training. It took him 20 weeks to return to his previous fitness level!”. This is a good example of a wasted half a year with essentially no advancement in progress.
So how do you #SaveTheGains? Beers and candy aren’t the answer, so instead we have some suggestions:
- Pack Your Gym Gear
First step is to plan to be prepared to do something. You’re going to need your shoes and whatever gear you normally train with. Even for sightseeing, good sneakers and comfortable clothes are a must when getting around to see the sights. If you’re on a business trip, even more reason to also thrown in some comfortable clothes for activities outside your business hours.
- Keep Active
Stay out of the taxis, trains and buses where you can and see the sights by foot or bicycle. This may take a little more time to get to places, but when you factor in having to time bus arrivals and wait for buses when they are inevitably late, plus all the things you miss out on seeing on the way, getting places on foot or by bike is the best way. See more, save some money and keeping active are all wins in my book.
- Access Local Fitness Centres
Maintaining your personal fitness routine is the best way to sustain all your hard work and prevent the inevitable backward slide. Unfortunately getting a short term membership to a local gym isn’t the best value for money because of the high day pass prices.
But Gym Nomad has actually just launched in Amsterdam to combat that for visitors and expats. This looks like the booking.com of gyms (albeit nowhere near as ugly) where you can find your ideal gym, yoga studio, martial arts gym etc. and get a membership based on dates you’re in a city, like how you book a hotel. Hopefully forever vanishing the crazy day pass prices for visitors. For example, if you’re in town for 16 days, get a 16-day membership. Simple.
- Local Outdoor Fitness Parks
Get up early and kick start your day with some fresh air and a workout at an outdoor calisthenics park or some workout stations. Again Gym Nomad shows these kind of spots on their site, but there’s also Calisthenics Parks who have locations all around the world. Go and get through a quick fire workout and feel amazing for the rest of the day.
- Fitness Focused Vacation
Wellness Tourism is becoming bigger and bigger, expanding at a rate nearly twice that of tourism as reported by the Global Wellness Institute.
Instead of subjecting yourself to an alcohol induced coma from a holiday of binge drinking where you go home in a worse condition, the wellness trip is becoming more favourable. Dedicated trips or making health and wellness improvement a conscious decision on trips won’t just save your gains, but add to them and help you go home feeling more energised.
Some ideas for this which I spent months doing include muay thai camps just metres from the beach in the Philippines and Thailand where you focus on training for hours a day, then spend the rest of the day relaxing with new friends on the beach. Or perhaps a yoga retreat in India or a Brazilian jujitsu camp in Brazil.
A trip including or focused on new training will put you in amazing shape, allow you to be a tourist at a much calmer pace and see more by quality and quantity, meet new people and form better relationships from longer stays in one location and learn new skills that you’ll have for life. Not just attempt to booze through 5 countries in 5 days and achieve nothing other than burnout and an obnoxious Facebook post.
- Get A Backpack
Rather than a suitcase on wheels, which is the natural enemy to the kind of cobble stone or generally uneven streets all across Europe, get a backpack and carry your gear. A quality backpack makes easy work of anything up to 20kg (I’ve even managed with times carrying over 30kg) so you can throw it on your back and walk from where the bus or train drops you off in a city to where your accommodation is. Save some money, get a little exercise and be able to see the city by foot. All benefits over just jumping into a taxi and being dropped off at the doorstep of your accommodation.
As we all become more conscious of our own health and wellbeing, the consistency of our lifestyle to maintain and further our wellbeing comes more into focus. Small wins in maintaining our hard work goes a long way in keeping the positive momentum we need.