When Surfing Isn’t An Option, How Do You Stay In Shape While On The Road?
I'd rather be here... or here
Travelling is an opportunity to shovel strange, fascinating and wonderfully obscure new perspectives into the furnace of your soul.
It challenges your established way of thinking and for lack of a better phrase, expands your mind.
If you’re not careful though, travelling will also expand your waistline – especially if you find yourself in a place where surfing is out of the question.
This guide is an attempt to show you how you can stay relatively fit while on the road. You’re not going to build massive amounts of muscle or achieve 4% body fat like this shredded mess – but with my help you’ll have an arsenal at your disposal to fight off the flab from that extra serving of moussaka.
Eat Only During An 8-Hour Window
“Diets are easy in the contemplation, difficult in the execution. Intermittent fasting is just the opposite – difficult in the contemplation but easy in the execution.” – Dr. Michael Eades
Eating during an 8-hour window is but one form of intermittent fasting, or Time Restricted Feeding (TRF). I’ve been practicing this now since April 2017. Hard to measure results accurately, but after 4 months travelling through the Balkans, I actually managed to make it back to Austria still looking relatively fit... relatively. Read more about the results others have experienced here.
How's the pins
As Dr. Eades points out, it’s one of the easiest diets to implement into your life, but there’s a lot to wrap your head around at the start. I’m hesitant to call it a diet, since it’s more about when you eat, no so much what you eat. I guess it’s more of a diet pattern.
Essentially, I consume all of my calories during an 8 hour period on weekdays (10am to 6am). On weekends I relax a little bit, but Monday to Friday I’m regimented about only eating during that window.
Mark Mattson talking about fasting at a TED conference
The benefits? I don’t suffer from an afternoon dip in energy. In fact, I find myself more energetic than I was before I began TRF. But it's not just me feeling the effects of intermittent fasting. There's a wealth of information online about it, including the above YouTube video from Mark Mattson. Oh, and there's also been promising results in the labs, for example:
“Mice that were fed a high sugar, high fat diet but could only eat within a 12 hour window and still ate the same number of calories as mice that were allowed to eat within a 15 hour window ended up being 28% leaner, had 70% less body fat, did not get fatty liver compared to the mice splitting their meals over a longer period of time which did end up with fatty liver. The timed restricted mice also had better blood glucose levels, cholesterol profile, were more active and could do complex motor tasks better.”
In addition to being more energetic, I don’t get hungry as often. Weird huh? You’d think not eating for 16 hours a day would be brutal, but I’m asleep for at least 6 to 8 of those hours and I’m never super famished in the morning anyway.
This means from the moment I get up and go for a run till about 10am, I’m productive. Like, churn-through-my-hardest-work productive, since breakfast doesn’t break up my routine.
I also suspect I sleep better and that I can exercise a little less and still retain a lean frame.
As TRF applies to travelling, I feel like it adds a sense structure to my life. It also means that I can enjoy a nice meal at lunch and not worry about impending midsection chubbiness.
The best thing about TRF though is its flexibility. If I want to have a late dinner I can simply push the eating window back and have my first meal after lunch. I assure you it’s not a crime to skip a meal, especially if you’re going to make up for it later down the track.
Eating every few hours is only important if you’re trying to reach a certain weight or muscle gain goal, but if you just want to stay within a comfortable weight range, intermittent fasting is the way to go.
It's not a fad diet or eating pattern. The research on fasting is promising and backed by hard science.
If you'd like to learn more about it, this is a good place to start. It's long, so it may take a few sessions to listen to it all. But by god it's worth it... even just to hear Dr. Rhonda Patrick's delightfully disarming chortle.
There's even an app developed by Hugh Jackman, who used fasting to get shredded for Wolverine. Read about it here.
Go For A Short But Intense Run In The Morning
“I just felt like running” – Forrest Gump
Running... the bane of my existence.
I’m at 27-year-old male with the ankles of a newborn foal. Pretty sure my bones are hollow.
I still run though, I’ve just changed up how I do it.
But why in the morning?
Studies show that cardio in the morning can boost brain function and promote concentration. It’s also a great opportunity to exercise while in a fasted state.
If you are worried about running on an empty stomach for fear of burning muscle for fuel, I haven’t forgotten about you. Read more about it here.
I like the intensity...
Run early and you’ll put your mind in a “towards state” for the rest of the day. That’s to say, you approach every task with a little more oomph than what you would sans morning workout.
The best thing about running as it pertains to travelling is that you don’t need a gym membership. All you really need is a pair of trainers and weather appropriate attire.
Wake up early to run and you’ll also get to see the town, city or region in a new light, beat bothersome hawker’s attempting to peddle their cheap wares and avoid any shady characters that tend to prefer the shadows over the light of morning.
You’ll also see less tourists and experience less traffic if you’re up before rush hour.
In regards to my approach to running, I aim to run a relatively short (5 km) route as fast as I can. The route I run is calculated by using a site called onthego.com.
I also try to incorporate at least one hill or a set of stairs into that run as well.
Not into early mornings?
Try and eliminate excuses.
You can even overcome that last ditch attempt by your subconscious mind to hit the snooze button by getting your clothes and shoes out the night before.
It’s not easy getting up early to run. But consistency breeds momentum and momentum leads to habits. When you return from a run. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back.
You’ve just spat in the eye of your inner sloth and said fuck you, I’m staying fit.
Don't Forget To Be Flexible With Your Routine
“Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods” - unknown
Most of us travel to learn and experience new things. Inadvertently, travel is seen as a separation of traditional routine. Keeping fit over long periods on the road however does require at least some discipline.
If you have to get on a bus early or catch a flight in the afternoon, plan ahead.
Wake up a little earlier and try to at least incorporate some form of exercise before you have to checkout and move one.
If you miss one exercise session, break your fast or hit the nadir of your diet, it’s all good.
One trick that can mitigate a potential fitness fallout caused by a hectic on the road schedule is to never go two bad meals or skip two workouts in a row. Thanks for that one Nerd Fitness.
Using this technique, you can rein in a blow out and get back on track with your routine.
Create And Implement A Bodyweight Workout Or Download An App
The number one thing that has helped me stay relatively strong and fit during travelling is bodyweight exercises.
I’m aware it’s not as effective as hitting the gym for building muscle, but if you don’t have access to a gym and still want to stay toned, it’s your only alternative.
I use an app called Freeletics (not a cult), which allows me to track and log all of my sessions in addition to providing me with over 30 different bodyweight workout variations.
Lachlan Campbell... lover, surfer, boozer... free athlete
From pushups to pull-ups, burpees and squats, I can work nearly every muscle sans weights.
Sure, I’m not going to be stacking muscle on muscle, but at least it helps with core strength. Not to mention all I need is a yoga mat, unless I have chins ups to perform.
In that case, Freeletics helps by featuring a workout location service, where users can log where exercise parks are around the world. There mustn’t be too many in Montenegro though (my current location at the time of writing this), because according to the app there’s not a workout park for hours. In fact, the closest one is in Italy… go figure.
All workout are named after Greek gods and godesess and are ranked according to intensity and duration.
Before and after of some guy called Michael Homann using Freeletics.. make sure you mute it
The easiest workouts only take around 3 minutes and look like this:
Round 1: 10 pushups, 10 burpees, 10 squats
Round 2: 25 pushups, 25 burpees, 25 squats
Round 3: 10 pushups, 10 burpees, 10 squats
Pretty straightforward, right?
This workout takes about 3-5 minutes. The harder exercises however can take up to 30 minutes. I always opt for workouts around the 15 to 20 minutes mark, with at least one 30 second or 60 second break after each round.
But it depends on how much time I have.
At the end of the day, doing a little bit is better than doing nothing at all.
You’re not going to stack on weight. Nor will you see the same benefits as you might from lifting metal with the same intensity or even surfing every day.
What you will experience however is pain in muscles you didn’t even know you had. Plus, you’ll find that over time you'll look much more toned than when you first started.
I do freeletics about 2 to 4 times per week at the moment, but if I'm surfing, it goes back to only 1 or 2 times a week.
The best thing about this bodyweight exercise though is that everywhere becomes a gym, meaning there’s no excuses not to work out... just ask the lads at Pine Tree TV.
Have At Least Some Knowledge Of Nutrition
Have you ever read about the ancient Greek legend of Sisyphus?
Suck a chode, Sisyphus. Not to get political, but image if we could banish all fuckwit rulers of countries to the same fat? Image Kim Jong or Trump pushing boulders all day long... now that's justice
If not, allow me to regal you with his story for a brief moment:
Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth), whom was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness.
Essentially, he was being a dick to his subjects, so the gods decided to punish hi.
Sisyphus was then sentenced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity.
Have that image in your head?
Because exercising without any knowledge of diet and nutrition is comparable to Sisyphus’ struggle.
You can burpee until your teeth rattle, but unless you’re fuelling your body with the right nutrients you’ll never see an improvement, or worse, you’ll be discouraged by your apparent lack of progress and throw in the towel.
Lucky for you there’s a wealth of information on the net these days relating to food nutrition and meal plans.
Unlucky for you is that most of it seems to be contradictory.
All looks good to me, except I'm pretty sure corn kernels are never digested...
That’s because our understanding of diet and nutrition is constantly changing. Cholesterol for example, once declared to be the artery-clogging antithesis to optimal health, is no longer a nutrient of concern according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Of course, your LDL (the bad cholesterol) shouldn’t be allowed to climb, but it seems cholesterol on a whole isn’t as dangerous as previously thought.
Sugar, and more specifically refined sugar, flew under the radar for the better part of the 20th century, however experts worldwide now regard it as the true enemy to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
And while the odd ice cream or dessert isn’t going to kill you, relying on high sugar food for calories will render you about as lively as taxidermists display cabinet in the long term.
We're all different.
But humans on a whole are radically different when it comes to what foods each of us can tolerate.
Do you research, eat whole foods, stay away from processed crap and avoid simple carbs usually works for everyone.
I know it's easier said than done for most (including me), since when we travel, rice and pasta are easy to find, cheap to buy and keep for ages.
My advice? Find markets that sell fresh fruit and vegetables. My diet when we’re travelling consists of lots of sweet potatoes, broccoli, beef, salmon, tuna and eggs… so many eggs.
Not inspiring, I know, but for 5 days a week it pays to be pretty stringent with your diet and it means you can relax a little on the weekend.
Remember – a life devoid of the odd indulgence isn’t a life at all!
So there you have it. My attempt at prying open my balding dome to glean as much useful information as possible for you to digest. I choose surfing every day of the week over running and bodyweight exercises. Seriously, who would forgo perfect waves for pushups? But while I'm landlocked and castrated from my longest love, this guide will have to do. If you have any tips you’d like to share or want to tell me what I’m doing wrong; I’m open to suggestions!