Staying fit when traveling can become a challenge. After yo-yoing for the best part of the last decade, putting on weight during a trip and losing it on a watermelon-based diet when back home, I decided to finally put a stop to it. I had to find a healthy regime that I could stick to both at home, where I do not have a gym subscription, and on the road. To help me keep track of my progress and find inspiration and help, I asked fellow travel bloggers and nomads who are constantly on the move as well as my boyfriend who is an exercise guru, and his body building trainer and friend for advice. Here are a few fitness apps to keep fit when traveling. Choosing one is a matter of personal preference but the good thing is that most of them have basic free subscriptions that let you test the waters before committing.
1. MyFitness Pal Review
I have been using this one for the last three months to track what I eat, drink and all the exercises I do. The MyFitnessPal free version gives you access to pretty much everything you need to track your progress. You can input measurements and weight as well as BMI and pretty much 99% of the foods you eat, including pre-set meals from major brands from across the world, are included in its ever expanding database. And if something is not there, you can also add your own preset meals. The easy to use interface, both on the app as well as on desktop, makes it pretty quick to enter every food ingredient and its weight. If you have the same breakfast every day, you can copy one day to the next. All the major exercises you can do on the road are available in the exercise database or you can custom enter it in yourself if you have tracked calorie consumption and duration with a different resource. To make things even easier, you can integrate MyFitnessPal with a range of other devices and resources like Apple Health or the Pacer App (see next point) and all the range of fitness wearables like Fitbit and Garmin Fenix.
What is MyFitnessPal great for: You will not get any exercise ideas or ways to lose weight from this app but you will be able to track everything so that you can see how you are progressing and analyse what is making a difference. For example, if you decide to change your diet and remove the carbs from breakfast, you can see how that impacts your weight and measurements. You can also upload pictures of yourself to see how you are evolving. By tracing what you eat and understanding the main drivers of your calorie intake and the make up of those calories (carbohydrates vs. protein vs. fat) I also made better choices. I would be given options for meals and check what was healthier with MyFitnessPal. You will surprised how many myths I busted by looking at the data. For example, I never realised how much sugar there was in the milk that is sold in Singapore, up to 20g of sugar per glass. Back in Europe our dairy is not sweetened so it never occurred to me that milk could be so sugary. Especially on the road, when all you can eat is unhealthy, being able to check the composition of several meals helped me pick the better of the bad.
Things to consider when using MyFitnessPal: The only limitation I found between the free and paid version is the ability to track macronutrients on an aggregate level which is not really important if you just want to look at total calories but becomes relevant if you are trying to reach a protein/fat/carbohydrate split. The premium version also allows you to download your data which is useful if you want to analyse it or send it to your personal trainer to check it out. MyFitnessPal also needs the internet to allow for data input so you will have to wait until you have it to record what you ate, which makes it harder to remember, it is incredible how short our memory is. Lastly, because MyFitnessPal is crowdsourced and anyone can enter new foods, there are often several results for the same simple food and the composition and accuracy of the data can be hard to discern at times. When I see varying amounts of calories and breakdown of macronutrients for the same food, I check the nutritional values online and then pick the right one. Because the app records foods, if you are eating out, you will have to try to break down the ingredients of what you are eating to calculate the calories. This may be tricky if you are eating at an elaborate restaurant. That option will appear next time when you search for the same food, so you can identify it or I simply create “my own food” with the correct macronutrients and use it next time.
2. Pacer app Review
Pacer is a pedometer app that works on your phone and uses the GPS sensors in your phone so you don’t need to use a separate pedometer. Aside from this basic functionality, Pacer also gives you exercise routines that you can do anywhere without any equipment or a gym. Most of them can even be done in your bedroom or living room. There are four degrees of difficulty and each routine lasts for 16 weeks with increasing levels of intensity every week. Because you can link Pacer to MyFitnessPal you can automatically have your exercise and your food intake together for tracking.
By default, Pacer will not only track your steps but also the time and the stairs you climb. You can use it to record runs or activities as well as track the default movement. Pacer gives you trends and evolution and allows you to set goals you can work towards, like completing 10,000 steps a day, which it will help you achieve with notifications. If you get the Premium version, you can get a virtual coach as well as provide a specific health program based on current and target goals on weight and BMI. This includes exercise routines, meal guidelines and sample meal plans. The virtual coach also keeps you on track reminding you everyday of your progress and providing daily tips on a healthy lifestyle.
What is Pacer great for: If you want something simple to stay healthy without major commitments or hassle this is a great app that does not require any additional wearables.
Things to consider when using Pacer: You need to carry your phone everywhere for the app to keep track and this may seem obvious but it is easy to forget when you are on holidays and you are out and about at the beach or at the hotel. Although the routines are an easy way to fit in 30min workouts pretty much anywhere, they are generic and one size fits all, so they are a good way to kickstart a healthier and fitter plan. But you will have to upgrade after the 16-week default timeline after which one of the other fitness apps might be a good option.
3. Bodyspace Review
Edwina from Traveling German uses Bodyspace to stay fit on her travels. “It has a ton of features designed to build and track your personal fitness program. You can choose from pre-built programs by famous athletes or other community members, or build your own. I usually build my own workout sessions using their library where you can pick which muscle you want to exercise and the app will show you all exercises targeting that muscle. You can also filter by equipment to narrow down your options. I then try some of the exercises with the highest user ratings. When I’m motivated, I track my entire workout and enter my results in the app to see my progress. The app lets you track exercises with details on weight, repetitions and number of sets; cardio exercises can also be tracked. You can then see your progress on each exercise and get an alert when you reach a personal best, for example. There are community features that allow you to share your results with friends as well.”
What is Bodyspace great for: Its workout library is a great way to find alternative exercises to do when you’re in a gym that doesn’t have the same machines as your usual gym, or when you don’t have access to a gym at all. Edwina also travels “with a set of resistance bands for travelers which come in very handy in those cases, and Bodyspace helps me find exercises to do with the bands as well.”
Things to consider when using Bodyspace: You will need internet to find the right exercise so make sure to build the workout before leaving the WiFi zone. Also, filling out every exercise from a workout with repetitions and weights can be very time consuming so it is great to have a pre-built workout program to follow.
4. Kayla Itsines’s Bikini Body Guide Review
This one is for the girls. Margherita, the full time travel blogger and nomad from The Crowded Planet, tells me her secret is Kayla Itsines’s Bikini Body Guide (BBG), an ebook with a 12-week workout plan. “The ebook can be purchased on Kayla’s site for about €50, or you can subscribe to the app for about €15 a month. The app is constantly updated and includes recipes and other material besides the workout plan.”
Margherita says, “I first started using the BBG while recovering from a running injury, to train my upper body – and I kept using it while I traveled. You need to complement workouts with low intensity training such as running, cycling or walking fast, something I do anyway when I travel.”
What is Bodyspace great for: People with great commitment like those who radically change their bodies in 12 weeks require a high level of commitment in time, energy and food intake/preparation. If you are looking to change the way you look, this will give you results.
Things to consider when using the Bikini Body Guide: The guides use specific equipment such as Bosu balls or weights, which you may not have access to when you travel but can replace with common day objects like water bottles instead of weights, steps or chairs instead of benches, or simply stick to the exercises for which equipment is not required. Beware, the Before and After photos on her site are amazing, but “The workout plan is quite tough at first”, say Margherita. Nonetheless, she highly recommends it.
5. Aaptiv app Review
Aaptiv is a paid workout and meditation app that brings the power and motivation of a personal trainer to your headphones. Alana, from The Wild Gut, is a food and travel blogger teaching others how to make their own fermented food and where there is a foodie, there is a fitness fan because, the more you exercise, the more Nutella you can eat!
“Aaptiv has 11 different types of workouts: Treadmill, Outdoor Running, Elliptical, Indoor Cycling, Yoga, Strength Training, Walking and 5K/10K/Half Marathon/Full Marathon Training. Plus, three newly added sections: meditation, a monthly challenge and a curator playlist. The monthly challenge encourages you to try specific focused workouts. As a frequent traveler, I find Aaptiv to be an invaluable tool for keeping my fitness level on track. With class sections that include spinning, yoga, treadmill, elliptical, strength training and outdoor running programs, I can chose from a variety of workouts without having to plan my day around a gym’s class schedule.”
“The best feature of Aaptiv is the strength training section. These classes combine strength moves with high intensity interval training for a complete strength and cardio workout requiring no equipment, only bodyweight. They truly can be done anywhere, so not having access to a gym is never an excuse to miss a workout. Aaptiv also offers monthly challenges which layout an entire month of workouts so you can plan ahead and follow a program designed to give you results. Additionally, the meditation classes provide the user with introductory classes to prepare you for self-guided meditation. What sets Aaptiv apart from the competition is the continuous addition of new material. I pay a yearly fee and have unlimited access to hundreds of classes with new options being added every week. I don’t have to repeat workouts but I like that I have the option to do so.”
What is Aaptiv great for: Those looking to continue having a fitness community without the physical presence. Alana started to use Aaptiv when she relocated and had to leave the fitness community she loved, knowing that she would not be able to be long enough in one place to find local classes to attend.
Things to consider when using Aaptiv: The only downside to this app is that the workouts cannot be downloaded, so you will need a wifi or data connection to use it. Aaptiv has stated they are working on this feature and it will be included in a future update.
6. 7 Minute workout Review
Marianne from Mum on the Move uses the 7 Minute Workout when she travels. This high intensity workout takes you through 12 exercises (jumping jacks, abdominal crunches, press ups, plank, squats, lunges etc).
Who is the 7 Minute workout for: Time starved people that want the highest return for the lowest time investment. According to the people behind the workout, training at high intensity with very little rest in between each exercise makes this the equivalent of a 30+-minute traditional resistance-training session. Marianne has a new rule when she goes on holidays: “Nobody gets to indulge in a happy hour mojito until they have completed their 7 Minute Workout.”
Things to consider when using the 7 Minute Workout: It can get repetitive if you are doing it every day, as you cover the same 12 exercises each time and “its results in the long term may be doubtful,” says Marianne, “but as a way to keep your fitness up while traveling, I love it.”
7. Fit Living Lifestyle Review
When it comes to the challenge of staying fit on the road, one of the resources Sarah uses, and also recommends to fellow travelers, is a site called Fit Living Lifestyle which her husband runs. There are multiple tools on the site, from free to paid, that are useful to those who are wanting to maintain and/or boost their workout routine when they are away from home.
Sarah says, “one of my favorite free tools is the workout scheduler which helps keep you accountable by allowing you to schedule a workout online. This then triggers a reminder that is sent to you a few hours prior to your scheduled time. The blog often publishes useful articles for travelers like the Hotel Room Workout or 4 Fitness Tips for the Traveler. Of the paid tools, the one I use most is the Online Workout Database. For just $10 per month I have access to almost 1,000 browser viewable, downloadable or printable workouts, many of which can be performed anywhere and with little or no equipment. The workouts include images, description and videos showing each exercise. I find this to be great value for me as it’s difficult to stick with the same routine when you are always in different places. Plus the variation keeps me from getting board. There is also an option to purchase Online Fitness Training sessions which include one on one consultations via Skype or email and customized workout programs based on everyone’s specific needs. This is a great option for those who need the extra motivation and inspiration to help stay on track when traveling or want to get their questions answered.”
Who is Fit Living Lifestyle for: People who are constantly on the road and need a location independent fitness program so that you can exercise both at home as well as on the road with whatever you have available.
Things to consider when using Fit Living Lifestyle: Fit Living Lifestyle requires at least a basic knowledge of exercise. If you have never worked out before you should definitely start with some in person guidance to make sure you know how to use correct form.
8. Yoga.com review
Who is Yoga.com good for: Trisha starts us off by saying that “Yoga.com is great for those who don’t even do yoga professionally. Their programs are directed mostly to healing and feeling good (i.e. back pains). Yoga.com’s exercises are timed as opposed to lengthy Youtube videos which you will find dragging most especially if you are practicing alone.” She adds that “the app is user-friendly even if you don’t have a certified yoga teacher, and lets you customise the voice-over in every session so you feel like you are practicing with an instructor.” The app is also free for Android and $4 on iOS.
Things to consider when using Yoga.com: “The exercises won’t be available offline unless you download it prior to traveling. I also think you can’t use this app for free — I was asked to pay right away upon downloading it on the app store. However, $11 is not too bad if you are going to use it frequently!”, Trisha says. The app size requires 1.5GB of space so consider before buying. Users have reported the app crashing often but it seems this issue has been fixed. Even the paid version has advertising which deters from the peace and calmness of meditation and yoga.
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