Staying Fit Abroad
I can't believe it's already been a year since I left for my semester in Sweden! I've been receiving messages this week from excited study abroad students who are doing their final preparations before leaving, and it had me thinking a lot about my time away. One of the things I was worried about was how I would stay in shape while surrounded by delicious treats everyday.
Growing up as a competitive swimmer, I am pretty used to having a solid fitness routine. Even when I quit racing competitively, I continued to keep active and go to the gym. However, I didn't want to spend money on a gym membership while I was away, as I was hoping to save my money for traveling and indulging in the treats Sweden had to offer.
So, I had to come up with a solution to staying fit without the gym in a new country. The first step is a bit obvious, but make sure you're prepared by bringing one or two workout outfits and a good pair of sneakers. If you don't end up using the sneakers for working out, at least they'll make traveling a lot more comfortable.
Being in a country like Sweden made staying fit much easier, as we had a biking path that led directly to our campus, and the bike lanes there are plenty and spacious. When the off-campus international students (including myself) arrived in Sweden, many of us picked up bikes from the campus bike shop so that we were able to get to campus quickly.
Biking was the most ideal way for me to get cardio in. I'm always game for a little cardio without even trying, and while wearing my normal clothes for the day! Plus, biking is a great way to see the area around you at the same time.
The path near my residence was also used heavily by people out running. While I tend to avoid running majority of the time, it's a great way to get out and enjoy the fresh air if you like doing that. Running is a great activity as you don't need to pick up any extra equipment, and you can choose how long you want to go for.
Strength Training & Toning
Since cardio is not the only activity I do when I work out, I was always sure to add a bodyweight workout and some stretching too. I was lucky enough to have extra space in my room to workout in, so if you have the space, take advantage of it. Otherwise, I'm sure there are places outside that you could probably utilize as fitness space.
Before doing any home workouts, my friend Amelia and I stopped by a local fitness outlet store for yoga mats. While it's not necessary to have any equipment, a yoga mat can make a home workout a lot more comfortable. We picked up a mat each for only around $15 Canadian, which is very reasonable, and considerably less than a gym membership.
After we had picked up our mats, they actually opened up a yoga studio at the top of our residence. So, we signed up for a free class, grabbed our mats and took advantage of the bright studio with a beautiful view.
I recommend checking around the area you're in for some different workout classes. Many studios will offer a free drop-in class as a trial, so take full advantage of those! Even if they're not in your first language, you can always follow along with the movements. Also, don't be nervous if you're not great at a certain type of workout. You may discover something new you love along the way, which is great considering studying and living abroad is all about trying new things, right?
If you want to keep your workouts in the confined quarters of your room so you don't have to sweat in front of other people, that's fine too! This is something I still do, as I love finding great workout videos online to try out.
Start by picking the type of workout you are interested in. Want a quick, full-body workout? Try doing a video that targets every part of your body by doing various movements. I like this video here by PopSugar Fitness. I have been trying out several of the PopSugar Fitness videos from their YouTube channel, and I really enjoy them. They do movements that help tone your body from head-to-toe, and you can do them pretty quickly too. If one isn't challenging enough for you, try pairing it with another video.
If you're in the mood for a little ballet barre (my new favourite type of workout), try doing a quick video like this one here. All you need is a chair and less than ten minutes to do this workout! It targets your thighs, butt and abs, so it's perfect if you're looking to hit those target areas.
Another workout with some barre influence that also targets the thighs and sides, is this one here on the YouTube channel LoveSweatFitness. This one definitely challenged me and she fully explains the moves so you can easily follow along.
If you're looking for fitness videos that are really challenging, I love the Insanity workout series. I completed the videos about two months ago and they were the hardest workout videos I've ever done, but they left me feeling so much more satisfied with my fitness level.
You have to purchase these videos, but if you want a sure way to stay in shape abroad, then these could be worth the money and space in your suitcase. A blend of cardio and body-weight strength training, these videos range from about 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. You will finish feeling sweaty and sore, but looking more toned the ever.
The only issue with doing Insanity abroad is that you need to follow a strict schedule and do these workouts 6 days a week. If you are going to be traveling a lot, or you know you won't be able to find a solid hour to fit these workouts in, then I would recommend sticking with one of the other options.
How did you stay fit while you studied or lived abroad? If you're about to go on your adventure, how do you plan on keeping fit while away?
If you're about to study abroad or are interested in doing so in the future, check out my other study abroad posts to make sure you're on the right track in your preparations or for some music to use as your new cardio playlist while abroad.
Also, check out my Pinterest board here for advice & tips on studying abroad.
Until next time,