How to Combine Travel & Training – The Long Story

To travel is to live and to live is to be active. At least for me. I love to stay active everyday (including travels); to challenge myself by and do whatever makes my heart beat faster and my muscles to ache the next day. Training also has many things in common with traveling. It brings me further, higher and educates me, and most importantly it puts the smile upon my face.

I was lucky enough to learn the active lifestyle already on a young age (when junior, I competed in orienteering) and for me it’s always been very clear how to recognize and gain the benefits from regular training and generally active lifestyle. Though I’ve rarely ever, not even while competing “seriously” in orienteering, taken any stress about sports*. For me, sports has always been there to release stress, not to gain more stress. Of course I want to improve my performance and almost everything I do has a purpose, but still its very rare that I stress about it.

Simply, I enjoy life and feel better when I stay active. I train to become stronger, faster and better performer, to be able to reach the peaks and make the long distances; but and most importantly, to perform better in everyday life. I’m also quite happy that healthy and active is the new skinny. Even for women it’s now acceptable to do extreme sports and grow muscles, which has resulted that there’s more role models and good examples to us other women (and why not men also).

When it comes to combining travel and training (active lifestyle), I don’t think it has never been easier than it is today. Because the wellness trend there’s a great variety of services and products to choose from and staying active is made so simple that it’s hard to understand how people find it so hard to stay active, everyday and while traveling.

How to combine travel and training easily

From time to time I get the question though. The question of “How do I keep so fit / How do I find time and energy for training while traveling so much / living so busy life?“. First, I have time and energy since I do not have kids (and right now I don’t even have a job which would keep me busy and behind a desk from 9 to 5 . Second, training is the thing which gives me more energy, which keeps my head ok and smile on my face.  Third, I’ve managed to invent some extra tricks for navigating successfully in this jungle.

What you’ll now get is those tricks written down. Because, who knows, maybe you’ve been wondering but haven’t yet figured out how to do it. And if these are of any help, I’m more than happy to help.

But beware, this is a long post. Better to crab a coffee first.

About those club memberships

When living a nomad life, it’s very hard to commit to any of those long-time *add your favorite ‘fixed location’ training facility here* memberships. No matter if you have the money, there’s simply no reason to purchase that one year membership, when you’ll not be around (=able to enjoy the benefits) for more than some days / weeks / months. Some of the places do offer one month deals, but in most cases they are way too expensive (just think about if and when you need to buy one for each place you spend a month or two during the year) and lack what you’d need the most from the full membership (24h service, advance-booking etc.).

“And there are new kinds of nomads, not people who are at home everywhere, but who are at home nowhere. I was one of them ”
― Robyn Davidson

Nevertheless I’ve come up with some of the solutions how to train almost “classically” while on the road.

1. A club with facilities in various places, even countries

When you acquire the membership, you are free to visit any of the facilities, any time you want with no extra cost or hassle.

2. Hotels with own gyms / deals with training facilities nearby

Many hotels, especially business ones, are very good at offering quality training services, saunas and pools. Some, without their own facilities, offer you the possibility to visit a training facility near by / in the same city. Moreover, some offer sport packages, including the possibility to storage your running gear, maps for running routes and personal trainer services. And the best ones even hook you up with a fellow (traveler) runners and local guides to explore the city and re-load before / after / between meetings and conferences.

3. Try-out periods

When being new to a place, you have numerous opportunities to visit training facilities and clubs as a visitor. Many of the facilities and clubs offer try-out passes (accompanied with extensive direct marketing though), and if a place is big enough, you may train free for weeks with these deals. In a matter of fact I’m right now using one of those deals to train and most importantly to use the sauna (it’s been -25°C outside).

4. Friends with benefits

If and when you’re visiting a friend, you may ask if she/he goes to gym / practices some sport in a club, and if she/he would like to bring you along. Many, if not all, gyms and other training clubs offer deals with which a member can bring a friend, free of charge, to get to know the place (but be aware of lots of direct marketing as a side-effect). Moreover, one should never forget that training / doing sports together is a great way to spend time with your friend(s) – and the after drinks and food is simply the best.

Because you’re worth it, especially after a nice shred.

Get out there whenever possible

Even though I talk about those training clubs and gyms, I don’t really, if ever, really enjoy training indoors. For me, indoors are only for the occasions when and where there simply is no other option; when it’s not safe outdoors, it’s too cold (below -20°C), too slippery or too dark (hello polar night!). Moreover, for outdoors you don’t need any membership and rarely even a permission to be or do whatever you like to (but please, remember to behave and keep in mind responsibility and sustainability).

For me, training is mostly about challenging myself, testing my limits and enjoying life. Why go spinning indoors, if and when you can really take the same exercise outdoors with the great views and refreshing wind? Mountain Spinning? Not my thing. Mountain biking? Yes please! And do I need to mention how training outdoors, with the wind and the varied terrain, adds so much more challenge, making it more intense and in most cases also more motivating and fun session.

“The two important things that I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision.”
― Robyn Davidson, Tracks

Moreover, research has shown that spending time (like doing sports) in forests has remarkable positive health (physical and mental) effects. It’s not just for the exercise, it’s also for your overall wellbeing. Of course you don’t find forests everywhere and not every place is ideal for outdoor sports, but still, there are numerous urban jungles, parks and recreation areas where you can train easily. In unknown terrain / environment you also almost accidentally get some exercise while exploring the unknown. Moreover, getting lost is a great way to get to know a place (and yourself) and to get some extra exercise almost accidentally. Moreover, the unknown might motivate you to try something new, to go further, faster or higher. Like in traveling, training outdoors and in unknown places really teaches you some important lessons, which are of help everyday.

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

I always pack my running shoes and light weight running gear with me when I travel. Because running is an outdoor sport which doesn’t really cost much nor take much space in your luggage. Sometimes I get to use them, sometimes not, but it’s good to have them if the motivation and opportunity hits along the road. Moreover, when it comes to busy business trips, I’ve noticed that there’s no better way to re-load and relax before and in between meetings than running. The best possible scenario during business trip is a running tour in fresh air, but almost as good is little yoga / stretching / swimming, followed by sauna (I’m Finnish, after all).

Traveling for and because of sports

My first trips abroad where for and just for sports. Training camps and competitions; some sightseeing in between. After this my travels have evolved to include trips with little and even no sports at kind of tours, but I still prefer “sport” travels (could also use the trendy descriptions like wellness, bootcamp, exploration) trips over other ones. In the past they were mostly orienteering, running and cross-country skiing, after which hiking, single-track cycling and skiing came along. And last december I even tried the pure freeskiing (Shades of Winter) camp which definitely went into the book “Trips I tried and loved“.

While and most importantly improving your performance, strength, endurance, and wellness, traveling for sports is also a great way to meet like minded people. There you have the reference group which makes you do things which you most likely wouldn’t do alone – the great ones who support you and help you to challenge yourself, while also being there for you when it doesn’t go as planned. Who knows something about what you’re going through, in life and with your challenges.

Moreover, if not really traveling for sports, I also suggest the sporty sightseeing. Especially in very densely populated / touristic places, like Paris, or very warm climate, nothing beats the early morning run / cycling. No other tourists blocking your view; empty streets, fresh morning air and the energy boost are something which few things can beat. Nowadays there’s even tour operators and start ups which offer guided run sightseeing tours.

Technology and apps

I like technology when it is simple / makes life simpler. Especially the simplicity is important when I combine traveling, training and technology. Lately I’ve found Nike+ and iPhone health function to fit my needs almost perfectly. With those, recording and keeping track on my runs and exercises is easy and even fun. Moreover, if and when traveling, the ones like Nike+ running clubs offer motivation, running company and a great way to get to know a new place and people there.

Even though or maybe because I’m an orienteerer, Google Maps and other gps / map services in your phone really make you thankful for living in (and running in not so familiar environments) during the digital age. But remember to make sure to have extra power with you, for yourself and your phone, especially if and when training / running / skiing / whatever long distances and / or in cold climate.

And generally speaking, have you already noticed how good the Serial is for those long walks and running laps? That’s where the education (and keeping up with the world) meets training so nicely.

Quality over quantity

One of the most challenging things when combining travel and training is the gear; what to have, how to pack them and how to make traveling with them safe and smooth (not to forget the storage). Even though I would like to, in reality I can’t ski 24/7. Also, I don’t have a car or big apartment, so I have to be quite creative and picky when it comes to traveling with my special gear like skis, poles, boots, bike etc.  In most cases I go quality (including looks) over quantity. My gear and bags need to be robust enough, light enough, packable when not in use and / or if not package, beautiful enough to stand the looks they get standing in the corner of my combined bed/living/diningroom.

Moreover, it’s not just the gear, it’s also the training itself in which quality beats quantity.** I simply believe that the more you enjoy doing it, the more effective the training is. Because the more you enjoy it (or the feeling afterwards) the more you want to do it again. And again. And again.. Yes, in training the repetition is the thing and after quality you may continue to the quantity (with those qualified things). Is good to remember that when the goal is to to change the whole way of life or keep on doing something everyday, it really helps to enjoy what you’re doing.

All this goes with training as well as traveling. Especially when traveling this much, I have limited resources when it comes to time, money and opportunities for sports. And that is why the quality comes before quantity when it comes to training on the road. And other way round – if and when I like to stay active everyday, the quality goes over quantity in travel also (and borrowing things from other people – greetings from mom’s skis).

Back to basics – walk, cycle, use the stairs

While on the road, walk, cycle and use the stairs like you do (hopefully, that is) everyday. Also note how the travel days, dragging your luggage through terminals and carrying your package around, is great exercise in itself. Sometimes you may take those travel days (sitting on the passenger seat, hours in trains and buses and airplanes) as rest days, but if and when you’ve ever tried business travel, you may know that most of the times travel is as exhausting as uphill running.

Just do it

If you’re managed to read this far, I have only one thing left to say. Always go. Be it running, cycling, training or any other sports, or traveling; always go. And if you have any more tricks / advice to share, feel free to do it in the comments. I might also come up with some more later on.

– Tiina

*There might be a reason why I stopped competing in one point– I liked and enjoyed, & still do, the training and competing against myself and reaching the goals I’ve set to myself, before competing against others.

**But remember that in endurance sports like long distance running, quantity is also, if not even more important. 


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