Hello from Prague!

I know I promised that for once I would actually just take a vacation on my vacation, but honestly, I find it hard to stay away from work for too long. Especially when I have some good stuff for ya.  So, I’m definitely relaxing and having a great time on this little European Business/Pleasure Excursion, but I wanted to take a second to give you some tips on how to do the same on you next trip—while staying (or getting) in great shape.

To give you some context, picture this: my fiancée Neghar and I are drinking coffee at a lovely cafe before heading out to explore the city. We did a hotel room workout earlier today. I’m munching on eggs (over medium) and some delicious pastry called a trdelnik.

We’ve been abroad for 8 days, and have spent time in Lund (Sweden), Copenhagen, Berlin and are currently in Prague. We’ve got a day more here, and then off to a quick stop in London before we head home.

Neghar and I at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

It’s a bit of a whirlwind tour of cultures—and food. Oh, glorious food.

Despite what you might think, while I have every intention of staying as lean as possible, it makes no sense to me to avoid any singular aspect of a culture—especially the food. I’m a firm believer that you should immerse yourself in a culture, with all of your senses; to me, “tasting” different countries is just as important as seeing those countries.

Food is the most accessible expression of what a culture puts in the world for others to consume; in a very real way, a visitor in NYC, for example, has as much to gain and experience, culturally, from eating a slice of pizza as they do from seeing the Empire State Building or Times Square.

And so, in an effort to get the most complete experience, we are, of course, seeing museums and monuments, cities and castles—but we’re eating like Kings as we’re doing so. We’ve had meatballs in Sweden, fruit Danish pastries in Denmark, and quite a bit of strudel in Berlin, along with more wurst than I can relate.

photo 4

Pork + cabbage seems to be a running theme. Win.

While I won’t go so far as to say all of these indulgences are wholly without impact on my physique, truthfully, we’re “getting away” with a lot of dietary indiscretion with minimal consequence.

How?

Well, it’s a result of a few factors, from making sure we exercise every day to being aware of the total food we eat, even if we’re lax on food some of our food choices.

To make things as concise as possible, I’ve decided to condense things and put them into a list form. And so, for your consideration, I give you my top THREE tips for staying fit while traveling, eating, and enjoying life.

I’m positive that the next time you travel, this post will be of extreme value to you. So, without further delay, let’s get to the tips.

1) Do 30 Minutes of Physical Activity FIRST THING in the Morning

It’s hard to train on vacation—you’re so busy and there’s so much to do. I get that. It happens to everyone, and when time is short, it seems that you’re training session is the first thing to get cut.

That’s why I always make a commitment to do something first thing in the morning. Even if it’s not a full workout, just do SOMETHING. A walk. Some sprints. A few sets of pushups. At the least, you’re getting some activity, which will not only burn some calories, but also elevate your metabolism.

photo 1

Getting ready for sprints with a dash of irony.
Shirt available here: http://bit.ly/ZESlmF

If you do it first thing in the AM, you have no excuses. Chances are, you don’t have anything scheduled—and even if you do, waking up 30 minutes earlier isn’t going to make or break your stay.

For us, this means hitting the hotel gym (or a bodyweight workout if there isn’t one).

Make this commitment and stick to it, and no matter how the rest of your day goes, you’re already on the right track, and have made some progress—or, at the very least, done some damage control.

2) Master the Fine Art of Improvisation 

If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel, I don’t need to tell you that hotel gyms aren’t exactly well-stocked. You can find good ones, of course, but most of the time you’ll be lucky to find a few treadmills and a set of dumbbells. If you’re ever luckier, those dumbbells will actually be of appreciable weight.

Sometimes, you’re not so lucky.

I’ve run into some issues on this trip: in out hotels in both Berlin and Prague, the heaviest dumbbells were 10kg. Seriously. And while that’s better than nothing, it’s hard to have a good workout with weights that don’t go past 22 pounds.

And so, sometimes, you’ll need to improvise.

Here’s one example:

Necessity is the mother of Invention: me rowing DBs wrapped in a towel.

The dumbbells aren’t heavy enough for me to hit my back, so I had to stack a few and wrap them in towels to do rows. Each towel is holding two dumbbells, each weighing 10kg, for a total of 44 pounds.

Now, that’s not exactly heavy enough for me to do max effort rows, but it will do in a pinch. The towel was really taxing on my grip, and I just did more reps than I normally do.

Trust me, after four sets of 15 reps, my arms, forearms, hands and even my back were exhausted. Certainly not the best training session of my life, but obviously a lot better than doing nothing!

I’ve been improvising my way across Europe, and I’m staying in shape with minimal equipment–and you can do the same, no matter where you travel.

Once you start thinking outside the box and are willing to be a little creative, you’ll start coming up with ways to have awesome workouts in just about any situation.

RESOURCES FOR THIS TIP:

3) On Travel Days, Fast Until You Reach Your Destination

I’m a longtime practitioner of Intermittent Fasting—predetermined periods of abstaining from food alternated with a predetermined feeding window.

Normally, I fast for 16 hours a day: I have my first meal at about 2pm and my last meal at 10pm.

When traveling, I take it a step farther and simply avoid food on days that I physically travel, until I get to my destination.

This might sound extreme, but before we get into it, let me as you a
question: Have you ever been on a cross country flight, looked at the food options, and STRESSED OUT about how to make to “right” choice?

If you have, then you know where I’m going this.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve learned that no matter how good your intentions are, and no matter how disciplined you are, it’s nearly impossible to stick to your diet when you’re traveling. Airports and train stations are not known for healthy food choices, and are just not really conducive to dietary success. Planes and trains themselves are even worse.

The only way I’ve found to truly mitigate this issue is to simply not eat. At all. If you can’t choose correctly, it’s better to choose nothing. To give you an example: on Tuesday, we booked a train from Berlin to Prague leaving at 2:30pm and getting in at 8pm. I don’t like to eat before 2pm, and I don’t like to eat while physically traveling. So, I simply didn’t eat.

Once we got into Prague, we had a nice dinner, high in protein and fat, enjoyed a few glasses of wine, and enjoyed dessert. From there, we walked around the city for a few hours, and then went back to our hotel and called it a night. My total energy intake for the day was about 2000 calories (3 glasses of wine is about 525 calories!), even though I only ate one meal.

photo 3

Totally worth it.

Here’s why this is important: as I said earlier, I believe that one of the most valuable aspects of traveling is experiencing other cultures, and that this is done, in large part, by experiencing food.By not making “bad” food choices earlier in the day (or, rather by fasting and removing the option), I freed up my calorie budget for a far better experience later in the day.

Rather than trying to choke down a disgusting sandwich on a train, I simply fasted a few extra hours. This in turn allowed me to enjoy an amazing meal with my amazing lady while enjoying an amazing view of this amazing city.

Again, I don’t shy away from “bad” foods–like I said, I’ve been eating a lot of dessert. But, if I’m going to eat 500 calories worth of strudel, I want it to be the best damn strudel in a city known for it’s strudel–not something I remove from a cellophane wrapper.

Does fasting until 9pm take a bit of discipline? Absolutely–but strangely, it’s easier than choosing the right foods all the time. It’s just a weird bit of human psychology. But, the mild discomfort was worth it, and always is: the experience was better, the food was better, and my night was better.

So, if you normally practice some form of fasting, I urge you to give this a try. If you DON’T practice some form of fasting, you definitely should read a bit about it and give it a shot.

RESOURCES FOR THIS TIP:

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Welp, there you have it three of my fast and easy tips for making your travel work for your body instead of against it. By practicing the above three strategies, I manage to stay lean on the road–or, at least, leaner than I would otherwise.

Executed correctly, I believe they’ll work for anyone. If you’re on the road just half as much as I am, I promise you that these will make your life a lot easier and your waist a lot smaller.

Give them a shot and let me know what you think!

RESOURCES FOR GENERAL TRAVEL:

Of course, I want to know YOUR top tips for staying in shape on the road. Give me just ONE tip that you use while traveling.

If we get 50 COMMENTS, I’ll be back with Part Two–my full hotel room workout! 

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  • JB_HK

    I’ve already shared this over a couple mediums. Great post. I will certainly give all a go on my next trip. Thanks!!

  • http://jjstrength.com/ Jake Johnson

    Great tips Roman! Looks like you’re having an awesome time, and that food looks/sounds amazing.

    Will certainly be implementing these tips next “vacation”.

    Jake Johnson

  • ratwoman

    Nice article! I really like the attitude of improvising ;-)

    But for those (including myself) who tend to get grumpy when hungry – why not bring some good food to a train/bus to enjoy the ride? I went to sardegnia in april and went to the local market before getting on the train – got some local grown veggies or some cheese (the best I’ve ever eaten!) from a local shepperd. Seriously, if you ever get there, try that cheese! *drooling* :-D

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=753879407 Adam Corn

    Just came to Prague from Berlin myself! I’ve found it helps to be flexible with your IM schedule when traveling. For example in Greece they like to go out (and eat out) late but aren’t so big on breakfast – ok late dinner, sleep in, light late morning workout and wait a while for lunch. In Germany most restaurants don’t stay open so late but they eat breakfast like kings (and the smell of their bread is temptation incarnate) – so then early dinner, workout first thing in the morning then just go ahead and carb it up.
    One of the good things about traveling in Europe is you’re gonna walk off a lot of calories just sightseeing anyway.

  • Anna Pham

    Thanks for great tips Roman, surely we can keep on dieting because I believe food is a part of what I should enjoy while travelling.

  • http://TheSmartLifeSeries.com/Learning-Health Sean

    A set of Suspension Bands (like TRX) are awesome too. They are super light-weight and easy/small enough to put in any bag.

  • MK

    I travel nearly every week for work, domestic only but still a lot of flying and hotels. I try to work out when I get back to the hotel but there are times when I’m so tired I just want to veg. I am going to alter my schedule to try the early morning thing and see if that helps. Most of my travel is to Vegas so the weather shouldn’t be a problem for running. Would love to see the hotel room workout.

    As far as a traveling tip, I try to stay in Residence Inns, they have a full kitchen. I’m NO cook but I stop on my first night in town and get some veggies and chicken that can be cooked in the microwave to prevent the fast food scene. It’s also much cheaper than eating out, which means I pocket the per diem :)

  • Javier Lozano Jr

    Thanks for the tip on fasting. I have to actually try that next time I travel. Plus, having a TON of water while flying will help with staying hydrated.

  • Katie Rose

    When I travel and I simply can’t handle my hungry tummy I go for diet soda to hold me over. It’s poison but eh, abs.

    • http://www.romanfitnesssystems.com John Romaniello

      That is basically my entire philosophy on life.