Roadwork Ahead – Staying Fit(ish) on the Road
Updated: Jan 4
People often ask me “Tom, how do you stay so ripped after a long stint on the road, drinking beer and eating s’mores (or “schmoes” in the words of Buzz Lightyear). Actually, no one has ever asked me that, but I do like to imagine that someone might. Or that they would notice me at all. Truth is, I’m lazy. Newton's First Law: My body, when not in already in motion, prefers to remain as such. Plus our Lafuma camp chairs were made for nappin' and relaxin'.
So if you're looking for health and wellness advice, you're in the wrong place. You should be talking to a health and wellness expert. Or a wealth and hellness expert if you want to get rich. All I can offer you here are some poorly researched opinions with a dusting of roadside platitudes. You get what you pay for. No pain no gain. And so on.
But in all seriousness, while traveling can sometimes feel like one long camping trip (where you are constitutionally guaranteed to have as many hot dogs and beers as you want), when you are a traveler – and you ramble round the calendar – a few modifications to the lifestyle eventually become necessary. So how do we do it? How do we stay model thin and gorgeous on the road? Well, clearly we don't, but if you're willing to settle for still holding your own in a Walmart – then read on.
The age-old equation is simple:
Calories Out >= Calories In * (the “my metabolism is slowing to a fucking crawl” Age Factor)
Why don't we begin with Calories In
Calories In (aka Yum)
I consider carbs to be more deity than dietary concern. I think bread is better than sex and drugs and only slightly behind rock n’ roll. My spouse, while far more disciplined with portion control than I am when dishing up pasta; has a certain weakness for chocolate and sweets. Hence, we both struggle a bit on the In part of the equation; and we haven't even talked about ice cream yet.
So please take my advice here with a grain of tasty white bread.
Nevertheless, some basic strategies can help:
Don’t go to the grocery store hungry (“hello chocolate chip muffins and croissants!”)
Eat two meals a day
No car snacks
Cook for yourself and keep restaurants to a minimum
Avoid Interstates where Popeye's Chicken and Waffle House's whistle to you every 10 miles
And, don’t get stoned, like ever
We accomplish all of this with varying degrees of consistency and success. Case in point, just the other night we polished off an entire bag of chocolate covered almonds. Why? Because nuts are good for you. That, and we were stoned.
Other days, we don’t do so well.
So, while your best health results will be achieved when you are similarly disciplined about the calories going in as out; I tend to focus on the calories out end of the equation where my will power can be more easily tricked and manipulated.
Calories Out (aka Roadwork)
Hiking: Take advantage of the fact that you’re visiting beautiful places. If you’re in a National Park, State Park, National Forest, etc., hiking is your go to. Ask for the map and recommendations at every campground and park office when you arrive. Shoot for a minimum of 2 hours a day, either as one hike or a couple shorter ones. If there is a beautiful 10-mile hike with 1500’ of elevation, pack water and snacks, and just go for it. Just do it. (Note to self, coin that phrase.) Bumbler Tip: we like to go first thing, before it gets too hot, but even with coffee, my brain is still only semi-functional at that hour. I have to rely on this list of things to bring. The bear spray is the big one not to forget.
Walking: Walking is what you do when visiting cities or other flat places. Same principles apply as with hiking. Do your sightseeing by identifying the stuff you want to see and connecting it all on foot, not by car or public transport. Go hard. Go long. But feel free to stop at a pub.
Jogging: If you’re a runner – slogging is a great way to sightsee. We do this in places where it’s pretty, but maybe not as epic as a National Park. It’s perfect for small towns, city parks, and any sort of campground; especially if you’re there for a few days and have already seen some of the interesting stuff minus the sweat. Running in new places is easier and more fun than doing your usual familiar route at home. In a novel environment, your mind is distracted by what you’re seeing and is also busy navigating. That leaves less brain function to focus on the monotonous torture that is running. We typically add calisthenics to our runs by stopping at park benches for dips and push-ups, and at viewpoints to do arm circles, lunges, and other nonsense. So even a little county park campground where the whole circuit is 1.5 miles can feel like a pretty good workout when you do all that.
Biking: Long topic – but we don’t bring bikes on our trips. Lots of people do and it gives you another option if you’re in that camp. For how often we would ride, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze of transporting them. Instead, when we find ourselves in a great place to ride, we rent bikes and try to make a full day of it. We’re big fans of electric bikes too which give you two or three times your normal range. If biking is more your thing than running or hiking, by all means, bring them. With our set up, we have yet to find the bike carrier solution that doesn’t either require constantly moving them, cleaning road grime off them, or protecting them from theft. Usually all three. So, if you’re having to deal with any of that, you want to be riding them 4 or 5 times a week and we just haven’t found that’s warranted by the places we travel. I could, however, imagine a trip designed around biking. There are hundreds of amazing cross-country bike paths out there now that you could build an itinerary around, to say nothing of the many mountain biking meccas. Or, if you’re the type of traveler that likes to spend weeks or months in the same location, bikes start to make a lot more sense.
Yoga: Yoga is good. Yet, somehow we never seem to do it. Unless you count trying to put on my socks in the morning. When did my feet get so far away from my hands? I also get a bit of exercise just by constantly moving the yoga mat from place to place in the back of the truck. Nevertheless, because yoga is good for both mind and body I suggest that you do it. Just don't be douchey about it and post in on Instagram like this dork.
Pickle Ball: Do not start with me. Pickle Ball and I have a little history. But okay, sure, fastest growing sport in the known universe, easy to learn, gentle on the knees, blah blah blah. Bring your gear. There are courts everywhere (even on my favorite, former basketball court where I can no longer play basketball...).
Weights: Some people bring small dumbbells on the road (Lori brings a large one shaped like a husband). Theoretically, it’s an easy thing to do when in camp. But like the Yoga, I seem to lack the will power for it. I’m better once I’m out on a run and already sweating anyway. Lori brings those little ankle weight things and busts them out on the yoga mat sometimes while I rest.
Sex: We’re too old. But if you’re into that, I’m told it’s fun and good exercise if you know more than one position.
Travel Days: We are aggressive travelers, so we put in quite a few truck miles in a typical week. Those 300-mile days can be tough on the exercise regimen and murder on the diet because, even if you avoid the Interstate, there seems to be a Dairy Queen about every 20 minutes. But no matter what, when we touch down, we try to get out for a walk to explore our new campground. Unless we're stoned and still at the DQ working our way through the menu.
Now get out there and relax.