How do you stay fit on the road?
Whether you’re looking to build muscle or burn fat, living or traveling on the road can bring some unique challenges.
It can be hard to find the time to dedicate to a 2-hr workout. And it’s not like there’s a fitness center at every campground.
Here are some ideas (many of which I’ve used) to help you stay while traveling in an RV or living the nomadic lifestyle.
CREATE A DIY MOBILE FITNESS CENTER
Forget your vision of a grungy basement gym with a squat rack, weight lifting bench and an Olympic barbell with a stack of 45-lb plates. That simply won’t work in an RV: too heavy, too bulky.
Instead, think lightweight.
1. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands aren’t just for physical therapy and mobility exercises. With a heavy-duty set of resistance bands, you can perform classic weightlifting exercises like deadlifts, bench presses and squats.
A resistance band workout can be performed just about anywhere. Adding a yoga matt and Swiss ball will double the amount of exercises you can do. Even better is a fixed point to lash the bands to (hint: the doggie leash buckle on the outside of your RV is a perfect spot!),
When shopping for resistance bands, you have two basic options:
- Standard (lightweight) set: 10-50 lbs
- Heavy-duty (super) set: 50-500 lbs
Best to purchase them both. You can use the lightweight version for isolation or muscular stamina exercises like front shoulder raises or bicep curls, and then use the heavy-duty resistance bands for compound exercises like squats and pec flies.
2. Pack Iron (or Water)
If you are determined to pack iron, think lightweight. Try the MMA 45-lb plate workout from Men’s Journal.
Or use a pair of adjustable dumbbells, typically available in 2.5- or 5-lb increments.
Better yet, switch to a CrossFit-inspired kettlebell workout to build both your muscular and cardiovascular health.
If you’re short on payload capacity, consider using water-filled dumbbells available from brands like AquaBell. When empty, these dumbbells weigh next to nothing. When filled, each dumbbell can weigh up to 50 lbs!
If that’s still not enough weight for you, get a sandbag. Available in S, M, L and XL sizes in capacities up to 200 lbs, sandbags are great for serious bodybuilder “gains.” And all you need is sand or dirt!
I recommend getting a pair of battle ropes, too. You can use the battle ropes independently or in conjunction with the sandbags to create hundreds of different exercises.
3. Rely on Bodyweight Exercises
You don’t need a lot of equipment to keep yourself fit.
Technically, you don’t need any at all! There are dozens of YouTube channels dedicated to teaching the art of bodyweight fitness, using nothing but pushups, handstands, crunches, squats, and lunges to whip your body into shape.
While no equipment is necessary for most bodyweight exercises, having a yoga mat and a Swiss ball will greatly expand your options. Even better is a portable pull-up bar installed inside or outside your RV!
(Can’t do a full pull-up yet? Just use those resistance bands mentioned earlier to reduce your weight!)
There’s no part of your body you can’t target with bodyweight exercise. Hamstrings? Reverse lunges. Abs? Planks. Triceps? Diamond pushups.
It’s easy to burn 1,000 calories an hour doing nothing but simple bodyweight exercise circuits.
If you do rely on bodyweight exercises and plyometrics, take advantage of free public spaces. It is possible to get a great workout from almost any public park with a playground (especially a jungle gym). You’ll find many of the bars are perfectly suited for dips, pullups, and captain’s chairs. (Let the kids go first, of course.)
GET A GYM MEMBERSHIP
While I advocate supporting local gyms, it’s just not practical to request a day pass every time you want to work out. And in COVID-19 times, many fitness centers have suspended their day pass programs altogether.
There are several national fitness centers that offer country-wide access.
The YMCA is a charitable non-profit organization based on Christian principles dedicated to strengthening communities.
Their facilities are more recreational gymnasiums than just fitness centers. And they’re big! Some of the amenities you can expect are:
- Weightlifting rooms
- Cardio fitness centers
- Swimming pools
- Indoor running tracks racquetball courts
- Basketball/volleyball courts
Sometimes, you’ll even find specialty features like rock climbing walls and indoor tennis courts.
According to the YMCA’s website:
“With Nationwide Membership, members can visit any participating Y in the United States and Puerto Rico through membership at their home Y, at no additional cost.”
There is a catch, though. Members are required to use their home gym 50% of the time. So this program isn’t a good fit for a full-timing family. But it’s a great option for snowbirds or seasonal travelers.
YMCA locations are plentiful across the Northeast and Midwest. You’ll find more scattered across the South and West Coast, but very few in the Mountain West.
Memberships typically cost $40-$65 a person, depending on age. A couple’s membership is around $100, and a family membership is $120-$150. The National Y membership is included in the base price.
2. Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness is a popular gym chain famous for their $10/month membership promotional offer. They also welcome to all body styles, all shapes, proudly proclaiming their Judgment Free Zone.
Walk inside a Planet Fitness club, and you’ll be confronted by row upon row of Nordic track ellipticals, treadmills, stair-steppers, bench press machines, squat racks, cable machines, etc.
Oh, and if you hate crowds (something that Planet Fitness can unfortunately be known for), you can download their PF Crowd Meter app, and you can check to see just how crowded your local gym is!
Many Planet Fitness centers are open 24 hours a day.
With the Planet Fitness Black Card, you get free worldwide access to any of their 2,000+ locations. The Black Card comes with other benefits as well, such as free guest passes, use of massage chairs and tanning beds, and retail discounts.
Cost of a Planet Fitness membership begins at $10/month per person plus a $29 starter fee and a $39 annual fee.
The PF Black Card membership costs $22.99 a month with the same annual fee but only a $1 starter fee.
These prices may vary by location.
ENJOY THE OUTDOORS
If you’re traveling in the Great Outdoors, why not enjoy it?
There’s no rule that says fitness requires a 12-week program and a tattooed personal trainer.
What’s better: Churning out the zombie miles on a gym treadmill, or jogging through the beautiful trails and boardwalks at the nearby State Park (ooh, look, there’s an owl!)?
You can build a strong back through kayaking, strong legs through uphill hiking and cycling, and a healthy core through swimming. You can jog or cycle almost anywhere.
(Unfortunately, I don’t think fishing counts for much).
Just the act of setting up and breaking down camp will help burn calories and maintain mobility.
If you’re really desperate, throw a frisbee to yourself. (Yes, it is possible! I’ve spent several hours in Walmart parking lots throwing a frisbee across the asphalt and dashing after it, top speed. Shoppers cheered if I won.)
Your imagination really is the limit. From parkour to mountain biking to skiing to power walking to snorkeling to paddling, the Outdoors is the ultimate gym. Enjoy it!
Andy Herrick is a blogging nerd, #8 Enneagram, wannabe bread baker, INTJ, RV industry professional, and small business entrepreneur. He can be found hanging out with his lovely wife and family, skiing, cycling, climbing, hiking, and convincing anyone who will listen why dogs aren’t really that great of pets. Also, he runs this website.