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On the road to health and fitness

One of the questions I get asked as a full time van dweller is, ‘how do I maintain a healthy lifestyle whilst on the road?’

The general answer would be ‘by making it a priority’, though of course, there are many factors involved in keeping fit and heathy a possibility as a nomad. It can be incredibly hard and incredibly easy all at the same time, it depends on the mindset and motivation you have each day. This is where atomic habits come in. After 4 years of living in a van, I will share with you what works for me, and others on the open road.

Firstly, it benefits to know that you really don’t need much time to work out. So many of us have had it ingrained into our minds that we need at least an hour to make the gym visit worth it, when with the right kind of workouts, 15 minutes is enough!

HIIT it!

In my experience, and thousands of others, HIIT is the boss! HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) gets your blood pumping and heart beating at an elevated level with a longer work, shorter rest timeframe. This means that you work hard, but for less time to get better results! The best thing about this workout is that it has so much variety to work all of the muscles in your body, building and toning with a mixture of weight work and cardio, you only have to do it for 15-30 minutes a day, and your body will continue to burn fat once you’ve finished!

Another huge bonus of this type of workout is that you don’t need any weights, ropes or bands to do one! There are hundreds of exercises which can be included in your workout which require nothing but yourself and a comfortable floor. Of course, you can incorporate weights into your session, but it isn’t needed to get results.

This type of workout is perfect for being on the road, because its quick, easy and you don’t need much space to do it. I’ve done HIIT workouts outside my van, on the beach, on a patch of grass, and even in a carpark before, it’s over before you get the chance to feel too self-conscious!

There are plenty of online workouts and apps you can use, or you can get creative and make your own. You can tailor the intensity to suit your fitness levels to start off, and the time frames used. For example, I do 40 seconds of work and 20 rest for 15-20 minutes, though you could do 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest for 10 minutes to start off with and build it up as you go. You will find your fitness levels upgrading in no time with this type of exercise.

Atomic habits

This is a brilliant way of living. Atomic habits are the practise of tiny actions or thoughts inter grained into your daily life, and the notion and understanding that a tiny step is better than none. The idea we have that it’s all or nothing is counterproductive. Making atomic positive changes in your routine no matter how small they seem, ultimately make a huge difference to your way of thinking, doing and being.

Multi-pass Gym

Another way to keep fit on the road is to acquire a multi-pass gym membership. This means there are multiple gyms under that brand nationwide, and you have access to any of them. This is a lifesaver for me, as I’m constantly in new areas and never in one place for long. You can get memberships that don’t cost an arm and a leg, none of us want to be losing those kinds of pounds!

The benefits of these types of gyms are that most are open 24/7, are spacious and of course have beautiful hot showers! Wherever I am in the UK, most often, there is one of my gyms nearby. You can also use leisure centres, or pay as you go gyms, but this tends to end up being much more expensive overall.

Get creative!

See everything around you as a workout space, use the benches for the triceps dip, the steps for a deep lunge or 3, the bars in the playground for a few pull ups. Bring out your inner child and have fun!

I also have a couple of pairs of dumbbells and resistance bands which are attached to the van, so that helps me get those extra exercises in when I can and keeps the variety strong too.

Make Shapes

Dancing is a wonderful way to burn those calories whilst putting you in a positive mood for the day. There’s something so liberating about dancing, not having a care in the world whist you move to the rhythm, even around a campfire with friends!

More movement

Incorporating movement into your daily routine is also an atomic habit which hugely pays off. The smallest of changes make an enormous difference, such as parking further away from the shops, and exploring on foot instead of using transportation.

Parks and outdoor gyms

Many parks now have outdoor gym equipment, which can be a bonus when you’re out exploring. If you have 10 minutes to spare and pass one, you may find you’ll have more fun than you think!

Bark run.

Having a dog is a sure way to keep your exercise consistent! Now, I’m not saying you should go out and pick up a Poodle because you want toned legs, but I had to add this in as it is probably the main reason that I stay active. My dog gives me no option but to go out every day in rain or shine and get into the fresh air, upgrading my mental and physical health. It’s also a great way to get your social fix if you spend most of your time on your own.

Food for thought.

80 percent of staying fit and healthy on the road is down to what you eat. Keeping a consistent ‘diet’ when on the road isn’t always easy! Here are some of the ways to ensure you stick to a better than average eating routine:

– Make time in your day to cook when you can.

If you are scheduling time out in the day specifically for meal making, you’re more likely to look forward to eating proper meals, and less likely to snack on junk food in-between.

-Share and socialise meals where you can

Cooking for yourself only can sometimes feel like too much effort before you’ve began. |f you’re meeting friends, family, or have made new pals on the road, it’s great to offer meal sharing as a little motivation booster to cook. It also allows you to make meals fun and sociable, and you’ll probably gain a few extra recipes to try too!

Intermittent fasting

Fasting, in my experience, is the easiest, and least time-consuming way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are several types of fasts, all depending on the time frames in which you can and cannot eat, (eating windows). The best way to intermittent fast is to vary these each week, mixed with your normal eating routine on the other days. This keeps your body from getting complacent and makes you look forward to the week’s variety more.

I am not a nutritionist and would advise anyone to do their own research before starting intermittent fasting, as it is not for everyone. However, from my own personal experience, this works for me. It gives me clarity, saves me time, reminds me that our bodies don’t need to eat when the mind is yelling that you do, and the research on how autophagy helps renew cells and fight disease is also a brilliant reason to consider researching!

Meal prepping

This can be difficult to do on the road with limited space. You could, however, cook 2 meals worth of food so that you are guaranteed a healthy meal the next day too. This is a good fall-back option for if you can’t cook the next day due to changed plans etc. The only issue with this is you could end up eating the second meal in the same night, ultimately going backwards on your heathy eating journey. This is what happens to me every time I’ve tried this, so strong willpower is needed for this one!

I find prepping in the sense of making a list of the meals you will eat each week works best, as there’s no confusion or wasted time and energy trying to decide what to eat each day. This means less chance of snacking on junk whilst you make your mind up!

Image Courtesy of Vangirlandgoldenadventures

Write a list of delicious, healthy meals for the week, and go shopping for said ingredients. That way you’ll know exactly what you’ll be needing, so no over buying or buying the wrong things. Oh, and as you know-never go shopping hungry!

Be aware.

Regarding shopping, it’s good to always be very aware of yourself when stepping in to the supermarket. Try not to allow yourself to buy sugar filled junk food, and if you do, don’t make it a regular thing. Half of the battle is won if you simply don’t buy it. This isn’t to say you should never eat cake again, don’t try and convince yourself of that either! Knowing that you have the freedom in other scenarios to eat a slice of rocky road in a cafe with friends, or a biscuit with your coffee makes you feel less restricted and psychologically, you’ll be less likely to fall off the wagon and crash. Just make it a rule that you don’t buy junk food from the shops, especially as it’s usually large packs with way too much content.

Be as consistent as you can.

I try to go by the 80/20 rule as much as possible. 80 healthy food and exercise, 20 treats and rest. This way you aren’t completely depriving yourself of the things you want and will be less likely to fail in the long run.

Enjoy the journey, and the destination!

I’m sure fellow travel lovers can relate, it’s not just the destination that’s important but the whole ride! Make your health journey enjoyable. Eat delicious foods, do the workouts you enjoy most, move, dance, make it a hobby, a lifestyle, and feel those endorphins rush through you. Embrace a life of health and happiness in full knowledge that you are creating a stronger, more positive you. Each week will be different, but it is all progress towards the bigger picture.

Be forgiving.

Have mercy, it’s absolutely fine when you inevitably fall off track, as long as you get right back on again. It’s very easy to fall back into bad habits once you’ve had a couple of consecutive bad days. One is fine, it will happen regularly, but it’s good to try and make it a rule that it stays as one. Not two, or three, which can easily turn in to 6 months! Allow yourself a day, then get back to your atomic good habits again. There is no need to feel guilty for skipping the workout, eating the biscuits, or generally lacking the motivation. Making an agreement with yourself is all you need. You’re only working with yourself to make yourself happier, after all!

Once you stop feeling guilty and beating yourself up for being a mere human, you will find you have more forgiveness, respect, and motivation towards keeping yourself driven. Think long term gain, not present pleasure.

Help your mind stay motivated.

Keeping your mind interested is such an important aspect of any life goal. If like me, you spend time driving, or walking, I have a great motivation booster to share with you… Audiobooks!

Listening to audiobooks about your goals is the perfect way to keep the momentum and excitement high. Motivational podcasts, audiobooks, facts and stories about health and fitness is a sure way to stay focused on your goal, whilst gaining knowledge at the same time, win win!

I can hear you lacing up your trainers and zipping up your nylon jacket as I type…

I wish I had that motivational effect! The truth is, all I can do is share what works for me and others I know, the real motivation lies within yourself. We all have it inside of us! Once we have found it, like a flower, we must keep it watered. Sometimes, it will diminish, but if you plant the tiny seeds (habits), it will bloom again once more, and keep your life looking and feeling beautiful.

It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it, and remember, one step is better than none.