I’m a firm believer that exercise is a key to happiness and longevity of your life. I have been a heavy gym goer most of my life, having been in the military so fitness has always been close to my heart. I have experience in anything from weightlifting, endurance, yoga, proper nutrition and quite a few sports. So this week we’ll be answering the big question… ‘How to stay fit while travelling in a van’!
DISCLAIMER – I’m NOT qualified, so anything I share in this post is from personal experience and these ways are ONLY A GUIDELINE for those who wish to follow at their own risk. These tips have worked for me they may/may not, work for you!
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How to stay fit while travelling in a van
Most people are going to think that working out EVERY DAY is not such a good idea… In this context though, ‘working out’ for me is anything from yoga to even a long enough walk. People who know what they are doing generally do some form of mild exercise even on their ‘rest’ days. The body needs movement in order to keep the spine healthy and make fitness progress. On rest days I will always go for a 45-60min high paced walk in the morning, usually a circuit in a park for example or around “the block”. Sometimes I will look for stairs to use or hills/inclines. This is also a great way to see things you would miss when driving by. Getting the blood flowing and elevating your heart rate at the start of your day has so many benefits, it wakes up your muscles, helps mobilise your joints and even puts you in a good mood (flow of endorphins)
Working out every day means I can be consistent with my fitness and health in a way that it becomes a solid mindset and simply a life-long habit. This mindset has been the reason I have maintained a good level of fitness and health, hardly ever getting sick. I haven’t been ill for over 3 years!
Don’t get me wrong it can be hard at times but the truth is, you just need to force yourself to MOVE!
Stretching/foam rolling and yoga moves have become the norm for me now and I am really glad they have… living in a small van and being well over 6ft tall can be challenging on your body. Constantly hunching over and unable to stand up in our van has been harder than we first thought… We are actually now in a position to purchase a bigger van (one I can stand up in) which just wasn’t an affordable option for us before.
Doing these activities have made a massive difference to me and have made living in a small van; as a tall person, a lot more bearable!
So if you want to follow what I do to get fit and stay that way, always keep your body moving, EVEN on your days off.. stretches, mobility/yoga are essential to rest and overall well-being. Also, continue reading this post to find out what other stuff I do and what equipment/ resources I use!
2. Use FREE gym equipment
When living in a vehicle many people wonder, how they can get and stay fit if they are constantly moving around? They can’t sign up to a gym or can’t have gym equipment like a home-gym setup, so therefore they just can’t do it! – WRONG
Many fitness gurus will try to sell you fitness programs stating ’NO EQUIPMENT’ this, in my opinion, has always been misleading because they usually mean “using normal everyday items as gym equipment instead” So this is what I’m going to tell you haha!
I have always used some form of ‘equipment’ whilst training. Whether it be comfortable shoes for long walks or a lamp post for stretching (be resourceful). When living the van-life you might not have room to carry much, but the basics I carry are:
For weights, I use my own body weight…for example, I do pull-ups on strong tree branches or anything that can safely hold my weight. If you know what you’re doing you can always challenge yourself and progress by just using your own body weight and finding some form of pull up bar. Callisthenics are pure magic for travellers who are into fitness. Youtube channels recommended for learning this are AthleneX and Calisthenicmovement.
Many places in the world have FREE public gym equipment at either parks or the beach.
TIP – Go at sunrise if the parks get too busy and this puts you off… all the posers are never there that early!
3. Sign up to a country-wide gym
Signing up to a gym isn’t that expensive when you shop around. It can also solve all your problems when it comes to finding showers! It’s defiantly an advantage if you sign up to a company that has gyms all over the country because then you don’t have the rigmarole in signing up every time! If you think about how much fuel you burn driving around the cities just to find free showers, it can actually be more cost effective to just pay $30 a month for a gym membership and shower there. Not to mention they are A LOT cleaner!
Anyway, the point of signing up to a gym is pretty obvious when it comes to getting and staying fit… It gives you a place you can work out properly and seek help if needed but more so, it also makes it easier to get cleaned up afterwards (which isn’t always easy in a van!) We are signed up to VirginActive and although it’s one of the pricer ones, its defiantly worth it for us. Being big gym goers, it has by far the best quality gyms with the cleanest facilitates (in our experience) and most even have a swimming pool (saves us loads on swimming fees!) Oh and free WIFI! – a Van-Lifer’s heaven!
Curious to know how other Van-Lifers stay fit on the road? Check out The Van-Lifer Directory to get more inspiration!
Like I said in the last point we are pretty into swimming. There are places to swim everywhere in most countries of the world whether indoor/outdoor man Made/natural! And depending on the area, if you’re stuck there’s the ocean! Swimming is underrated by lots of people, mainly those that can’t do it! So if you can’t swim I’d strongly encourage you to take up lessons because being able to swim could defiantly save your life one day! Leah once was scared of deep water full stop… now she will snorkel in the ocean! Travellers love to venture areas with a lot of water i.e rivers, waterfall lagoons … so you REALLY need to know how to swim!
Once you know the basics its then down to you to work on technique and become a stronger swimmer, and you can always get stronger! It’s perfect for keeping toned and building stamina without all the nasty impact on your joints! You can work on some decent cardio by doing hypoxia training (seek professional advice first) or you can even use pool weights for muscular endurance. There are endless amounts of exercises you can perform in water.
The main advantages of swimming for a Van-Lifer are probably the low costs and high availability of areas to do it! Also not needing anything other than your swimwear. To be honest, I see van-lifers in local swimming baths/leisure centres going for a cheap shower all the time so why not pay like an extra dollar for a swim?!
Meditation can be a controversial topic for some, being quite mysterious to many. However, from experience, it has proved invaluable to me! some of you may be thinking what has this got to do with fitness? Well, in my opinion, fitness is both in body and in mind. Anyone serious about fitness will tell you that meditation and having a healthy mind is so important. The reasons being is that no matter what level of meditation you practice, you learn to train your body how to breathe correctly. Breathing correctly will give benefits such as better posture and generally better body functioning as well as a healthier mind.
As a van-lifer meditation is easy to practice as long as you park somewhere quiet (which can be a challenge) but the easy bit is that you always have a comfortable/ private space! I always use decent headphones if it’s a bit too noisy… eventually, when you get better at it you’ll be able to block out most background noise.
I want to make it clear that I’m not an overly spiritual person but I certainly have an open mind and meditation DOES WORK for me. I began to meditate as a way to gain better posture (after it suffering from my military injuries) Again, like most things you have to be dedicated and consistent, nearly 3 years later and I feel like it has helped me no end! I personally feel that it is a way of unlocking mind power that you have anyway but maybe can’t access easily at times. At the end of the day, you have to BELIEVE you are going to get fit in order to achieve it and adding meditation to your training routine is such an easy and FREE way if you’re living on the move!
Recommended for beginners – guided meditation youtube channel ‘Michael Sealey’
If you disagree with me that’s cool… but I bet you wouldn’t disagree openly to a big meditator like Mike Tyson haha!
I hope this gives you a good idea on how to stay fit while travelling, you may be wondering why I haven’t included any points on ‘Nutrition’ this was intentional as I plan to touch on this extremely important topic in another post. Nutrition is a complex subject to which I can only really speak from personal trial and error experiences. There are obviously industry standards to what is considered “healthy” and not being a qualified nutritionist kinda excludes me from giving valid advice… that being said, future posts such as “how to eat healthier in a van” will go into what I consider to be ‘common sense’ when it comes to the way/what people eat when living on the road.
How do you stay fit while travelling? We’d love to hear if you have any different methods! As always, you can chat with us over on Facebook, or become a Patreon to gain access to even more Van-Life stories!
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