Top health and fitness travel tips from SWEAT Trainer Chontel Duncan

Chontel Duncan

As a fitness trainer, I often find the biggest challenge for myself and my clients is maintaining exercise and healthy eating while travelling. I’ve found the most common reason we struggle to adapt our routine or don’t bother to maintain our healthy habits when travelling is a lack of knowledge of HOW to modify for travel — the result can be overindulging and feeling frustrated when we get back home and have lost our momentum.

For this reason, I want to share my top tips to help you maintain an active, healthy and balanced lifestyle when travelling. These tips are designed to help you make the best choices possible to help you fuel your body and enjoy every moment of your travels. It can be challenging, but once you arm yourself with the right knowledge, you are able to make more informed decisions and implement new healthy travel habits to give yourself the energy to jump out of bed each morning ready to explore!


Get organised with a packing list

The start of any trip can be stressful. We spend a lot of our energy focussed on packing and the logistics of getting to the airport - as a mother of two young boys I understand how this process can feel overwhelming!

You can remove some of the stress by creating a concise to-do list to go with your itinerary a week before you travel. Each day, work through your travel ‘to do list’ and tick off each item as you go. Have a packing list for each member of the family and tick off each item as you pack it. For those with children, put the list on the fridge at home so the kids get involved and help you get organised. Remember this is a team effort.


Flight meal prep

Meal prepping is a key part of my daily routine and something I always look to adapt and maintain when I travel. Without snacks on hand I end up buying food which is not as good for me and leaves me feeling flat. To help myself stay on track, I always make sure to have a stash of quick, healthy snack options that I can have on hand at the airport, on the plane and once I land. Some great options are;

● Lightly salted popcorn
● Natural energy, protein bars or homemade energy bites
● Bananas, apples or grapes
● Rice cakes. Some good toppings are;

- Peanut butter
- Sliced cheese
- Spinach, tomato and ham
- Tinned tuna
● Veggies sticks

- Carrot
- Cucumber
- Capsicum
- Broccoli
- Cherry tomatoes
● Tzatziki or hummus dip
● Peppermint tea bags

When it comes to selecting from the in-flight menu, choose a meal with a predominantly vegetable base with protein on the side. Try to avoid heavy cream or sauce-based meals that can make you feel lethargic. If the options available aren’t appealing, ask for some fresh fresh fruit, cheese and crackers to create your own little grazing board.

Flying can be really dehydrating so I always make sure to drink one litre of water 30 minutes before I get on the plane. I keep a water bottle easily accessible to sip on throughout the flight. As soon as I land, I fill up my water bottle and sip from it on the way to the accommodation.


Snacks, snacks and more snacks

Firstly, try to book a room with a microwave and small refrigerator so you can store and cook up quick and easy meals - this will help to prevent you from diving head first into the mini bar or missing breakfast on those early morning starts. I always pack protein powder, rolled oats and a microwavable container so I can have these as a snack in between meals or for breakfast.

Whenever I book travel, I always aim to find accommodation within walking distance of a grocery store. As soon as I land I’ll go for a walk and stock up on snacks like fruit, vegetable sticks, nuts, nut butter, rice cakes. etc. that I can have on hand at all times. I will also look for microwavable packets of vegetables and rice to eat for a healthy lunch or dinner. Whether you’re on a guided tour, or just relaxing by the pool, it’s easy to forget to stay hydrated — so make sure you always have a water bottle on hand. Set an alarm to remind yourself to have a drink of water every 30 minutes or a snack every one to two hours to keep your metabolism going and reduce fatigue.


Get Active

When I last traveled, I researched each location I stayed at. I knew I wouldn’t always want to train at the hotel, so I found local gyms that provided day passes for circuit and HIIT style workout classes. This became a fun way to explore different styles of training popular in that location and get me out of my comfort zone! I would have a class or a group session booked for myself and friends to attend first thing in the morning, followed by a walk to breakfast at a local cafe. Starting my day off with a workout and a good breakfast provided me with an incredible boost of energy to enjoy the adventures of the day.

If you are sight-seeing, consider a walking or cycling tour, and look for local walking trails. Activities like swimming are great low intensity cardio exercise that gets your whole body moving. If you’re by the beach try water sports like snorkeling or surfing.

If I can’t find a local gym near my accommodation, I will do exercises from my FIERCE program that I can do in my hotel room. Below is one of my favourite full-body AMRAP workouts that you can do in a hotel room or at a local park.

For this workout you’ll do three laps of three exercises with 40 seconds on and 20 seconds rest before moving onto the next exercise. Once the first lap has been completed rest 60 seconds. The total workout will take 20 minutes to complete!  


Do this FIERCE Workout while travelling:


Double-Pulse Squat

Concentrate on your technique with this exercise, focusing on maintaining a strong  contraction in your core and glutes. Ensure you are not leaning forward during the  movement and keep a neutral spine.  

Step 1
- Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position. 

Step 2 -  Inhale. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your  knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your back remains between a 45- to 90-degree  angle to your hips. This is called full squat position.  

Step 3 - Push through your heels and extend your legs slightly. Bend your knees to return to full squat position.  

Step 4 - Exhale. Push through your heels and extend your legs to return to the starting position.

Repeat for the specified amount of time. 


Bent-Leg Jackknife

The bent-leg jackknife is an effective exercise to strengthen the abdominal muscles. To get the  most out of this movement focus on the quality of each rep, maintain a neutral spine and move  slowly!  

Step 1
- Start by lying on your back on a yoga mat with your arms extended above your head.  Engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button in towards your spine and  elevate your legs off the mat slightly. This is your starting position.   

Step 2 - Inhale. Bend your knees and using your abdominals, draw them in towards your chest,  ensuring that your feet stay together. At the same time, bring your arms forward towards  your feet, slowly lifting your head, shoulder blades and torso off the mat.   

Step 3 - Exhale. Slowly lower your arms and extend your legs to return to the starting position,  but without lowering your feet to the floor.    

Repeat for the specified amount of time. 


Tricep Push-Up

Tricep push-ups performed on your knees are an excellent progression in building upper  body pushing strength. Make sure you keep your elbows tucked into your sides, your  hands just under your shoulders keep a straight line from your head to your knees. For  the best results, lower yourself to the ground under control then generate as much force  as you can to push yourself back up to the starting position. For an extra challenge, try  doing them on your toes! 

Step 1 
- Place both hands on the mat shoulder-width apart, feet together on the mat behind you  while resting on your knees. This is your starting position.   

Step 2 - Inhale. While maintaining a neutral spine, bend your elbows and lower your torso  towards the mat, ensuring that your elbows remain in close contact with the sides of  your body.  

Step 3 - Exhale. Extend your elbows to lift your body back into the starting position.    

Repeat for the specified amount of time. 


Mountain Climber

Mountain Climbers get your heart rate and work almost every muscle group in the body  (deltoids, biceps, triceps, chest, obliques, abdominals, quads, hamstrings and hip  abductors). It's a total body workout in one exercise! 

Step 1
 - Place both hands on the yoga mat shoulder-width apart and both feet together behind  you, resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position.

Step 2 - Keeping your left foot on the floor, bend your right knee and bring it in towards your  chest.   

Step 3 - Extend your right leg to return to the starting position.

Step 4 - Keeping your right foot on the floor, bend your left knee and bring it in towards your  chest.

Step 5 - Extend your left leg to return to the starting position.   

Continue alternating between right and left for the specified amount of time, inhaling for  four mountain climbers and exhaling for four mountain climbers. 


Enjoy local cuisine

What’s travel without delicious local cuisine! One of my favourite things about travel is the opportunity for new culinary experiences with my friends and family. I never sacrifice an opportunity to enjoy local foods because of how “unhealthy” it might be. However, I do take some steps to ensure I am able to enjoy without overindulging and abandoning my healthy habits.

So often on holiday we go to dinner feeling ravenous after a full day of activities and will tuck into the bread basket and order based on our level of hunger. Before you order your main, try ordering an entree of vegetables or salad. Once you have some food in your tummy, then make a decision on your main course. With every main meal that you order, try and add an additional serving of vegetables or salad for added fibre which will assist with digestion and help to prevent you from overindulging.


Post-travel organisation

One of the hardest things about traveling is returning home and struggling to get back into routine. Approach your departure as you did your arrival - with a plan and to-do-list. On my way home, I always write out my first week back so I know exactly what I need to get done and what goals I want to achieve. In the face of unpacking, washing and getting back to work or study, be realistic with yourself and set achievable goals for the week.

Although it might take a little bit of planning, there are many ways to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle when travelling. Try to minimise stress by doing your research and having steps in place that will help you to keep active and maintain a healthy diet. Most of all, be kind to yourself and enjoy!

About Sweat

SWEAT is the world’s largest digital platform for women’s health and fitness, offering women around the world the best advice, education and workouts to support them on their journey. SWEAT currently reaches a community of over 45 million women around the world, providing access to over 400 recipes and 1,600 exercises. The SWEAT app is translated into eight different languages and is available in 155 countries on the Apple Store and available in 136 countries on the Google Play Store. Head to sweat.com to get started today! 

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