How I Kept My New Year’s Resolution to Complete 365 Days of Fitness – Working Out All Over the World
HAfter walking for miles through the snowy Norwegian forest, I finally reached my cabin in the woods. Piling wood in the open fireplace, I lit a match and watched the frost begin to melt. But even with my limbs tense from the icy exterior, I wasn’t done moving and stretching for the day. It was going to be a challenge to set up a routine here, but I was committed to my New Year’s resolution: training every day for an entire year.
My Norwegian Airbnb listing had suggested there was exercise equipment here for guests – but after searching the cabin from top to bottom, all I could find was a pair of Olympic rings. Thinking, “Why not?”, I hung them from a sturdy ceiling beam and nailed an hour of pull-ups before going to relax in the cabin’s wood-fired sauna.
Before 2022, I would never have imagined that I would be building makeshift gymnasiums over a weekend, but after committing to the challenge on New Year’s Day, I quickly found immense joy and satisfaction. finding creative ways to sweat – no matter where in the world I was.
As a travel writer and content creator, I spend most of my time on the road. Like anyone who travels a lot for work, being constantly on the go meant constant excuses for me not to train. Early morning flights, delays, poorly stocked hotel gyms – I’d pick any reason out of thin air, but over the past year and after the resolution, I realized there was literally always a way. Whether you’re in Prague for a conference or in Barbados for a beach vacation, exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it can significantly enrich the experience.
The rules of my fitness and travel resolution were simple: as long as I got in a workout of at least 45 minutes, it didn’t matter what it was. I could take a hotel instructor course, go rock climbing, do gymnastics, or lift weights. Of course, I also took into account “rest days” – during these days I could do yoga, run, cycle or go swimming. It was the variety and destination specific activities that made it fun, not a faff.
Naturally, there were occasional mornings where I had to wake up stupidly early to do squats and push-ups at 4am before leaving for the airport; but for the most part it meant trying dozens of new things. I lifted weights in outdoor gyms in Miami and Barcelona; I rented a bike and cycled along the rainforest trails in Panama. I would strive to find the fun and the unusual, whether it’s the unique “flamingo yoga” class at the Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas or a long coastal swim in waters filled with stingrays, sea turtles sea and sharks (very friendly) in the neighboring resort of Atlantis.
I worked my heart out mastering a paddleboard on the waters of Millpond in the Caribbean, took on a sandboard in the deserts of Peru, and swam on ice in freezing Finland. (When I say “swimming”, I mean I lasted seven seconds tossing about in the water. But I’m sure Wim Hof would say it was good for you.)
Things didn’t always go as planned. I quickly ushered my yoga mat inside after spotting a terrifying snake slithering through the Costa Rican foliage. But for the most part, my workouts have brought me nothing but joy.
While the kit was hard to come by at some hotels, the facilities at others made things even more fun and challenging. Highlights included trying water aerobics during a visit to Therme Spa in Bucharest, Romania, defying gravity in an aerial yoga class aboard a cruise ship, and taking on the ‘Warrior’s Challenge’ – a grueling but fun beach obstacle course at the Four Seasons in Pointe Mita. I even sweated it out at Heathrow airport taking advantage of the Peloton exercise bikes that not everyone knows are available in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounge.
As 2022 drew to a close, I found that my sessions on the road encouraged me to get a little more adventurous with my workouts back home in London. I’m now swapping some of my old regular gym sessions for something I’ve tried on another continent, whether it’s a kickboxing class, kayaking on the canals, or a rowboat ride on the river. It’s surprising how effective they are, too – although routine is important for success, I’ve found that by mixing up my style of exercise, I challenge both my body and my mind, not to mention muscle groups that I didn’t even know I had.
What’s more intriguing is that I’ve found that you can get a real feel for a place by engaging with its fitness communities. Some locals took me out for tacos in Mexico City after showing me how to use a gym’s calisthenics kit, while new friendships were made after taking a HIIT class with a Colombian fitness instructor I had met the previous night in a Bogota nightclub.
I’d always thought traveling meant personal enjoyment – spicy margaritas were my vacation’s best friend, often skimpy before flights in case of a hangover – but my daily goal put that into perspective. I started to be more sober and overall make better choices. There’s nothing quite like knowing you have a 6 a.m. spinning class to make you reconsider that fourth tequila.
I didn’t change any part of my travel plans or work structure to achieve my goal – I just used whatever kit I could find and joined the groups I’m on fall. As a result, I feel fitter, stronger and healthier than ever, and the constant supply of endorphins has also helped keep my mental health in good shape. But more importantly, I created memories and friendships, and it is for this reason that I intend to take the challenge in 2023 and beyond. What started as a whim in January transformed my life as a traveler and made me love adventure and fitness even more.
Calum’s top tips for staying fit on the road:
- Don’t be put off by the lack of equipment – hotel gyms tend to be under-equipped, but a few dumbbells are definitely enough for a quality workout.
- Learn the basics of calisthenics – understanding how to build strength using your own body weight means you can exercise effectively anywhere.
- It doesn’t have to be expensive. Hotels and resorts often offer fitness classes at no additional cost, local gyms often offer a free trial, and outdoor gyms are usually free.
- If you don’t know where to find a decent workout, ask around. Your hotel concierge or Airbnb host can usually point you in the right direction.
- Embrace the unusual: if you hear of a hotel group activity or a local course, go for it! It can be as much an overview of your destination as a tour or landmark.