Travel and Exercise
For most people, travel is a time to indulge and forget about the routines you have back home. Exercise is not usually a priority. However, in my case, I’m going to be traveling full time so I have to find a way to keep healthy and exercise along the way.
Cardio will be pretty easy as it will naturally fall into my lifestyle. I enjoy hiking and I will be doing a lot of it in the abundance of French countryside. By the time I work my way towards the South of the country where it gets more mountainous, I hope I’ll be fit enough to start tackling those hills which will really keep the heart pumping!
As well as hiking, I’ll also be doing a lot of cycling. Something I’ve not mentioned before (but will cover in another post) is that I have bought a bike to get around locally. It will not be often that I can park the motorhome right at the place I want to be. Most of the time, I’ll need to park in a designated space and then find my way to the final destination. This is what I’ll use the bike for.
But cardio is only part of the equation. Another rather big part is weight training, or at least strength training. For many years I have had a (seldom used) home gym. I had a weights bench, a long bar, several small bars for dumbbells and a whole bunch of weight plates so I could do a lot with that setup. However, most of the time I preferred a real gym anyway.
I did look into the possibility of using a gym on my travels. Many countries have national gym chains. You pay a single membership fee and you can use any branch which seems ideal. France have one called Basic Fit which has 135 branches across the country.
There’s two problems with this approach. Firstly, that’s only France. Yes they do actually operate in several other countries in Europe but in other countries they are too spaced out to be practical. France is just the starting point. I could spend years traveling and visit a great many countries along the way and I need a solution that will work anywhere.
The other problem with gym chains in general is their location. When I started to delve into the actual branches of Basic Fit I found that they were all in the busiest inner city locations which makes perfect sense as they can attract the most clients.
But I don’t like cities and will be spending the vast majority of my time in quiet, rural areas. Really, I needed to find a way to work out on the motorhome.
Obviously, the gym gear I had at home could not possibly fit on the motorhome. Not even a regular set of dumbbells would be practical as they are too bulky and too heavy. But then I looked into the possibility of adjustable ones.
This is a set that I bought second hand. By moving the little switch on the right of the pic, you select the weight and the way it works is that it will pick up or leave behind certain weight discs in order to set the correct weight. What this means is that I have a set of 5 dumbbells, 2g – 10kg for the space and the weight of just a single 10kg one.
Today I had intended to go to the gym as I have joined a local one for three months. However, I totally forgot that they shut at 2pm this week due to Christmas. So it was the perfect opportunity to test out the weights on the motorhome!
Exercise in a small space
Using only dumbbells is not a problem. It’s amazing what you can do with just this equipment alone (and your own body.) There are no shortage of dumbbell only workouts online to choose from. The challenge here is the very limited space.
I did have a few bumps and had to make adjustments. I performed most of the exercises in the kitchen area as there is slightly more space there, but not much! I did bump into cupboards a couple of times and had to change angles.
Anyhow, enough waffle, this is what I was able to do. These were just off the top of my head on the spur of the moment. If I do a little online research I’m sure I can find more. What I was trying to achieve was a full body workout. If I can do that, I can refine it into a proper split routine.
- Lunges – I found it difficult to do weighted ones as the dumbbell discs are quite wide and kept bumping into cupboard doors. However I suck so much at lunges that bodyweight ones only will be quite effective for now!
- Goblet squats – These worked really well. The wide discs made it very easy to hold the dumbbell vertically and I had enough space to get a nice deep squat.
- Stiff-Legged deadlift – this was quite effective for the hams and hits the lower back too.
Ahh legs, often neglected but oh so important! In gyms I love doing leg presses. The lack of heavy weights will be the main problem here. A max of 10kg is limiting on the goblet squat. I could always try it with my gas bottle lol!!
I could also add in weighted calf raises but forgot at the time. If I was in a fairly secluded area and the weather was okay, I could also do step ups on the van door areas as the step is quite high up!
- One arm row – I used the edge of my couch as the bench and lowered the weight into the galley that runs down the middle of the van. This worked well.
- Bent over two-arm row – Usually I would do this with a barbell. I didn’t get the same range of movement as the discs are quite bulky but it was okay.
I’d usually do either pull-ups or pull-downs in the gym or a seated row. These two exercises didn’t quite feel fulfilling but it’s a start.
- Incline bench press – what, how did I get a bench?? I used a bit of creativity here… I sat down on the floor with my back against the couch and my legs under the table. I was able to angle myself in a similar way to an incline bench and I was supported by the legs of the bench. A bit odd but hey it worked!
- Incline flyes – from the same position as before I was able to do flyes as these lowered sidways into the galley area.
So i can’t really do a flat press like a traditional bench press but the incline is a reasonable substitute. Dumbbells are good for these exercises as they give a good range of movement. I could also do pushups…
Arms – Biceps, Triceps, Shoulders
- Bicep curls – several variations I can do with these, no problem
- Shoulder press – when I first did these I sat back in the couch and tried to use it as a bench with back support but I whacked the dumbbell into the underside of a shelf, oops! So I had to sit forward without back support but that’s not a bad thing as it brings in stabilizing muscles.
- Front raise – I had to do these one arm at a time
- Lateral raise – easy, just stand sideways in the galley
- One arm tricep extension – I did these sitting as I was worried about hitting the roof! As with the shoulder press, I had to sit on the edge of the couch to avoid hitting the shelf.
- Crunches – enough room in the kitchen
- Plank – again, on the floor in the kitchen
- Side bends – easy peasy as long as I did one side at a time
I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been able to do. Obviously it’s not as good as a fully equipped gym with specialised equipment and heavy weights but it’s a heck of a lot better than nothing and will certainly do for the first year.
I’m not trying to be a bodybuilder, I just want to do weight training for the numerous health benefits and to help with fat loss.