Staying fit and healthy is a priority in my life — for one thing, it makes traveling a lot easier. While staying fit on the road can be a bit challenging, it’s certainly doable, and a little advance planning can make all the difference between maintaining your weight and health on the road vs. coming home several pounds heavier and feeling out of sorts.

When I was younger, I could quickly and easily lose vacation pounds, but those days are gone. Now that I’m in my 50s, pounds that seem to appear overnight could take months of hard work to get rid of. It doesn’t seem fair, but slacking off on good habits while I’m on vacation is just not worth the trouble to me. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t thoroughly enjoy myself. Here are my tips for keeping fit while traveling:

Sandy’s Tips for Staying Fit on the Road:

Walk. If you’re in a big city, ditch the car and walk as much as possible. Walking will allow you to explore the city in a way you could never do by car. Most major European cities are made for walking. On a recent trip to Madrid, we walked nearly everywhere. All day, and all night we were walking. If we were going somewhere far, we’d walk as far as we could and then get a taxi for the rest of the way. If we got tired, we stopped in a bar for a snack and a drink. We thoroughly enjoyed the city and discovered many things that we would have otherwise missed. We also thoroughly enjoyed the local food without gaining weight. Many large U.S. cities are also amenable to walking. Even in Los Angeles, I find plenty of opportunities to walk. Wherever you are, just make sure to do a little due diligence and make sure you’re safe.

Will you have access to nature? Plan a couple of hikes! Do your research — do you need a guide or will you be fine on your own? If you’re hiking in the rainforest or a historical area, get a guide. The guide will make it a lot more interesting, and you won’t have to worry about getting lost. Make sure to pack the proper shoes, clothes, and equipment depending on the type of hike. Being out in nature can make a place come alive for you, and you will feel more invigorated too! Notice the plants, animals, sounds, and scenery. Enjoy the beauty of nature in all of its forms.

Swim. If you have access to water and like to swim, make time in your schedule, and you’ll feel better for the rest of the day. If you’re planning to swim in live water like the ocean, do some research ahead of time to make sure it’s safe. If the locals tell you that the water is not safe, believe them!

Use the Hotel Gym. When I’m traveling, I like to see what’s outside, so if I can exercise while sight-seeing outdoors, I do. But if that’s not practical, I’ll make use of the hotel gym. I’ll get up a little early to squeeze a workout into my day.

Visit Local Fitness Clubs or Gyms. I’m a big fan of yoga, Pure Barre, and ballroom dancing, so I check out the local studios to see if their schedules work with mine.

Consider a vacation rental. I enjoy vacation rentals, and I’ve stayed in some pretty nice ones. They often provide an opportunity to feel like you’re living in your destination because they are located in real neighborhoods rather than off the highway like many hotels. A great advantage is having a full kitchen so you can cook some healthy meals yourself, and many have a DVD player and more space to do your morning exercises. Depending on location, you might have some great walking opportunities right outside your door.

Pack Your Own Equipment. I always travel with a YogiToes towel, a mat-sized towel with sticky dots on one side so it won’t slide on the floor. I use this for yoga or any other floor exercises I do. This is not as good as a real mat, but is much easier to travel with and also doubles as an in-flight blanket. If I’m visiting a studio, I put this towel on top of the studio mat so I know I have a clean surface. Two other things I always have in my suitcase are a tennis ball and either a green Theraband (or a tube). I keep the tennis ball with me in transit, and if my legs or rear-end start getting sore from sitting too long, I put it underneath my thigh to relieve tension. A tennis ball is also a great way to massage out knots in the glutes, which often lead to back pain. The Theraband or tube is practically a gym in a suitcase. They take up virtually no space (especially the Theraband) and weigh almost nothing, yet they’re great for stretching and light resistance exercises for the whole body. If you’re on an active vacation, it’s important to take time to stretch so you can keep going. Even if your vacation involves lots of sitting, stretching and massaging your muscles will help you to avoid pain, restricted circulation, and fatigue.

If I know I’ll have access to a DVD player, I’ll pack a couple of favorite fitness DVDs, such as BeachBody’s Brazil Butt Lift or Hip Hop Abs and Yoga with Ateeka, one of my all-time favorite yoga DVDs. If you’ll have access to good wifi, there are lots of streaming fitness videos on YouTube, including some short yoga videos by yours truly.

Remember to have fun! Maintaining fitness on the road is important, but keep in mind that the purpose of traveling is to enjoy another place or to enjoy family and friends, so don’t go too crazy. Don’t spend three hours ignoring your family just to exercise. Ideally, work it in as a fun travel-related activity that everyone can enjoy. Otherwise, spend 30 min. to an hour in the morning taking care of your body so you will feel strong and energized to do whatever you have planned. After a day of sightseeing or sitting on a bus, car, or plane, a little stretching before bed will help soothe your muscles and ease travel aches so you can keep enjoying that vacation.

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