How to Stay in Shape on the Road with Bodyweight Fitness

If you are a digital nomad or living location independently in one way or another; it can be especially difficult keep up with your workout routine.

When you are in an unfamiliar and unstable environment, a conventional fitness routine will not work.

Exploring a new city or country can directly benefit your health. But walking an hour a day, along with staying away from processed food and large meal portions is not enough on its own, for becoming truly fit.

The Excuses

So how do you stay in shape on the road, or in a foreign country, when you are finding so many excuses not too? Such excuses as these…

How will it be possible to go on a run when it is sweltering hot, pouring rain, or freezing cold outside?


When a local gym doesn’t exist, or short-term memberships are out of your budget?


What about those cities that can be too dangerous? When there are the hazards of traffic and too much air or noise pollution for even a walk to be relaxing.


When you can’t find uninterrupted blocks of time in your busy schedule.


When you have already fallen off the wagon with your workout routine, months ago.

I know these excuses because I used just about all of them at one point.

But then; during my first journey to South East Asia, I ran into a series of health problems. Which included dropping nearly 20% of my body weight — in a bad way.

Sick In Ton Sai, Thailand - Jan, 2013

Sick In Ton Sai, Thailand – Jan, 2013

Feeling horribly unhealthy at times during my travels, had led me to develop a method of staying fit that actually works for my nomadic lifestyle. This has been through a slow process of figuring out what fitness routine can endure — through trial and error — when no daily routine existed for me.

Bodyweight Fitness

I have become more physically in-shape than ever before in my life, and all the while living on the move from country-to-country. I owe this to a simple high-intensity, high-interval workout with bodyweight only.

Bodyweight calisthenics, in particular.

Calisthenics are a form of exercise which consists of a variety of exercises, often rhythmical movements, generally without using equipment or apparatus. – Wikipedia

15 to 20 minutes per workout, 2-5 times a week, outside the normal hiking and walking that I do. Within just a few weeks these short workouts can be transformative.

Don’t believe me? Here are my chubby cheeks before I started to travel. At a time when I was already doing grueling hour-long CrossFit sessions on a regular basis:

Los Cabos, Mexico - January 2012

Yea, this photo is embarrassing . Los Cabos, Mexico – January 2012

Later I had the opposite problem of being way too skinny. And in three months, I went from this…

The only photo I have of myself during a one month period after getting sick. Cambodia – April 2013

To this…

3 months after committing to my new workout routine. Milos, Greek Islands - October 2013

3 months after committing to my new workout routine. Milos, Greek Islands – October 2013

As many of the temptations and obstacles that can unravel a fitness routine, become non-issues when you just need to focus on 15 minutes of bodyweight fitness.

The lack of special equipment — or pretty much any other barrier — is key to the success and longevity of this workout routine.

Not long ago I slept in and missed a beginner yoga class that took place in the artsy town of Ubud, Bali. No biggie. As I still found a way to get in a powerful workout.

This is what I accomplished during 15 minutes in my hotel room:

  • 50 squats
  • 45 pushups, with my feet elevated on a desk chair. Three sets done in two minutes with a few seconds of rest in-between: 20x, 15x, 10x
  • 50 left side crunches
  • 50 right side crunches
  • 50 regular crunches
  • 25 burpees (pop up from a pushup into a squat)
  • 50 leg crosses
  • 1 minute holding a left-side body plank, while curling my right arm
  • 1 minute holding a right-side body plank, while curling my left arm
  • 1 minute holding a regular plank

But this is not an Insanity Workout, or Convict Fitness (yes that’s a real name for a workout program!)

You work your way up to that routine. As you should not need a week to recover from your first workout, or any workout for that matter.

And for well over a year, I was just doing pushups and squats. Because when I started out, doing 50 squats would completely kick my ass.

The Workout Itself

Please note that I am not making any claims to be a fitness trainer or fitness expert. The workout routine that I’ll be sharing has simply created results for myself and a few friends that I know.

So here’s how you can revamp your body and overall fitness today:

  1. Drink some water, then throw on some loose and comfortable clothing. In fact, the pajamas you woke up in will probably do just fine.
  2. Pick 5 or 6 exercises from the following chart:
    Courtesy of the cool folks at darebee.com

    Courtesy of the cool folks at darebee.com

    The chart above is amazingly helpful, but I am making it even better.

    Keep reading to the end of this article, and you’ll find out how get instant access to over 40 curated videos that demonstrate just how these bodyweight exercises can be performed correctly and safely — for free!

    Avoid picking more than 2 exercises in any one grouping for the muscle groups listed in the vertical heading of the chart. Don’t think too much about. And if you don’t have a pull-up bar immediately available, or a doorframe, ignore the exercises which require one.

  3. Find a floor space that is at least as long as you are when you are laying flat on the ground with your arms stretch out in front of you, and at least 4ft wide (1.2 meters). Don’t go looking for an empty city park.I’ve literally done this workout in empty dorm rooms and within a flimsy bamboo bungalow at times. Convenience trumps comfort.
  4. Set your phone or laptop down next to you, so that you can reference the workout when you need to. Print the chart if you can, but don’t let a lack of a printer stall you today.
  5. Set a clock, timer, or alarm within your sight.
  6. Go at it. Do anyone of the exercises that you have pre-selected for 2 minutes. Then switch to the next one, with a 1 minute break in-between. This doesn’t need to be precise. Don’t worry about the seconds. And if you somehow finished before your 15 minutes are up, start doing a plank.

If the workout felt too easy, push yourself to go faster. Or just mix it up, and pick a different set of exercises. But make sure to keep your workout under 20 minutes.

It is also okay if your pace begins to slow down. This is meant to be difficult. If you need to, pause to take 3 to 5 deep breaths. And hey, 15 minutes is just 15 minutes.

Give yourself at least one day’s rest between each workout. For your first week, aim to do at least 3 sessions.

Oh, and be proud of yourself. Completing this workout is a huge win! You just did awesome.

Stay in it for the Long Run

If I was trying to follow a 30 day fitness program, I would fail by day 5.

This workout works because of the KISS principle.

Keep It Simple Stupid

There is no concern about an exact number of reps. Or doing 60 seconds of this, or 3 minutes of that.

This workout doesn’t require any equipment of any sort, not even a chair.

You can stay out late the night before, and still wake up early enough to fit in this fitness routine. Because well… you don’t need to wake up early for a 15 minute workout.

And I have fallen off the wagon a few times. This happens in life. I never once did any bodyweight fitness during a recent 2 week sailing trip I was on, while traveling within Micronesian island country of Vanuatu.

But that’s okay, because I did my workout today. And it is the long-run that matters.

P.S.

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