How To Keep Fit While Backpacking

by stephmylifetravel

I get a lot of emails asking how I keep fit while travelling, so I thought I would share with you guys how I do it! Keeping up a fitness routine (and not gaining a ton of beer and fried rice weight!) was a big concern of mine before we left on our trip. As a qualified personal trainer I was super focused on keeping fit while we travel, and over time I created a bunch of different workouts I can do whether I’m in a big city or on a tiny island. I’ll run you through the ways I stay fit, all of which you can do yourself, and I’ve included some of my own workout routines at the end of the post which you can do while you travel.

To keep fit and toned I do a mix of cardio and resistance (strength) training. The same as I did back in London, but now it’s on a beach and not in the basement of a Fitness First! Cardio gets your heart rate up and burns a ton of calories, then resistance training (squats / push ups etc) will build lean muscle and give your body better shape and tone. Also the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn each day which means you can eat more food! Winning! (That is literally how I persuaded Tim to start working out with me – he’ll do anything that means he can eat more food each day).

It is possible to work out in a gym while you travel, but not regularly if you’re moving around a lot. Gym chains in Asia do cheap one-day passes or free introductory sessions and some gyms offer weekly rates if you’re there a little longer. Thailand seems to be experiencing a fitness boom right now and lots of regular gyms and CrossFit gyms are popping up everywhere. Even my favourite tiny little island Koh Mak has a gym now! Bali has some great places to work out cheaply and Malaysia is fantastic for free deals (check out Celebrity Fitness for free passes). I go to the gym when I can, but I think of these as ‘bonus’ sessions to lift heavy and supplement my regular exercise routine. Most of the time you won’t have a gym locally so you have to be resourceful and find ways to do your workout outside of a gym.

Here’s how I work out when I don’t have gym access.


Hiking in Thailand

Cardio is relatively easy to manage when backpacking. You have a huge variety in what you can do to get your heart rate up – running, swimming, hiking, trekking, skipping, HIIT training etc. It’s just about pushing yourself and getting your heart rate up, breaking a sweat for 30 minutes. Many people say they hate cardio, but if you find the right exercise to do and switch up your workouts it’s a lot more enjoyable. Plus did I mention you get to do it on a beach!? I try to do 30 minutes of cardio 3-4 times each week and usually do it first thing in the morning or in the evening, when it’s a little cooler.

1. Running

My favourite form of cardio is running. This definitely wasn’t always the case – back home running meant hitting the treadmill or wrapping up warm and doing laps around a cold London Park. Now I see running as a way to explore new cities and towns. We run in the heat, on beaches, in botanic gardens, along lakes – we have run in some of the most stunning locations and now I LOVE to run!!

We usually go for a jog when we arrive in a new place, especially if we arrive in the morning as it wakes us up for a day of sightseeing. Running in quiet areas and islands is easy and we run right out the door of our hostel, but it’s a lot tricker in big cities. When we’re in Hanoi, Tokyo or Bangkok where the streets are so busy that we can’t run on them, we use google maps to find a nearby park or river to run along. Just make sure you’re safe – don’t run in the dark, or around busy traffic.

2. Skipping

If I haven’t convinced you that running while you travel is actually awesome then there are lots of other things I do too! Skipping is another way I get my heart pumping. I put on some heavy music, set a timer and start to skip. I was so bad at the start, I couldn’t do 10 jumps without tripping! But I kept working at it and challenging myself and now I have improved a lot. Don’t just mindlessly skip in place for 10 minutes, set challenges and push yourself – it helps the time to go by quicker and your workout is a lot better.

3. Hiking

Hiking in Tasmania

Hiking and trekking in the places you visit is another awesome way to keep fit – and as an added bonus you get incredible Insta shots. Challenge yourself and increase the difficulty of these hikes as you get fitter. Take a look in your guidebook or on Google to find hikes and treks in the places you visit.


HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training is a great form of cardio that you can do absolutely anywhere without any equipment. You basically do a high intensity exercise for say 30 seconds and then take a 15 second break and repeat. There’s so set time for a HITT workout but 15-30 minutes is good. You can read a little bit more about HIIT training here, and there are a huge number of routines on YouTube videos and online. Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach has some great workout videos online which you can do in your room!

Resistance Training

While cardio will help keep you from gaining weight, resistance training will keep you toned and strong. It will get you that peachy bum, toned legs and nice back that help you look good and most importantly – feel good – in a bikini. This can be a little trickier without gym access but you can use chairs / beds and other bits around your hotel room and I also have a bunch of equipment in my pack that I use for resistance training


I love my TRX!! This portable suspension trainer is the best thing to get a full body workout on the go. Using your own bodyweight you can work out every muscle in your body and it only weighs 1.5 pounds, plus it comes in a small net bag so it can be packed really easily. I just sling my TRX over the door of our hotel room or wrap it around a pole or beam outside and blast out a full body workout. When you buy a TRX you get access to a ton of instructional and workout routine videos on their website so you can learn how to use it and make your own programs. I’d definitely recommend buying one if you’re travelling long term and like to work out!

Resistance bands

These latex straps are good for a full body workout at a cheaper price (I got mine on Amazon for £15). You can buy the basic simple bands for leg workouts or get the ones I have, which have sturdy handles for upper body work. I would recommend ones like these for a better workout.

Here are some videos that I use as a guide for working out with the resistance bands.


These small plastic discs are super light so they’re easy to pack and can be used for a very intense core and leg workout. The ones I have work on both carpet and hard floor so you can use them anywhere. They’re great for ab and leg work, and perfect for HIIT. Plus they can be used in even the smallest of spaces. Check out some workout videos using sliders here. Also when I used to train clients in London I would use paper plates instead of sliders – they’re a super cheap alternative.

Skipping rope

Buy a good quality, sturdy rope – they are only around £20 and the cheaper ones are really hard to work out with.

If you don’t bring equipment with you then you can still manage a good resistance training programme. All you need is a bottle of water and a towel and you can still train. Here are three workouts that you can do without any equipment at all! Give them a go and let me know what you think.

I hope this post shows you that it’s possible to keep up an effective and enjoyable workout routine while you’re backpacking! If you’re looking for motivation to work out then check out my post, 7 Tips to keep you motivated.


Thanks for reading!

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.