The ST Guide To...staying fit while travelling

Vacations are a double jeopardy. We feast, while the fitness regime takes a breather. It is possible to stay fit on the go, however, without overdoing it. With a bit of planning, more exercise than you imagine can easily be embedded into most trips.

1. Choice of hotel

Look for a hotel or homestay near a park, by a river or any lovely spot that inspires you to start or end each day - or every other day - with a walk or run. Or choose a hotel equipped with a good gym.

Wake up 30 minutes earlier for a morning workout, which peps up any traveller for an active day ahead.

Some hotels have running or trail maps. In rural northern Vietnam, I picked up a homespun map at my inn and went on a 5km trail that entwined light outdoor exercise and a fun mini-expedition - gleaming rice fields, villages and rings of mountains all added to the sensation that I was leaving time and routine behind.

2. In-room workout

The hotel room is good enough for a set of exercises that make use of your body weight. Some basics are squats, lunges, push-ups, planks and burpees. Also do stretches.

Google "hotel room workouts" for exercises galore on websites such as Nerd Fitness, Built Lean and Choose from workouts of varying intensity, duration and style.

Light resistance bands made of rubber are perfect for a workout anywhere; they take up almost no space in the suitcase.

3. Apps and Youtube

The Nike Training Club app features more than 100 full-body workouts designed by international fitness trainer Marie Purvis. PHOTO: NIKE

Download apps such as the free Nike+ Training Club, which is loaded with more than 100 workouts. The app comes with audio and visual guidance from experts.

Free travel fitness apps recommended by Men's Fitness, Travel + Leisure and other publications include The Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout, My Fitness Pal and Spotify, which has a playlist for running.

Or do ad-hoc searches for workouts on YouTube. Once, ahead of my trip, a pilates instructor modified exercises for me to try inside the hotel room. Using my iPhone, she took video clips of me exercising in the studio, with audio of her instructions. I tried some of these pilates movements in the hotel room and found the experience fun and familiar, and also mentally refreshing.

4. Explore on foot

It is ideal to explore a destination on foot, which immerses a traveller in the locale and offers a free workout to boot. On a recent wintry trip to Japan, an ardent gym-going friend strolled for hours in scenic places, including the lush Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto.

Walk instead of relying on coaches or subways to deliver you door to door.

This file photo taken on May 5, 2016 shows La Conciergerie from a bank of the Seine river in Paris.  PHOTO: AFP

The more athletic set can sign up for run-and-sightsee tours to discover cities, for example, running along the Seine in Paris (, or Nordic power-walking in Helsinki (

Cold climates do not stop travellers from exploring. Frosty or mild temperatures make walks a little more effortless. Just dress right: warmly and in layers. Cover the head if needed.

5. Sneakers

A good pair of sneakers can be a versatile and practical addition to your travel wardrobe. PHOTO: ST FILE

Pack a good pair of sneakers, or perhaps motivate yourself to walk more by buying a new pair of athletic shoes. Ideally, get a pair of stylish, lightweight, sporty shoes that are versatile enough for a concert, city jaunt and a soft trek. Try brands such as Nike, Reebok and Puma.

Some fashionable sneakers such as those from Superga and Axel Arigato are sturdy and have luxe touches, such as embossed leather. They can be paired with jeans, athleisure wear and even skirts. When in doubt, start with an all-black pair.

6. Activity tracker

Fitbit Flex 2 swimproof fitness trackers are displayed in water at CES 2017 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center on Jan 5, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. PHOTO: AFP

An activity tracker from brands such as Jawbone and Fitbit can count the number of steps taken each day. Target 10,000 steps a day.

I loved my Jawbone tracker that I wore on my wrist during a walking gourmet tour of Provence, where I walked up to 12 km a day, passing muscat vineyards, Benedictine monasteries and the Rhone Valley. The tiny tracker also estimated my hours of sleep, offered workout tips, and cheered me on with notes of encouragement.

Alternatively, keep an exercise log.

7. Active holidays

The Straits Times' travel writer Lee Siew Hua stops for a photo in Japan with a statue of 17th-century poet Matsuo Basho. PHOTO: LIM SIEW HUA

Why not do it all with an active holiday? The options are endless: Cycling along canals in Netherlands, or two-wheeling it along Australian coasts. Walking in Tuscany, or following in the footsteps of Japanese haiku poet Matsuo Basho, which I relished. Or aim high by climbing Kinabalu, the Himalayan foothills or Kilimanjaro.

 A statue of Japanese poet-wander Matsuo Basho in a Hiraizumi garden (left) and the 2,466 stone steps to climb up Mount Haguro in Japan. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Otherwise, simply insert one or two active components in each itinerary. This can be anything from a two-hour kayak excursion in Sri Lanka to a day hike in national parks. Canada, celebrating its 150th birthday, has waived entrance fees for all its national parks this year.


8. Food diary

To maximise the benefits of exercising, eat well and smartly. Anticipating a big dinner? Have a lighter lunch that day or the next. For snacks, how about local fruits or anything healthy, delicious and homegrown?

A food diary gets the traveller to track the day's food intake, besides capturing the culinary memories of each destination.

I only indulge in sundowners when I travel. It's fun to relax with other wanderers over drinks, especially on a cruise to a remote place like the Komodo islands of Indonesia or the Galapagos in Ecuador, when there is less to do in the evening. But go easy on the alcohol, and aim for a limit, perhaps one or two drinks.

9. Hydration

Stay hydrated. On trips, I carry one or two 500-ml soft, lightweight bottles. I never have to detour for a drink, unless it's time to linger in a cafe. When empty, the bottles squeeze flat into my bag.

10. Lifestyle of fitness

Do a pre-trip push of strength training (for example, weight machines, resistance bands, body-weight exercises (such as squats) and cardiovascular workouts (for instance, brisk walking, cycling and aerobics classes). Fitness energises the traveller.

Then continue to stay fit after the journey. Ultimately, fitness is a lifestyle, at home or anywhere on the planet.

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