Running is a go to workout when exercising at a campsite, rest area or a trail.
So you built your new camper van and you are on the road. Everything is going great and then it hits you. “How am I going to stay fit?” or “How am I going to stay healthy with van life?” You ponder all the scenarios like not having a fridge for fresh food or those long drives that go on for days. Well have no fear I will show you how to stay fit and healthy with van life.
Staying fit is not that hard once you convince yourself you don’t need a gym membership. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Mountain Biking
- HIIT(High Intensity Interval Training)
See what I mean? Staying fit with van life can actually turn into a fun even adventurous journey. It opens up a lot more creative opportunities unlike that dusty treadmill you used to hang clothes on.
You can get great views as a passenger but you can also get in a great workout as well.
Get That Workout In…..Passenger Style
Remember those long days of driving you were worrying about? Well don’t sweat it…or do because I have the answer. I will explain how to get your workout in whether you are in the passenger or driver’s seat.
Let’s start off with getting fit in the passenger’s seat, shall we? You have a little bit more freedom than the driver. Do 50 repetitions of each exercise. Then repeat 2 to 3 times over or more if you are feeling froggy. Also add in some free weights to intensify the workouts. Otherwise just use your own resistance.
- Bench Press-You will be sitting upright and pushing forward with your arms instead of lying down and pushing up.
- Chest Fly-Again you will be upright instead of lying down. Your arms will come together and then out. You could always put your seat back for the original version. The same goes for the bench press.
- Shoulder Press-Your arms are raised above your head and then back down to your shoulders. You can also put your arms in front and do the same motion to work different areas of your upper body.
- Bicep Curl-Your upper arms stay motionless, palms facing forward curl arm up towards the shoulders.Then back down.
- Tricep Extensions-Your hands should be behind your head between the shoulder blades, elbows bent pointing up. Lift arms so they are straight above the head. This will be tricky in a vehicle so alternate if you need to. For example, take your arms to the front of you, keep upper arms still and bend your elbows side to side horizontally.
Adding free weights to your upper body exercises can make it more of an intense workout.
- Front Lateral Raise-Raise your arms(keep them straight) in front of you and then back down again.
- Sit Ups or Crunches– Put your seat back like your lying down and start working those abs by curling your upper body towards your knees or halfway.
- Bicycle Crunches(with or without the legs)-If you don’t have the space to move your legs no need to worry. Just lift your shoulder blades and crunch over to the opposite leg as if you were doing it with the legs.
- Russian Twists– Your seat being back will help so you can lean back without touching the seat. Raise your feet a little off the floor. Cup your hands together and twist towards your hips side to side with your hands.
- Knee Lift-I prefer doing this holding onto a weight with my ankles but it’s your choice. Have your back straight and upper body motionless. Start lifting your knees toward your core or straight up.
- It’s hard to do most lower body workouts sitting down in a small space, so I contract my leg muscles. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Then release. Repeat.
- Punches, Hooks, Uppercuts– It’s time to break a sweat so do these at a faster speed. Aim your punches as if you are trying to make an X in front of you.
- Speedbag-Yes there is a boxing theme going on here but it’s effective. Pretend there is an object in front of you. With your hands in fists, circle them quickly forward as if you are hitting the object. You can reverse the motion to work different muscles.
- Cardio Knee Lift-It’s like the knee lift but you lift one leg at a time very quickly.
Contracting your muscles then release is a way to keep from getting too stiff in the driver’s seat.
Drivers Go Solo Or Join Your Passenger With This Workout
You will not be able to do as much as the passenger but you can still do the contract and release exercises. Again do about 50 repetitions of each exercise. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
- Start by contracting the muscles in your arms. You can even move your shoulders up and down or roll them. You can roll in circles or front to back.
- Your chest and core is next. You can move your chest forward and back or in circles left to right. Now to your core. Contract and release your muscles in your abs and back. You can even do a slight crunch by lowering your chest and lifting your pelvis up.
- Get those legs going with contracting those muscles and then release. If you got the van in cruise control on a long lonely road you can do a slower knee lift. Just make sure not to hit your knees on the steering wheel.
It doesn’t seem like much but you will feel it after all those repetitions. I can’t stress this enough, safety first. If you as the driver can’t focus on driving and doing the exercises, then don’t do them. Your best bet would be to take frequent breaks and go for a quick jog or do a HIIT workout in a rest area.
Rainy days in the van can get gloomy but you can still get a fitness routine going.
Rainy Day? No Excuse With This Van Workout
You are at your camp spot and there’s 7 days of rain in the forecast. How am I supposed to stay fit and healthy with van life now, you ask. Well If you’re like me and can’t sit still, I have a solution. Here’s some suggestions on how to stay fit through those rainy or 60 mph windy days.
- Get those free weights back out because you will be repeating the same workout with the same repetitions like the passenger seat upper body exercises.
Again repeat the core exercises you would in the core passenger seat workout. Luckily, you don’t have to alternate these positions like you had to in the passenger seat. Another plus side is that you can add more core exercises to your fitness routine since you will have a bed to do them on. Here’s a list of examples:
- Bird Dogs– You are on all fours. Extend opposite arm and leg out. Then bring your elbow to your knee contracting your muscles. Repeat on the other side.
- Superman-Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front. Lift all four limbs off your bed. Hold. Then lower them.
Side plank is a good way to keep your core in shape.
- Plank-This position is similar to a push up before you actually go down. Shoulders are above the wrists and body is straight. You can do so many variations of this move like side plank, side plank extensions, planks with crunches, plank to push up, etc.
- Shoulder Taps-Get into plank position. Take one hand and touch the opposite shoulder. Do the same on the other side.
- Mountain Climbers-Get into plank. Bring one knee to your chest then the other. You can do Cross Body Mountain Climbers which your knee touches the opposite elbow.
- Long Arm Crunches-You are on your back. Extend your arms straight past your head with your hands together. Then lift your upper body.
- Reverse Crunch-Lie on your back. Lift your knees toward your chest using your lower abs.
- Diamond Crunch-Lie on your back with your legs open in a diamond or butterfly shape. Your toes should be touching each other. Crunch up with your torso and lower. Intensify this with having your legs in the air keeping the diamond shape.
- Clam-Lay on your side with knees bent out in front. Your feet should be together but off the bed. Lift your top knee then lower. Repeat on the other side.
- Bridge Up-Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the bed. Raise your pelvis up and then lower back down.
- Fire Hydrant-You are on all fours. Lift your bent knee up to the side of your body then lower. Repeat on the other side.
- Donkey Kick-You are in the same position as the Fire Hydrant but instead of your knee going up to the side you kick up with your knee bent behind you.
- Side Leg Raise-Lay on your side in a straight line. Then lift your top leg up then lower. Repeat on the other side. You can also make this harder by lifting your bottom leg up to touch the leg on top as it lowers.
If you are a fan of Pilates then you know that you can get a decent workout in with that small space. Don’t forget about Yoga. Some positions you are very capable of doing in your van including:
- Cat/Cow Pose
- Happy Baby
- Boat Pose
Biking is a great workout to keep you in shape and allows you to explore new territories.
Endless Fitness Routines At Your Campsite
Finally you have a bigger space and freedom to really get fit with van life. This opens up options listed in the beginning of the article like a HIIT workout, mountain biking, yoga or hiking. There are also other ways to turn your campsite into a gym to keep your body looking good and healthy. Such as:
- Is there a low strong tree branch? You got yourself a pull up bar.
- Are there any big flat rocks near you? Get your step aerobics on.
- What about those big 6 gallon water jugs sitting there? Strength training is waiting for you
- See a hill in sight? Intensify your morning run.
See what I mean? Just get your fitness creativity going and you have a full fledged gym right there in your campsite. I’ve even utilized the van for flexibility training for standing splits support.
Having portable gear is very useful with van life especially for storage options.
Van Life Exercise Gear
If you are the type who likes exercise equipment, here are some suggestions that could fit well with van life:
- Yoga Mat-The Toplus yoga mat is good to keep from slipping and eco friendly.
- Free Weights-Prosource Fit dumbbells are simple but so useful to add to workouts.
- Resistance Bands-This Ketia resistance band set will help tone your body in various types of workouts.
- Hula Hoop-This Fitness hula hoop gets your abs in shape and breaks down for easy storage options.
- Desktop Punching Ball-The NSG Desk Top Boxing Set is great if you have no one to spar with.
Of course, don’t forget about:
- Running/Hiking Shoes-Both New Balance and Merrell are sturdy shoes for your workout needs.
- A Sturdy Water Bottle-Nalgene is a trusty go to brand that has BPA free options.
- A CamelBak or small backpack-I’ve found these backpacks to be very useful for small hikes, biking or running.
- And a high five to yourself for staying fit and healthy
What you eat is just as important as exercise. Make sure to get a good variety of healthy food.
Don’t Forget To Eat Healthy
Staying healthy with van life is more than just exercise. You have to eat right too. You need to make sure you are not only getting enough calories for your workout but enough nutrients as well.
If you are like me and don’t have refrigeration(or a kitchen for that matter) in your van, no need to worry. Here are some tips and tricks to eating healthy without perishable foods:
- Dry Goods-Stick with whole foods like brown rice, oats, or quinoa. Couscous is quicker to hydrate than rice if you don’t have a lot of fuel. You can also opt for a granola cereal in the morning instead of oats.
- Fruits and Vegetables-Even if you can’t make them last for a long boondocking trip, you can fill up in the beginning. Switch to the canned version when you run out.
- Nut Butters-It could be peanut or almond butter. Either way, it’s a good staple food to put on some whole wheat bread or a tortilla with some honey.
- Trail Mix/Whole Grain Snack Bars-You can buy at the store or make your own.
- Seeds-Chia, flax and hemp seeds provide many nutrients and can sit on the shelf for a long time.
- Spices-They add a good kick to the flavor of your food. Plus spices are packed with many health benefits. Don’t forget about your nutritional yeast for added B vitamins.
If you have a cooler you can pack out some cold items like almond milk, 60% dark chocolate, or guacamole dip. As you can see you can get a good variety of healthy food. This will ensure to keep you fit both inside and out while you are living van life.
Yoga is a perfect way to clear the mind, stay flexible and fit.
Keeping Your Mind Fit And Healthy
This is often overlooked, but so important. Life can be very stressful including van life. If you are stressed out all the time then it counteracts staying fit and healthy with diet or exercise. So how do you keep your mind fit? Well here’s some suggestions:
- Meditation-Nothing fancy. Just keep your back straight, clear your mind and breathe for 5 to 30 minutes a day.
- Pranayama-This Sanskrit word means “ the control of life force.” This practice involves the controlling of your breath. There are many breathing techniques and you can incorporate this with other practices like meditation.
- Qigong-This Chinese practice is similar to Pranayama. It involves low impact physical exercises and breathing control. A related practice would be tai chi.
- Yoga-You not only get a good workout but can also relieve stress on both the body and the mind.
Of course, you can do hobbies that you enjoy to help relieve stress like drawing, reading, or dancing.
It’s Time For A Cool Down
So are you sweaty, nourished and have a clear mind yet? See I told you, you didn’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment. The world is your oyster when it comes to exercise and staying healthy living in a van. You just got to think outside the box. Be creative. Most importantly have fun and be healthy.