How to Workout While Traveling as a Digital Nomad – Podcast 026

In this episode B and Jack talk about how to workout while traveling as a digital nomad. First, they go over some useful mindsets to do with fitness. After that, they talk about some general tips related to resistance training as a traveller. Finally, they go over some practical tips about going to the gym during a short trip to a destination.

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1. Summary

1.1. The topic of how to workout while traveling within the Digital Nomad Life System

  • The Digital Nomad Life System is a 6-step meta-system created by us at Nomad Tactics that aims to explain how someone can go from living a non-nomadic normal life to living an optimized digital nomad life.
  • The fifth step of the system is called “Nomadic Living”. This is the broadest of all steps in the system. It basically can be understood as all the advice that would be relevant to a digital nomad when he is living in a base. This is of course very much context-sensitive depending on the specific situation of the digital nomad. How to workout while traveling is something you will consider once you are living in a base, therefore it makes sense to place it in this step.
  • To have a general overview of the Digital Nomad Life System you should listen to this episode.

1.2. Important fitness mindsets

  • Fitness is meant to enhance your life, not to rule over it: To translate into plain words, it means that you shouldn’t get obsessed about going to the gym while you travelling. You need some sort of balance.
  • Do not aim for perfection, good enough is good enough: You shouldn’t focus too much on the details. Rather you should look at the big picture. Sometimes you will be able to maintain your fitness routine, sometimes you will not. It’s ok. As long as you follow the tips we will give you, most of the time, you will be able to progress in your weight lifting while travelling as a digital nomad.
  • Have a goal and be realistic with it: Understand that you are travelling. Therefore, things will be different from when you were having a stable life. Just embrace the uncertainty and do the best you can in terms of a weight lifting regimen.

1.3. General tips on how to workout while traveling as a digital nomad

  • Try to include as many free weights exercises as possible in your weight lifting routine: Not only free weight exercises are a great type of exercise overall, but also, by including those types of exercises you will be able to transfer your workout routine from one gym to another with minimum disruption. This is because you will not need to change your exercise selection because the new gym lacks the same machine as the old one. Free weights are pretty much available everywhere, thus continuity being possible.
  • Understand volume and play with it: Volume in weight lifting can be understood as follow: Volume = Load X Reps X Sets. By understanding this concept of volume you can play with the different variables based on the circumstances of the gym available to you. For example, if the gym at hand does not offer heavy weights then you can decrease the weight and increase the other variables like reps and/or sets to keep the same volume. Hence by keeping the same volume (or even better, increasing it over time) you will be progressively overloading (which should be your goal to start with).
  • Plan beforehand where you will be working out: Whenever you moving to a new location you should have a plan beforehand for where you will be working out (this should be done in the so-called Base Research and Arrangements step of our Digital Nomad Life System; check out this episode). More specifically you should look for the different weight lifting facilities offered (e.g. local gym) near your accommodation. If you are interested in the topic of how to find a gym on the road check out this episode.
  • Understand the hierarchy of weight lifting possibilities: There are different ways in which you can do resistance training on the road as a digital nomad. All ways are valid, but, this is not to say that, there is no hierarchy of workout types. It seems to me that the hierarchy of workout types can be characterised as follows: Gym> Resistance bands (this is the resistance band I recommend) OR Park Kinesthetics>Bodyweight. With this hierarchy in mind, you should start by trying to get access to the best option (i.e. gym) and move downwards until you get to your last option (e.g. body weight). Once you get to bodyweight as a workout type you really will have no excuses for skipping a session.
  • Have realistic goals based on the type of trip you are doing: Keep in mind an attainable fitness goal whenever you going somewhere. If you staying in a base (i.e. a place you stay for a couple of months where you can develop a routine) it is plausible to assume you can progress in your fitness goal. On the other hand, if you doing a short trip to a destination, it is not reasonable to assume you will progress in your resistance training. Rather your goal should be to maintain your current physic.
  • Time block when you are going to the gym: Once you get to your new base (during the so-called Arriving Process of the Digital Nomad Life System) you should time block periods though out your week to do your resistance training. By doing that, as soon as you arrive at the place, you will guarantee your training will not fall off.
  • Try to preserve momentum: Try to keep the momentum to do with the weight lifting routine. Due to your travelling lifestyle sometimes you might be forced to stop (e.g. when you moving locations) for a while. You should be very mindful and deliberate not ro allow these types of disruptions to cut off your momentum. Weightlifting is all about consistency and continuity.
  • Remembering resistance training is not the whole equation: This might sound obvious to some of you, but it is so important that it is relevant to mention. You should also care equally, if not more, about your diet if you want to achieve an impressive physic (you can listen to this episode where we go over how to diet as a digital nomad). Besides that, there are other important things to also consider like overall, cardiovascular health, and mobility.

1.4. Weight lifting tips for short trips to destinations

  • Consider if weight lifting is necessary in the first place: According to empirical research, it takes from 3-4 weeks for an individual to starting losing muscle. Thus, if you doing a short trip (e.g. 7 days), it might not make sense to dedicate such an effort to go to the gym. Disregard this advice if you really enjoy going to the gym (regardless if you are losing muscle or not).
  • Consider doing supersets and more dense training sessions: You can have a very dense workout session (i.e. smaller rest periods between sets) or use techniques like supersets (i.e. alternating sets of two different exercises with no rest in between) in order to minimize the time you spend in the gym during a short trip to a destination.
  • Consider scheduling your short trip to destinations to happen at your deload week: A deload week is a week where you will do very light weight lifting and/or no weight lifting training at all. If you schedule your short trip in the same week as your deload week then you will not have any (or very little) negative consequences to your weight lifting progress.
  • Prioritize compound movements in your workout: Compound movements (i.g. bench press, squats, pull-ups, etc.) are exercises that make you work more than one muscle group at a time. This will minimize your time in the gym (you need to do less exercises) which is your aim at short trips.
  • Workout in the morning: On a short trip you will be a tourist. When you are a tourist somewhere everything can happen. By going to the gym in the morning you will minimize the chances of you skipping a gym session due to some unforeseeable circumstances that might come up later on the day.
  • Consider doing a high rep workout: We already talked about the importance of understanding volume and playing with it. This is especially important in the context of short trips to avoid injuries. When you are training less (i.e. more time off the gym) and in worst conditions (e.g. dehydrate ) this is usually the time people get injured. if you stick to a higher rap session style you will minimize this injury risk.
  • Go for full-body workouts: Full body workouts minimize the number of times you need to work out a week since you will be hitting all muscle groups every time you go to the gym.
  • Consider pushing to failure: Since you will be going fewer times a week to the gym in a short trip, this will allow you to have more time to recover in between sessions. Consequently, you will be ok pushing your exercises to failure whenever you workout, with minimum negative consequences (e.i. excessive fatigue that prevents you from properly working out next session). Yet, keep in mind to only push to failure using high reps. This is because pushing to failure can also lead to injuries if done with high loads.
  • Figure out your personal minimum maintenance level for resistance training: For most people, this translates into 2-3 workouts a week. It takes a while to figure out, but by trial and error, you will be able to see what is the minimum amount of workout you need to maintain your physic. Once you figure out this number then you can keep following this minimum regimen in your short trips to maintain whatever you already got.

2. Transcript


3. Resources

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