Travel Workouts for Parents
Updated: Aug 6
I am a big believer that committed exercisers don't have to lose all the training effects of long-term efforts when you start travelling. But how do you maintain strength, health and fitness if you are travelling for longer periods particularly if you don't have regular access to a gym?
When travelling it is pretty normal to eat a little or a lot more, and your choice of food may not be squeaky clean either. But really, who wants to pass up all the scrumptious things to sample when you are in a different country, or simply enjoy eating out at restaurants and taking a break from the kitchen.
So I wanted to take my other secret skill as a qualified personal trainer and help all of you to stay fit (or get fitter!) when travelling.
Realistically travelling is a fantastic way to work on your health and fitness goals as you will be far less sedentary than at home and I like the idea of thinking about being 'travel fit'. If you are an office worker or live in cold, wet climates you may even find that holidays become the perfect opportunity to work on your fitness. The weather is definitely likely to be better and you will have more free time to bump in some holiday fitness. So there is no excuse for not coming back from holidays feeling fit and fabulous.
So this article is NOT going to be about your diet or your eating habits when on holidays as I don’t want to spoil your fun. You already know from the millions of diet articles published daily that moderation and balance will be your best friend when it comes to eating and you can check out my article for food tips when travelling for healthy and cheap options.
I personally don’t believe in diets at all as many of them simply mess with your metabolism and set you up for failure long term. I love to exercise though so for me I would much rather balance out any yummier naughty foods with an increase in exercise. But how do you stay active and boost your fitness levels when travelling?
Plan for an active holiday
I love planning holidays that are active and adventurous and for most of our family trips I like to find places that have loads of fresh air, sunshine and open green spaces. My ideal destination is one where days are filled with hiking, biking, kayaking or exploring amazing places by any way possible which means you don’t even have to think about keeping fit while on holidays – it just happens naturally.
Adventure and active based travel is booming and so many destinations are now targeting these type of travellers, including active families. Two of my favourite destinations for active travel are Switzerland and Canada - check them out for your next holiday option.
Think about your exercise options before you plan your travel. For me, the idea of a holiday is also a break from the routine of what exercise I do at home. I generally don’t step foot inside a gym when I am travelling cause quite simply I can do this at home. When I travel I want to see and do as much as I possibly can – everything that is out of the normal or different to what I do at home, so exercise is no different.
I run to discover new places, I hike epic mountains, I go kayaking, I swim in beautiful oceans and try new things wherever possible like stand up paddleboarding (SUP).... all whilst getting fit, staying happy and spending time with my kids.
Burn extra calories as a traveller
If you aren’t an ultra-keen exercise freak and want to burn calories without even thinking about what you are doing then simply start planning your day a little more cleverly.
Set out your itinerary for the day utilising as much incidental exercise as possible. If places can be reached by walking, then use your legs instead of jumping on public transport or in a taxi - you will even save yourself money in the process. You might want to check out what interesting sights or open green space might be nearby and add in some scenic detours to not only experience more of a place but to increase the kilometres you cover in a day.
Many cities throughout Europe have bike-sharing stations which is a fun and interactive way to visit and travel about like a local. Places like Munich and Amsterdam are fantastic for jumping on a bike and cruising away the day visiting all the intriguing corners of the city.
I love to go running in different places particularly early in the morning as it lets me head off by myself (kid-free!) and end up anywhere that the roads or footpaths take me. In Bol, Croatia I stumbled across some quaint backyard farm lots filled with every type of vegetable squeezed between suburban white walls. And in Singapore I love heading along the riverbank towards the expanse of the Marina Bay or finding some space and peace in the botanic gardens or the meandering Fort Canning.
An early morning run or walk is also the perfect time to catch some awesome photo opportunities with the rising sun and life starting to buzz for another day.
Hotel or Resort Gyms
Traditional ‘resort style’ holidays are becoming more in-tune with the shift and desire for active travel experiences and are no longer just about eating, drinking and snoozing by the pool. The range of facilities and services now offered at many hotels and resorts have become quite exceptional and guests can enjoy everything from yoga holidays to boxing classes or scuba diving at exotic islands.
Check out these awesome Phuket Resorts all with fantastic hotel gyms.
Often the easiest and most accessible exercise option when you are travelling can be right at the place you are staying. Swim some laps in the hotel pool, join a class, head to the gym or climb some stairs nearby. Particularly if you are short on time or in a densely populated city area then these options can be all it takes to feel great when you are away from home.
Technology to get fit
You might want to consider some tech help to keep you feeling fighting fit.
Tracking your sleep, heart rate zones and utilising the GPS tracker on the popular Fitbits can all help you you stay on track with your fitness when travelling.
Hotel room workouts
For parents travelling with kids hotel room workouts can be a game-changer for keeping up your fitness while the kids have some rest time or relaxation. My favourite hotel room exercise includes yoga or some high intensity 20-30 minute workouts which can get you super fit in the confines of a small area.
Les Mills on Demand (paid) is my go to for awesome workouts all modifiable without equipment.
YouTube also have fantastic fitness classes now available which means you can work out without even leaving your hotel room for free. Spend some time checking out what might be fun and interesting for you but a few that I love to use include Fightmaster Yoga – a huge selection of really great quality yoga workouts.
How to get active with kids
So all these ideas are fantastic if you are a free-roaming single person or travelling as a couple. But how do you go about getting your dose of fitness if travelling with kids.
One of my favourite tips for travelling families is to ensure that you still get a decent amount of ‘you time’. Separating and doing some things on your own not only gives you a little more freedom and opportunity to make sure the holiday isn’t only about the kids but you can then reciprocate for your partner to give them the chance to do some things they want to do.
Bear in mind that doing things separately won’t be forever as your kids will get older and you can start doing more as a family group.
If you need some extra motivation to keep yourself moving on holidays with kids here is a list of ideas:
Walking and Hiking
Our fantastic pram meant that as infants our kids were taken everywhere we wanted to go with very little exception. An all-terrain buggy style pram (we used and highly recommend the mountain buggy swift - click on the image below for more information) for active parents is a god-send to continue hiking and exploring off the beaten track places.
Set up a loose plan for your day, load the buggy with all your belongings - this is one aspect of travelling with kids you will actually miss once you start lugging bags around again ;-) – and walk until your heart is content.
Another great thing to incorporate into your travel routine is a post-dinner walk – aid digestion and get the heart rate up a little with a scenic walk after dinner each evening. The kids also love this time of day to rumble and play wearing them out for bedtime.
Kayaking and SUP
Although you will be lumped with a bigger workload you can always pop kids into the front of a two person kayak and go exploring the waterways. Once your child is a strong enough swimmer you can pop them on the front of a stand-up paddleboard and head out onto the open water as well.
Many places now offer bike trailer hire so you can still go bike riding with youngsters. Keep it stress free for yourself by choosing a place with minimal traffic and decent quality equipment and you can have a great day out pedalling to all the sights.
Can be done anywhere you stay. Switch some music onto your phone and get the kids involved to burn off some energy and have fun
A super fun and active day for the whole family. Lots of stairs to climb, kids to chase about and swimming all day long.
Find out what sports or activities are popular in the country you are visiting and try it out with the kids – perhaps chasing a football around a field in Fiji
Check out what crèche or child minding facilities might be available at your hotel to allow you to exercise; many of these facilities offer activities to get the kids moving and playing as well.
So staying fit and healthy when travelling can be fun and easy but don’t forget to let your kids be active as well! This is super simple on holidays – find a playground, visit the beach, go on a nature walk or just run about with them on the grass and they will learn important skills for keeping active as they grow older.
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