A life on the road, or the ‘vanlife’, as it’s popularly known, is the epitome of freedom. It’s an unconventional lifestyle that trades four walls for the limitless bounds of nature. With the majestic landscapes as your backyard and an ever-changing horizon to chase, the opportunities for exploration and stunning photography are endless. But amongst the romance of open roads and starry skies, it’s easy to overlook a crucial aspect of this lifestyle – maintaining physical fitness. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the unique challenges and opportunities of keeping fit whilst embracing the vanlife.
1. Harnessing the Power of Nature
The unique advantage vanlifers have over their city-dwelling counterparts is their ever-changing, open-air gym – the great outdoors. Whether you’re parked by a tranquil lake, a lush forest or a mountain range, there’s always a way to adapt your workout routine to suit your surroundings.
Mountain Workouts: When you’re in the hills, take advantage of the steep terrain. Trail running or brisk hill walking is a fantastic way to build cardiovascular fitness and lower body strength. If you’re more adventurous, rock climbing not only improves your strength and flexibility but also provides an adrenaline rush.
Beach Workouts: If you find yourself by the sea, the sandy shore offers a versatile platform for a range of workouts. From beach volleyball, frisbee to circuits of burpees, push-ups, and lunges, the uneven surface of the sand can provide an added challenge to your workouts, increasing their intensity.
Forest Workouts: Forests are not just for serene walks. They’re an excellent location for trail running, which can be more engaging than running on pavement or a treadmill. The irregularities and obstacles along forest trails can engage muscles that often remain dormant during flat runs.
2. Exercise Using Your Van
Your van can be more than just a mode of transport and a place to sleep; it can double up as your personal gym. Here are some ways to transform your van into a workout hub:
Strength Training: Parked vans can serve as sturdy support for bodyweight exercises. Tricep dips, inclined push-ups, or step-ups can be performed using the bumper or the back of your van. If your van has a sturdy roof rack or ladder, you can use it for pull-ups.
Flexibility Training: The space inside the van might be limited, but it’s just enough for a mat. Use this space for stretching exercises, Pilates or yoga routines. An early morning yoga session inside your van, overlooking a beautiful sunrise, could be a great start to the day.
3. Portable Fitness Equipment
Limited space doesn’t mean limited equipment. There are various compact and lightweight fitness tools that can easily fit into a small storage space within your van:
Resistance Bands: These compact, lightweight tools can provide a full-body strength workout. They come in varying levels of tension, allowing you to adapt the intensity of your workout as your strength increases.
Jump Rope: If you have some outdoor space, a jump rope can offer an intense cardiovascular workout. It’s an excellent tool for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions.
Yoga Mat: A yoga mat is versatile; it can serve as a comfortable base for stretching, yoga, Pilates, or other floor exercises. Choose a mat with good grip and cushioning for comfort.
Suspension Trainers: Portable suspension trainers like TRX systems can be attached to a sturdy part of your van or a strong tree, providing a wide range of bodyweight exercises.
4. Tech-Assisted Workouts
In today’s digital age, your smartphone or tablet can serve as your personal trainer. Numerous fitness apps offer workout programs catering to different fitness levels and goals.
Fitness Apps: Apps like ‘MyFitnessPal’, ‘Nike Training Club’, and ‘7 Minute Workout’ offer a variety of exercises and programs that can be tailored to your needs. Some apps offer real-time coaching, others feature workout routines that can be downloaded and used offline – a handy feature when you’re parked in a spot with no network coverage.
Online Fitness Classes: Subscription services like ‘Peloton’ or ‘FIIT’ offer live and on-demand classes ranging from cardio and strength training to yoga and meditation. All you need is a device and a decent internet connection.
5. Prioritising Routine and Consistency
While the vanlife is associated with freedom and spontaneity, establishing a consistent fitness routine is crucial. The timing could vary based on your preference; some might prefer a sunrise workout, while others might choose to exercise during sunset. What’s important is maintaining the habit. It’s better to do shorter workouts regularly than longer sessions sporadically.
6. Incidental Exercise
Incorporating physical activity into your daily tasks is a fantastic way to stay active. Think cycling to the local market instead of driving, or doing a quick set of exercises each time you stop for fuel. You could also adopt practices such as ‘Park and Walk’ – parking further away from your destination to get some extra steps in.
7. Fuelling Your Fitness
Maintaining a balanced diet on the road can be challenging, especially when quick and easy options are more tempting. However, proper nutrition is essential for effective workouts and recovery. Plan your meals ahead, prioritising lean proteins for muscle repair, complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, and plenty of fruits and vegetables for necessary vitamins and minerals.
8. Importance of Rest and Recovery
Amidst the excitement of the open road, one must not neglect the importance of rest and recovery. Ensuring you get a good night’s sleep is essential for muscle recovery and maintaining overall energy levels. Gentle recovery exercises, such as yoga or stretching, can help avoid stiffness and enhance flexibility.
Vanlife presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges for fitness. But with a bit of creativity and a willingness to adapt to your changing environment, staying fit on the road isn’t just achievable – it’s an adventure in itself. Here’s to embracing the open road, chasing horizons, capturing stunning images, and maintaining a strong, healthy body that allows you to live your dream to the fullest.