Totally Mobile Fitness for Totally Mobile People

Posted by   Annette on    May 30, 2013

Fitness is simple when you're living in place. When you take that life on the road, you'll have to get much more creative. You can't transfer your gym membership to Kerala; you can't take your treadmill to Tangier; you can't realistically pack your kettlebells in your checked baggage.


Even so, this is not the time to abandon your body. It needs you now more than ever. The mobile lifestyle you’re designing will reliably require more physical strength and flexibility than the previous version of your life ever did. The chances are also pretty good that you’ll be merrily eating and drinking your way through every new place you’re exploring, upping the stakes.

The only solution is to move—and move like you mean it. Luckily, some of the very best methods for maintaining optimal functional fitness are completely portable.

1. Design your perfect home practice.

Studio classes have a tendency to be inconvenient and expensive, so don't bother. If you approach the practice mindfully and take care to work within the envelope of your current ability, there’s no reason to limit yourself to the studio for fear of injury or the degradation of your practice...and, if you're super-mobile, you'd better go solo.

Your task before you launch will be to find a physical practice that works in all the ways you need it to while requiring the fewest possible props. For most of us, there's a bodyweight practice that checks off all the boxes (strength, definition, flexibility, tone, cardio). Find yours, then find the best online teachers of that practice--because having a challenging, timed structure to follow will keep you consistent, motivated and growing.

My own daily physical practice is yoga. I originally made the transition from a studio practice to a solo practice so I could travel, but the change has had an interesting side effect: I’m much more consistent, motivated and connected to my practice than I ever was in the studio setting. Solo practice has made me stronger, and I doubt I’m in the minority. Even if yoga isn't your thing, you'll be able to find a mobile modality that suits.

  • Cody offers a wide variety of practices for every level, goal and proclivity. Each is stunning to look at and beautifully instructed.
  • YouTube requires some research to find high-quality instruction, but everything under the sun is available if you take the time to find it. (For yoga, I like Maris Aylward, Kristina Matskevich and Michelle Goldstein.)
  • YogaToday, based (and filmed) in and around the Teton Yoga Shala in Jackson Hole, features some of the best yoga instruction I've ever seen in or out of a studio. They include access to their extensive back catalog with each monthly subscription.
  • The TRX system is minimal on tools but very effective for building a defined body. If you're feeling strapped, get an Amazon knockoff and do YouTube practices.


2. Pack the right gear.

In order to stay consistent in your practice, strike a balance in your gear between minimalism and comfort. If your practice requires tools, make sure to prioritize packing the tools you'll actually use. For example: Super-minimal travel mats are generally too thin and uncomfortable to inspire daily use. Unless you're into wriggling around on hard floors of questionable cleanliness, "yoga paws" aren't going to do the trick, either. Personally, I travel with this light and comfy Manduka travel mat, a foam block and a strap.

Don't forget to pack what you'll need to stay generally active outside your core practice. Prioritize activewear in your packing. Never travel without trainers you love to wear (and great socks, too). Finally: Keep a rolled-up jump rope in your carry-on. (There’s no better way to get a quick workout in at an airport while maintaining a sharp eye on your bags.) Roll a stretchy, flat resistance band (the kind physical therapists use) around the jumprope. It takes up an absolute minimum of space and it’s useful for hundreds of strength-training movements.

If you're staying in a place a little longer, you can source bulkier tools in-country. (For instance: Here's how to build a cheap kettlebell from hardware-store components.) Make it a point to get them during the first week so you get the most value from your purchase.

3. Use activity as an excuse to explore.

Home practice is a terrific cornerstone for an nomadic fitness plan, but you’re not traveling because you like to spend loads of time in the living room. Right?

Use fitness as a way to engage each new environment. Check out a map of the city. Find playgrounds, stairs, parks, climbable trees, bicycle rentals, climbing walls, waterfront paths, tennis courts, stadiums, local dance classes, etc. Get there on foot, then let loose and play.

Having fun rules the day, but still: be smart about your outdoor sweat-seeking. Dress modestly—attracting attention by flashing skin is unwise no matter where in the world you are. Wear headphones, but don’t turn up the music so high you can’t hear what’s going on around you. And don’t forget your mobile.

4. Diligently track your progress.

Don't lose your physical self in the shuffle of a light speed life. Keep tabs on the consistency of your practice in the same way that you track your goals and professional responsibilities. (I use Habitica.) The choice to bring you best physical self to meet the challenge of this lifestyle will help you squeeze every drop of goodness from your ongoing adventure.