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Unless you’re checking in to a designated health retreat, staying fit on vacation is tricky. Even if you rack up and immense step count each day, your sightseeing probably doesn’t count as intense physical exercise. And traveling foodies can easily consume more calories than they spend, while sampling the local delicacies! Pack this lightweight, portable exercise equipment for travel – so you can complete holiday workouts. (Not everyone can be like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose traveling #IronParadise gym weights a whopping 40,000 pounds!)
Best Travel Workout Equipment
While you are out and about, traversing a new city or trampling over rugged terrain, a fitness tracker can easily monitor your physical activity. You can invest in a higher-end product with all the bells and whistles, such as the Garmin Vívoactive and the Fitbit Versa – or you can you can opt for a LetsFit fitness tracker watch with similar features to the Fitbit Inspire model, at a much lower price point.
Wearing a basic fitness tracker along with you on vacation will tell you your step count, the distance you traveled, how many minutes you were active and how many calories you have burnt above your Basal Metabolic Rate. It also has a heart rate monitor, so you can check at any point or constantly record your heart rate for the duration of a workout session. A workout session could be a walk on the beach, a hike or a tennis match.
Many models also allow you to set ‘sedentary alerts,’ so your watch will gently remind you when you’ve been parked in a coffee shop or lazing on a sun lounger for too long. And by using a wearable fitness tracker, rather than your phone, you’ll have more phone battery for taking photos and online maps, etc.
Resistance bands are a great way to build strength – and they weigh practically nothing. The versatile piece of equipment can be used to strengthen many muscle groups – from the smaller muscles around the ankles to larger leg muscles, including the adductors.
You can also use exercise bands to tone your arms with biceps curls and triceps extensions. To target the muscles around your shoulder girdle, step on one end of the band and hold the other end; then raise your arm laterally (by your side). Otherwise, reach upwards in front of your body. For a variation, purchase looped fitness bands.
Yoga Gloves and Yoga Socks
Yoga gloves and yoga socks are practical additions to travel exercise kits, since they allow you to practice yoga without toting your yoga mat on vacation. The exercise accessories are dotted with little bits of rubber, so you can maintain a good grip on slick surfaces. And you may not even need to purchase specific yoga gloves – since your rubber, padded weightlifting gloves might help you to safely stay in down dog.
As a bonus, your yoga or exercise gloves may come in handy (hey, pun lovers!) for outdoors vacation activities. You can use them for kayaking, cycling and hauling yourself around ropes courses or along trails with Via Ferrata elements. Fun fact: Wearing my Bear Grylls Fitness gloves saved me from painful callouses while kayaking around Dubrovnik with my mom.
Fitness gliders are small discs that do the opposite of the aforementioned yoga socks and gloves. They reduce friction between your body and the ground so you can easily slide your feet in and out of lunges and squats.
If you’d rather work on your abdominals, begin crouched in a squat with your hands on the gliders and push out into plank position. Reverse the movement, scrunching back into your squat – and repeat… Who needs an ab wheel now?
Most exercise gliders are two-sided, so you can slide on different kinds of surfaces. There is a plastic-y side that easily moves over carpet, while the soft cloth side of the glider easily slips over wooden floors and tiles.
TRX Suspension Trainer
Admittedly, my off-brand TRX suspension trainer is the heaviest elements of my travel workout kit, but it’s still a good piece of portable gym equipment for vacation workouts. The metal carabineers are relatively weighty compared to the other items, but it still easily fits into a carry on.
A former Navy SEAL commander developed the TRX apparatus, which stands for Total Resistance eXercises. An at-home suspension trainer consists of two adjustable straps with loops at the end. The two straps form a Y-shape, hanging from a stopper that wedges between the top of a door and its frame.
The loops at the bottom of the TRX can be used as handles to aid in one-legged squats – or they can be used to perform modified push-ups and pull-ups. Additionally, you can lengthen the straps and stick your feet in the loops to challenge yourself in plank position. The instability will work your core harder.
Note: These at-home suspension trainers are only safe to use on one side of the door. Your TRX vacation workout may be hindered, depending on how the doors of your hotel room and bathroom open. Check room photos ahead of time to ensure that you will have enough space to use it.
Fitness Apparel for the Road
Gym Wear & Athletic Shoes
There’s no point toting your fitness kit along if you don’t have clothes to wear for your on-holiday workout. Be prepared and pack a workout outfit or two, plus running shoes. You want to feel comfortable when you’re exercising, so proper clothing is a must – even if you choose an oversized cotton t-shirt instead of the newest, strappy, sweat-wicking athletic crop top.
But if you are looking for new athletic wear, check out our review of Fabletics sports bras and leggings.
There are plenty of ways to stay active on a trip. You can continue your everyday early morning running routine, watching how the city or countryside slowly wakes up – or swap your hop-on-hop-off bus tour for a bicycle tour. You can find great views by hiking up a hall, or even opt to take the stairs up the Eiffel Tower instead of the elevator. It’s cheaper and more of an accomplishment, too.
If you’re as interested in cross-training as we are, you might even find yourself strolling into boutique fitness classes with incredible instructors while on holiday. For example, we worked up a sweat with Katie Pryce of DanceBody in New York City.
Dancewear & Shoes
Your holiday wardrobe should include at least one dance outfit – even if you don’t pack a leotard and dance tights. If you’re headed to a big dance city, you should leap out of your comfort zone and into a local dance class. It’s great to learn from instructors with different backgrounds to improve your technique and expand your dance own dance knowledge.
You can also try different cultural dances when you travel abroad. When in
Rome India, try your hand at Bollywood – or when in Korea, sign up for a k-pop dance class. This traditional Japanese dance class was one of our favorite activities from our whole trip.
But before you go to a dance studio, check to see if there is a dress code. Although dress codes are rare for adult drop-in dance classes, you wouldn’t want to show up in the wrong attire.
Restorative Fitness Kit Treats
A massage ball doesn’t qualify as portable exercise equipment, but it’s still an essential part of a travel fitness kit. Occasionally massage balls are called trigger point massage balls because they release muscular tension from specific pressure points. Sports companies produce hard, lightweight massage balls, but tennis balls work just fine. They have more give, which is good for newbie self-masseurs.
Sit down and pop a massage ball underneath your calves and gently roll your leg on top of the ball. Depending how tight your muscles are, it may feel painful, but you’ll quickly figure out how much pressure to apply. You can also stand and roll the massage ball under your feet – or place the ball between your body and wall to massage your back, bum and IT band.
If you have access to a tub during your vacation, treat yourself to a nice warm bath with Epsom salt. One of my dance professors a 20-minute soak (or more) to help relieve muscle aches; and an Epsom salt bath is my go-to remedy whenever I feel stiff. When you’re busy, indulging in a restorative ritual will re-energize you, so make sure to pencil some personal time into your holiday agenda. These self-care practices will help you to feel your best and enable you to make the most of your trip.
Depending on your trip, your travel workout kit will change, but these are a few essentials.
How are you able to stay in shape on holiday? And what kind of travel gym equipment do you pack? Tell us about your holiday exercise habits in the comments below.