Many digital nomads, unlike myself, lead fit and active lives at home and they’re often worried that they may not be able to keep in shape when they start working and traveling. Well, we’ve got good news for you – there’s no reason you can’t stay fit as a digital nomad.
How do you stay fit as a digital nomad? Well, we’ve found that you can Google for a gym, set up time to workout, rope a friend into help, set goals, join a sports club, take a fitness class, hire a personal trainer, find an online workout plan, hit the pool, go for a walk, have an adventure or visit a local park very easily as a digital nomad.
12 Ways To Stay Fit As A Digital Nomad
So, here they are – the 12 ways that every digital nomad can achieve personal fitness without breaking the bank.
Get On Google And Find A Gym
I regularly stay in apartment complexes where there’s a gym on-site. With the exception of Manila where the gym was $20 a month and in Saigon where it was $40 a month – these facilities have all been free to use.
Now, I get that some of you have more specialist needs from a gym than others. The gym in Saigon was world-class, as was the one in Manila, most of the free ones have had a bunch of free weights and a few machines in a semi-operational state (in Saudi Arabia, I managed to put together one working exercise bike by stealing components from the other 5).
However, if your apartment complex doesn’t have a gym, I guarantee there’s one within walking (or cycling) distance. Just google “gyms in xyz place” (pick the neighborhood name and not the city name for best results).
Don’t waste your time watching Chris the Freelancer or some other half-witted YouTuber test out gyms in a city. You don’t need the “best gym ever”, you need one that you can get to easily.
If you’re not sure if a gym has a specific facility – call them, e-mail them or ask around on Facebook.
Set Aside Time For Fitness
I am overweight and ought to have been exercising for far longer than I have been. However, I now “workout” that is I go for a brisk walk or long swim for 30 minutes every day, no excuses.
I work from home – so it is impossible to pretend that I don’t have time for this. The only way a digital nomad doesn’t have time to work out is if they don’t make time for it. When you plan your day, plan for 30 minutes a day doing something exercise-like.
If you’re smarter than me, you also ought to fit in a couple of free weights sessions each week. Then you will retain your body strength as well as your stamina.
You burn a lot more calories each day, even after you have stopped exercising if you do half an hour’s exercise each day. In fact, Harvard estimates that it’s nearly double!
A note of caution, however, if you have, like me, done no exercise for years – you need to start slowly and work up to 30 minutes a day. It took me about 6 weeks in the pool to go from 5 minutes swimming and 10 minutes walking to 30 minutes of non-stop circuits. Don’t rush things and don’t hurt yourself.
Find A Friend To Support You In Your Fitness Regime
Hate getting fit because you find it boring? Then find a buddy to motivate you (e.g. whine at you when you don’t do what you said you would do) and to keep you company while you do.
I’m lucky that Megan is one of the few South East Asian people I’ve ever met who is happy to go on long walks with me. Sadly, she’s not as keen on swimming, so when I swim, I’m on my own but actually… I appreciate some alone time, so that’s fine by me.
You know yourself best. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if and when you need it.
Have Some Fitness Goals
Digital nomads are often very good at setting and achieving work goals but they often have no real goals in their personal lives. I find targets motivating. It is easier for me to write, for example, when I say – “write 6 articles and you can stop for the day” than it is to “write for a long time”.
The same is true when I work-out. If I try to go for as long as possible, I fizzle after about 10 minutes. If I say, “30 minutes and then I’m done”, I can keep going all the way. No excuses.
Fitness goals are better than weight loss goals too. While it’s easy to slip back into eating sugary crap or drinking too much beer (note: I’m guilty of both these things), it’s much harder to pretend that you’ve done your 10,000 steps for a day when you’ve only got up twice to go to the bathroom.
Join A Club Dedicated To A Sport Or Activity
Even in the most remote places, there’s always a group of people who like to get together and do some sports. There’s a rugby club in Chiang Mai, for example. In fact, there’s a growing rugby scene in Northern Thailand.
There are cycling clubs, running clubs, fell racing clubs, yoga clubs, etc. just about everywhere. Get on Facebook or Google and find them and then go join. If organized group fun is what you most like about exercise, you can find it everywhere in the world.
Take A Fitness Class
If you don’t know where to begin, if your motivation sucks or you just want to learn something new – again get online and find somewhere nearby that can teach you a new sport.
We don’t see too many digital nomad pole dancers out there but guys, there are plenty of pole dancing classes and salsa dancing too for the men like me that should never, ever try and suspend their weight from a pole installed by South East Asian engineers.
Zumba, Pilates, whatever it is you can find somebody out there teaching it.
Engage A Personal Trainer
Not every destination will have English speaking personal trainers available, but most will. Some are legally affiliated with a local gym, others are illegally advertising their services in Facebook groups. It doesn’t really matter either way – it’s not like there have been any arrests of people exercising in South East Asia (at least not for exercising).
A personal trainer can bully, cajole and motivate you to get fit even when you don’t want to. They also can help you get fitter than you might do by yourself by helping you more effectively work out all your muscles.
Look For An Online Workout Plan
If you’re not into the social side of exercising (and bluntly, I’m not, though I am happy to walk with just about anyone as long as the scenery is OK) then you can find gazillions of workout routines on Facebook, YouTube, Google, etc.
Pick anything you like and commit to getting your 30 minutes a day out of it.
Hit The Pool
If you’re in South East Asia and not too far North (like Hanoi) and if you rent a condo there’s a very good chance you’ve got access to a free swimming pool. This is one of the biggest perks of digital nomad life and we’re really grateful for it. Swimming is one of the best exercises you can do and it cools you down on a hot day.
If you don’t have access to a free pool, Google for public pools and hotel pools you can swim in – it’ll still be reasonably cheap to swim.
Go For A Walk
You don’t need a gym to stay fit. You may need one to stay toned on every small part of your body, but a long brisk walk is perfectly adequate exercise. It’s also free to do and can be done absolutely everywhere (though try to stay out of the midday sun if it’s too hot outside, you don’t want to collapse of dehydration).
I like to go for a long walk just after my first batch of writing in the morning, or in the early evening before I settle down to do a few other things.
Consider Having An Adventure
Ziplining, bike riding, white water rapids, hiking, mountain climbing, etc. can all be great ways to work out and to get to see the place you’ve chosen to be a digital nomad in.
We’ll note that ziplining in South East Asia doesn’t have the best of safety records, but we’d also note that neither does ziplining in America and it’s still far safer than cycling on South East Asian roads.
Check Out A Local Park
Here in Hanoi today, when we take a walk down by the West Lake there are dozens of tiny parks complete with 3-4 exercise machines. They’re completely free to use. There are free machines in Saigon too. Also in Lumpini Park in Bangkok and loads of other locations.
If there are no machines, you can always go for a jog or a run round the park. It’s safer than running on the road and the scenery is usually much nicer. It’s one of the perks of being a digital nomad, the freedom to set up your day so you can spend time outside.
It’s not hard to stay fit as a digital nomad as long as you are motivated to do so. We’ve found 12 ways to stay fit as a digital nomad and there are probably many more. Taking care of your body will make both work and travel easier for you. You’ll also live longer.