Finding your happy (and healthy) place: exercising abroad

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Fitness. Working out… on a travel blog? Random. I know. But just follow me here for a bit.

Let me preface this whole thing by saying that I am not, nor am claiming to be a workout guru/serious marathoner/hardcore yoga-ite/other sort of uuber-workout individual. No offense to those people, as they are pretty fantastic and disciplined to do those things, but I think this is an important point to make. Yeah, I’m a moderately active person, but that’s mostly in the form of  some pretty casual running (and by casual I mean only in nice weather and not for crazy long distances) and going to the gym for classes or a bit of weight room time. A few times a week.  Nothing major.

Going abroad changes your workout scene. Oftentimes you can replicate the routine you had back home, but sometimes it’s a little more difficult.  I chose not to join a gym here solely for money/convenience reasons, but  luckily I’ve found other ways to stay active. To be honest, though, for the first few months, I didn’t do a darn bit of “intentional exercise” (by that I mean, the only activity I did, really, was walk to work—about 40 minutes to an hour each day). While that, perhaps, may have kept me from GAINING all kinds of weight from the tapa/wine/kebab heavy diet I started to have, it definitely didn’t get me “in shape.” After lots of trial and error and lots of slacking, little by little I’ve gotten back into a fitness routine. It’s taken a while, though.

Like I said in the title, you just have to find your “happy place.” For me, and I would think for lots of you out there, you have to be realistic and find something you at least enjoy doing a little bit, otherwise you just won’t stick to it. Finding a good exercise routine (or getting back into one) can be a great way to help yourself adjust to a new environment while living abroad (routine is SO important), help keep your stress levels down, and keep you healthy, which is always good. Looking good for the locals is a nice side effect. 😉 

Let me just cut to the chase and share what’s been working for me.

-Exercise bands. Cheap (maybe 10 euros for 3) easy and a relatively good way of getting some strength/resistance training into your workout, which I read again and again is so important. Also LIGHT. Major plus for Miss lack-of-adequate-suitcase-space-and-its-only-getting-worse, over here.

-Running outside. I specifically say outside, because for me, the outdoors element is what motivates me. I’m one of those people who crave sunshine and fresh air and nature, so going out and running is the perfect combo for me. Maybe you’re one of those who loves watching your favorite TV series while on the treadmill, but for me, the outdoors is where it’s at. It refreshes, energizes and revitalizes me. It’s therapy and a workout. My happy place. I love it. (I’m also lucky enough to be only few city blocks from a gorgeous park with a rushing river running through it. Man I’ve got it rough.)

-The occasional yoga/Pilates/cardio workout video. I’m going to be real with you all here. I have a helluva time sticking with workout videos. But after a while of guilting myself for skipping so much, I just went with the flow instead of fighting it. I get it—I’ve got commitment issues with workout videos. But these days I seem to be more receptive (read: actually do said videos) if I just sprinkle them in every now and then for variety. Lesson learned? Do what actually works for you, not what you THINK you should be doing.

-Sometimes just not “working out” at all. Admittedly I am not one of those people who on their weekend/holiday travels, finds a local gym or goes running at 5 a.m. I count those as my “vacations” from my regular workout schedule, but to be honest I’m usually walking an average of 6+ hours a day on those travel weekends. So I give myself some slack on those. Call me lazy, I call myself realistic. But also lazy.

And what about you? I’d love to hear from other expats/folks living abroad, but also to any of you who moved to a new place and had to re-figure out your workout routine. What’s worked? What’s failed? 

Annnnndddd I happened upon this fantastic video the other day, which sparked the idea for this blog post, which you NEED to watch. It will just make you smile, and then maybe want to go do push-ups on the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, jump rope in the middle of downtown Shanghai, or do jumping jacks on the edge of a canyon in South Africa. Much love to NerdFitness for this gem. 

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3 responses »

  1. I was just thinking about blogging about this topic myself! What works for me is doing some routines from a cardio kickboxing class I used to take, and also using youtube (assuming that internet is available during your travels) to follow some zumba videos- the routines for which I can never remember unless somebody is standing in front of me leading it!

  2. I really struggle with this. I joined a gym because I kept using the weather as an excuse not to go running outside (it’s always rainy in Galicia!!) and that’s worked a little better, although when I’m busy it’s still easy to make excuses. I think the best thing for me would be to take a class or join some sort of team…or at least get a running buddy, because then I’d feel like I was letting someone down if I didn’t go.

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