I have a tendency to wistfully pack some workout clothes each time that I start packing for a trip…hoping that maybe this time I’ll have the willpower to force myself into those tiny hotel gyms a few times while on vacation or while away for work. And then, when I return home, I shamefully pull out those unused workout clothes and put them back into the drawer, promising myself that I’ll do better next time. But the reality is that, more often than not, I get in more of a workout while on vacation than I do on a weekly basis when I’m just sitting at my desk all day. Before you start kicking yourself for avoiding that crappy hotel gym, take a look at some of the other ways that you can stay in shape while on the road.

Check your steps: Sometimes the best exercise comes when you’re not planning on it. We find that the best way to see a city is by walking it (when possible). Snap on a fitness tracker or upload a step counting app to your phone. The CDC’s recommended activity breaks down to between 7,000 and 8,000 steps per day; we found ourselves taking 20,000 steps or more each day in Paris last month…and we got that same exhausted, feet-aching feeling at the end of the day that one gets after a long run on the hotel treadmill….except we had better views.

Checking out the "love locks" on the Pont des Arts in Paris.

Checking out the “love locks” on the Pont des Arts in Paris.

Join a walking tour of the city: If you don’t want to wander the city on your own, join a “free” walking tour. These tours often cover several miles of sightseeing, and you often meet like-minded travelers on the tour. There are often many themed walking tours, so you can often find yourself joining two or three over the course of your stay in the city.

Get lost: Sometimes it’s more fun to set out into a city without a map, and to just find your way around. You’d be amazed at the cool shops and restaurants that you come across when you’re not actually looking for something. One word of warning, though—make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes, or else you’ll end up like Patrick, who still regrets the day he wore flip flops in Kuala Lumpur….walking over a dozen miles in flip flops does very bad things to your feet.

Walking 12 miles in flip flops leads to some not-so-happy feet in Kuala Lumpur.

Walking 12 miles in flip flops leads to some not-so-happy feet in Kuala Lumpur.

Take advantage of the hikes and trails: I’m one of those people who seeks out the “fun” hikes that are close to whatever location we’re traveling to, and then I drag Patrick along with me. When we were in Hawaii, we took a break from the daily beach and shaved ice routine and hiked the Diamond Head Summit Trail in Honolulu. We got amazing views of the island that we wouldn’t have seen from anywhere else. 2011-05-29 03.47.31While in New Zealand, we started what we thought was just a basic day trip, and then found ourselves scrambling down the side of a volcano on the Tongariro Crossing. Or, find alternate ways to see the same sights that you have planned; for instance rather than taking the elevator up the Eiffel Tower, plan on climbing its steps—bonus: the line is shorter, and the tickets are slightly cheaper.

Jetlag gym run: If nothing else, there’s always the hotel gym for staying in shape while traveling…which definitely comes in handy when you’re awake at 3am. We often struggle to use the hotel gym, even when there is one, because it feels like we’re taking away time from seeing the sights of whatever location we’re in. So, if jetlag kicks you out of bed at 3am (and there aren’t a lot of worthy sights to take in at 3am), head down to the gym and put in some time on the treadmill. It’s better than tossing and turning in bed, and it may keep your energy up during the day.

If all else fails, sometimes it’s okay to put away those unused gym clothes at the end of the trip and then make up for those lost workouts the next week. Don’t let it get to you. After all, it means that instead of spending time in the gym, you were out and about seeing and experiencing things that you cannot see while stuck on an elliptical.

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