Why Its Important to Get In Shape For Travel - Stair Climbing

Why It’s Important To Get In Shape For Travel

At the beginning of the year, everyone is thinking about their new fitness goals. Losing weight and getting in shape are probably two of the top New Year’s resolutions people make. 

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There are many good reasons to get in shape for travel.  Here are just a few:

  • You are planning to visit London, how hard can that be?  If you’ve ever had to walk up about 10 flights of really steep stairs with your carry-on in tow because the escalators broke down in the tube station, you know the answer to this.
  • How much do you walk each day?  Do you use a step counter and try to hit that magic 10,000 steps each day? That’s great! But, on an average day touring in any given city, you will walk between 15,000 – 20,000 steps or 6 to 8 miles. 
Get In Shape for Travel - London Tube Escalators
  • Suppose you are headed to see the Great Barrier Reef or the Galapagos and will be spending time snorkeling.  Training to swim in deep water for over an hour at a time might be a good idea.
  • Last but not unimportant, you know you want to look good in your travel photographs—especially those taken at the beach.

Traveling can be exhausting. You are seeing and doing things every day that are different.  You push yourself to go further because who knows when you will be back here again.  Your body needs to be ready. This is why I take time to get in shape for travel.

Disclaimer here:  I am not a fitness guru or exercise nut, just a writer who likes to travel.  My recommendations are based only on my personal experience with what makes travel better for me. 

General Tips To Get In Shape For Travel

Trick your brain.  When you are ready to get in shape for travel, try to create your upcoming adventure conditions while you’re still at home.

Walking on a treadmill is good exercise.  But your muscles react differently to walking on city streets or rugged terrain than they do walking on a piece of equipment at the gym. It’s better overall to get your exercise outside.

Carry some weight with you when you walk. Hikers should test out nearby trails with weights in a backpack.  City walkers should carry a day pack with their camera, water bottle, and other things they would typically have on them as they tour. 

Stair Climbing

Combine resistance and endurance training to boost your strength for your entire trip. 

Plan to give your body the time it needs to get used to the heavier “Lift” you are asking.  If you can, join a gym, get a personal trainer, and start a fitness class quite a while before you depart.

Walking a mile or so a day the week before you head off on your trip will get the blood flowing, but it will not give you the strength and endurance you want.

Improve Your Flexibility  – Stretching Is Important

Get In Shape for Travel - Yoga Meditation

It is essential to prevent injuries when you exercise or travel, and being flexible helps.  There are many ways to improve your flexibility, from general stretches to yoga or pilates. 

Yoga studio is a fantastic app with preprogrammed routines from beginner to advanced users and lets you stitch together your own routine.

Stretching After a Work Out

You can also find great stretches online like these stretches for runners from Medical News Today.  Or try stretching targeted for beginners if you’ve never done this type of exercise.  As always, you can find a wealth of videos on YouTube to help you on your way.

Some will tell you to stretch before your walk/run; others will say to stretch after.  Both or either time is good. You just want to make sure to loosen up your muscles.

Start Your Training By Increasing Your Cardio Stamina

Walking is a great way to get in shape for travel

As a writer, I work from home and have a pretty sedentary work life.  If your 9 – 5 sees you at a desk like mine, you may need to spend more time physically training for travel.

Cardio training is the easiest way to get in shape for travel.  You don’t need fancy equipment, just a good pair of shoes, and you are off to the proverbial “races.” Find an activity you enjoy.  It can be as simple as walking or more complex like trail running.  The point is to get moving.

Running is great to get your heart rate up

As they always say, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime.  From there, you can start small.  Do just a quick ten-minute walk for the first few days.  Once you are in the swing of it, build up the length of your walk or run as your body gets stronger. 

Vary your cardiovascular routine by climbing steps, riding a bike, swimming, or even dancing.  The point is to get your heart rate going.

Just a suggestion, walking on mostly flat paved surfaces isn’t going to prepare you for the cobbled streets and stairways of Rome. 

Add-In Strength Training  – You Will Need It To Carry Your Bags

Unless you are wealthy, you will be the one carrying your suitcase(s).   Even if you get bags on wheels, you still have to lift them into the plane’s overhead and carry them up and down the stairs that are everywhere.

Lift that Bag

Most US airlines don’t have a carry-on weight limit, but European Airlines do.  However, a typical carry-on bag that is 22″ x 14″ x 9″ can weigh as much as 40 pounds when fully loaded.  This is a lot of weight to be lifting over your head or carrying up several flights of stairs. 

Use strength training for your shoulder and back muscles to get in shape for travel.  Bonus, you will be ready for the stress of lugging your luggage all over the place for a couple of weeks.

Not Worried About Suit Cases?  OK, But What About Day Packs?

On days when you aren’t relocating from place to place but just touring your environs, you will still be carrying more weight than you usually do at home.  You probably have a day pack that you take with you each day as you head out to see the sites.

You most likely will have a bottle of water, a camera, and other essential items in your bag.  You want to have these things with you, but the load gets heavy quickly on a day out exploring.  Especially when you are walking everywhere.

Tourists In Nice France

Also, I tend to add things to my day pack as the day goes on. I shop and add those trinkets get added to the bag.

This is why strength training is a critical part of a plan to get in shape for travel.  You don’t want to ditch the bag and camera.  So build up the strength in your shoulder, leg, and abdominal muscles to help you carry what you need.

An easy way to get used to a day pack is to take one along on your training walks.  A few weeks before heading off on your trip, start walking around with a bag filled with a couple of bottles of water.  As you get in shape for travel, you can add more stuff to the bag. 

Fitness Apps And Wearables To Help You Get in Shape For Travel

There are a few fitness apps I use to help me meet my goals.  One of the first wearables I got was a  Fitbit.  I loved this product so much that even after I got my first iWatch, I continued to wear my Fitbit.  Now Fitbit has many different watches and trackers so you can choose what works best for your lifestyle.

Fitbit Charge 2
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AllTrails is an app I use to find good trails for walking to increase my stamina.  You can filter routes by type and difficulty.  AllTrails has trails for you in over 30 countries. You can download the app at the AppStore or on Google Play and use the free version as much as you like.  There is a pro version for just $2.50 / mo with many more bells and whistles for the avid trekker!

Need a fitness coach, but don’t have any money for that type of expense?  Search YouTube.  You won’t have someone right by your side motivating and correcting you.  But you can find the next best thing with literally thousands of fitness experts sharing their exercise routines with the world.

You Encounter A Lot Of Stairs When You Travel

In Europe and Asia, the “Old World” cities were built to hold off or at least slow down invaders.  This often meant small streets and steep roads lined with uneven stairs. 

Stair Walking at the Great Wall of China

Many ancient sites, churches, cathedrals, and castles are at the highest point of these cities.   Because of their location, these beautiful sites often harbor the best views.

Do you want to walk the Great Wall of China or climb the streets of Mount St. Michel in France?  Maybe you want to test the acoustics of St Pauls’s Dome in London or kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland.

You won’t believe how many stairs you have to walk up to get to the top of these wonderful locations.

The photography of and from these fantastic locations is incredible, but getting there can be tricky. Often there is no alternative to walking up and down hundreds of steep stairs! There are no ADA requirements for ancient ruins. 

As you get in shape for travel, consider that you will be walking all these steep streets and stairs.  You will want your legs (the quadriceps or front of your thighs) and your bottom (gluteals) to be ready to take you to new heights. 

Where To Find Stairs To Practice On

If you happen to live in a two-story home, you have a built-in trainer, the stairs!  You can work each day to increase the number of times you go up and down the stairs. 

Don’t just walk upstairs and then, like me, sit down and work at your desk for an hour or so.  Try to go up and down the stairs three or four times in a row. 

After you have mastered that little workout, increase your repetitions.  Try to do this without holding onto the wall or stair rail.  This will help you build balance and coordination.  Again, old buildings often don’t have rails to hold onto.

16th Avenue Tiles Steps San Francisco

If you don’t have stairs in your house, think about a place near you that does.  Usually, the local mall will have stairs to go between levels.  I know most people use escalators.  But that just means the stairway will be free.

Many bigger cities will have neighborhoods with steep streets and stairs.  Good examples are San Francisco’s 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. In Los Angeles, the Silverlake area is noted for its views and stairs. To get an idea of the stairs in this area, watch Laurel and Hardy and the Piano. You can google your city and stairs and find them nearly everywhere.

Take your time and work at your own pace.   You are likely to have some sore muscles in your legs at the beginning of your practice. This is the number one reason to get in shape for travel; it is much better to have sore muscles at home than on the road.

Your goal is to simulate walking up one of the excellent sites you will be visiting.  For reference, you need to walk up 528 steps to get the highest level people can go in St. Pauls’ Dome.  If you are feeling lazy that day, you can stop at the Whispering Gallery, just 257 steps from the cathedral floor.

Needless to say, you will then need to walk back down. And you shouldn’t take walking downstairs for granted. 

Depending On Your Travel Plans You May Want More Specific Training

We have a trip planned to the Galapagos for the first time a little over a year from now.  Along with the Galapagos, we will be visiting Machu Pichu. Two very different locations, but oddly often done together. 

The Galapagos will be seven days of hiking, swimming, and snorkeling.  Of course, this is the best way to see all of the incredible animals on the islands.


Machu Pichu is 7,972 feet above sea level.  And Cusco, the city where nearly everyone starts their trek to Machu Pichu is 11,152 feet in elevation. We will have a couple of days to acclimatize to the altitude, but not hiking at that altitude.

My plan to get in shape for travel to these unique places over the next year is to a) spend a good deal of time swimming, b) take hikes in various nature locations along the shore, and c) as we get closer to our trip, spend some time up in the Mountains to get used to hiking at higher elevations.  

If your travel plans are for a that will entail unusual situations, consider these needs as you plan your fitness training.

Ready, Set, Go!

Why do you want to get in shape for travel?  We each have our reasons and desires.  But here you have some suggestions to easily add steps to your regular exercise routine.  We all want to get the most out of our travels.  Feeling strong and healthy is the best way to go.  Happy Travels Everyone!

Now that you are geared up to get in shape for travel, read some Tips for Staying Healthy When You Travel!

Want To Read More About Planning For Travel?

Get In Shape for Travel

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